Meet Jason Mann, Planet Smoothie’s Orlando Area Developer
He has turned a single store into several, grown the Planet Smoothie brand in a major metro area, and built a solid company along the way
The growth of Planet Smoothie and the success of Jason Mann as an entrepreneur have a lot of parallels. Innovative marketing, great products, and a willingness to go above and beyond to succeed are present in both cases. Small wonder, then, that Jason is one of Planet Smoothie’s most successful franchise owners. He’s also the Central Florida Area Developer, which means that he’s helping new franchise owners achieve their own dreams.
How did you get involved with Planet Smoothie?
I opened my first Planet Smoothie franchise in 1999. It was one of the first three in the Orlando area. I grew to three stores and then became an Area Developer for Planet Smoothie. That means that franchise owners have opened stores under my direction, and my team and I work with them on all aspects of operations and coordinating advertising and other programs so we can maximize our exposure and spend money wisely as a group.
What does your operation look like now?
I have two companies. One is an operations company — through it I own and operate three locations. As an Area Developer, I have 29 locations within my territory, and growing.
I’ve got plenty of room to grow, and we expect the market to hold and maintain upwards of 50 locations in the greater Central Florida market..
What does an Orlando Area Developer do?
You become an expert in the entire life cycle of a franchise owner. That means taking your expertise and experience as a franchise owner, and using that to help other owners grow their businesses. At the same time, you’re always recruiting and training new franchise owners.
You have a tremendous amount of influence over the health of the brand in your area, much more than if you just had one store. You’re working with the actual people who make up the brand. You have a very direct influence over their success, the success of the territory and of the brand itself here.
We make sure they know they can rely on me and my team, and also that we are covering the ground between those franchise owners in the market. Owning stores, we have built a strong management team that assists in training and ongoing coaching, and most importantly, how to be successful in the local market. By being able to communicate the Franchisees and the Franchisors voice effectively, we can help all of us succeed.
Are there still surprises for you after all this time?
I am surprised that there is still so much self-fulfillment in this work. I interact with really great people, and helping them to be successful is very satisfying to me. I really enjoy the mentoring aspect of what I do: identifying good people and helping them to start and grow a solid, successful franchise.
When you first engage with a potential franchise owner, what do you look for?
My first question is why Planet Smoothie? There is a lot to choose from in the way of franchising, and the answer to the question is usually very telling. I find out if they have franchise experience or not. If they do, then it’s a good bet that they know what the path forward is going to look like. If not, I let them know they are not alone, and we have an extensive investigative process to assist them in making the right decision about being a Planet Smoothie fit. At this point, it is very important that the prospective franchisee understands that this is a process and is willing to follow the steps of the investigation.
How does the CFL Advertising Cooperative help you and your franchise owners maximize the brand?
I can remember when people in Central Florida had no idea what our brand was, since there were so few of us. We had an ad-buying cooperative in place, so that we could pool our resources. We did a lot of discount-driven advertising — usually coupons — to increase visit frequency.
In 2015, we decided to stop being a discount brand, because we had created value in the marketplace. We stopped issuing coupons, although we will issue very targeted ones to drive trials of new products. Now we’re working on overall media-market buys, as well as more digital media. We are doing some advertising on Pandora, for example, and want to do more in the digital realm.
We do still have the ad co-op in place, and we still engage in brand awareness at very large events all across the area. We have an event team that goes to things like 5Ks, events that draw thousands of people, and give out tasters. We are always looking at how we can get the brand out there and drive awareness in a way that brings in customers and doesn’t discount the products we offer.