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Planet Smoothie Franchise Review: Q&A with Shannon Lelli

Shannon Lelli, a Planet Smoothie franchise owner in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, says owning the business has transformed her life

Shannon Lelli has lost a significant amount of weight by incorporating her Planet Smoothie menu into her regular diet, and embracing exercise. She chronicles her journey on her personal website, 2chicksgetfit.com. / Shannon Lelli

Shannon Lelli has lost a significant amount of weight by incorporating her Planet Smoothie menu into her regular diet, and embracing exercise. She chronicles her journey on her personal website, 2chicksgetfit.com.

For Shannon Lelli, purchasing a Planet Smoothie franchise was a life-changer.

Instead of taking out a college loan, her entrepreneurial spirit moved her to take out a business loan. And, from there, she not only grew a successful business — her store has been a top 10 producer for several years — it also provided a springboard for her personal life.

Shortly after purchasing her franchise, she married. She now has four children and has bought into a healthier lifestyle that she says has helped her lose weight.

“I thank God every single day for my little business,” Shannon says. “Words cannot express how often I just thank God. For me, it’s a miracle. It has so completely exceeded my expectations. My little store in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is probably in the smallest demographic, but one of the top 10 stores in Planet Smoothie. And I get to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s incredible.”

Shannon credits her amazing staff and has through the years been a part of their lives, attending their weddings and baby showers.

“And because I give big responsibility, I feel like a lot of my staff have gone on to do really cool things,” she adds. “They have gone on to amazing futures in other companies. It’s really cool to get to see them prosper from their time at Planet Smoothie. To be closing a store at 16 years old and training new people, it’s pretty awesome.”

This is her story.

What did you do before owning a Planet Smoothie franchise?

I was doing some interior decorating, and at the time I was looking for a new business that cost about $100,000. In my search, I found Planet Smoothie. I fell in love with the concept, and I really liked the people.

Also, in our area, there was no healthy fast food. I thought there needed to be something healthy and quick. I loved smoothies and would get them on vacations. Around here, nobody knew about smoothies.

My parents also liked the concept. They loaned me the money, which I paid back. How often do parents pay for their kid’s college education and get it paid back?

Did location play a role in the success of your franchise?

I was only 24 when I opened the franchise. Technically, I was 22 when I bought in to the process, but I had trouble finding a location.

I knew location was going to be critical. I had that gut feeling about certain locations, everything I looked at had something wrong with it. I am in a small town where there is a lot of foot traffic in the center of town. I picked a place on the outskirts, where people can run out, get a smoothie, and get back into a warm car.

If I had selected a place in the center of town, I would not have made it through the first winter. Because of my great location, I have now been in business for 12 years.

Planet Smoothie is always rolling out new ways to attract customers — and few things draw more attention than a giant banana-mobile!

Planet Smoothie is always rolling out new ways to attract customers — and few things draw more attention than a giant banana-mobile!

How do health trends affect your business?

I feel like Planet Smoothie offers the perfect balance that lets people adapt their lifestyle to our menu. There’s low-sugar options, there are options with no dairy or no gluten. There is not a healthy diet that you can’t accommodate. There is something for everyone.

People getting healthier and the trend for consumers to be more health-conscious have absolutely helped my store. We also have great-tasting smoothies for people who don’t care about health — and they’re still healthy.

Parents will give their kids gift cards for Planet Smoothie so they come here. Kids see it as a treat, and it’s so much better than giving them $10 and having them go get a pizza. There’s nothing that a child could come in and purchase at Planet Smoothie that doesn’t have some component of healthfulness in it for them.

How has your franchise benefited your own health?

I struggled with my weight all my life. I remember being the 6-year-old in ballet class who was “the chubby girl.”

When I first opened Planet Smoothie, I wasn’t obese, but I was always fighting it. I was still chubby. Having a healthy business, people look at you, and since I opened the store and started exercising and using my own products, I have been able to get into good shape. It is such a testament to the product that, after having four kids, I can be in better shape now than I was when I was in high school.

Companies engineer food now, so that we crave it. I would guess that about 90% of the food in the grocery store is items people should not be consuming. I went through a phase for a long time, thinking it was unfair that I didn’t have a good metabolism. I still get annoyed around friends who can pound hamburgers. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about putting things in your body that are supposed to be there.

What did Satan use for the fall of man? It was food! If you have ever read the Bible, Satan uses food to destroy so many people. They don’t even realize that there is a part that is a spiritual battle.

For me, my customers saw it. They ask, how in the world did you do it? And I share my story. It’s a God thing. I get to sell a product that I am proud of and that God made. It’s good.

It sounds like Planet Smoothie is a valued member of your community. How did you develop that?

From day one, I was a huge part of the community. I made it a point to be involved. I knew everyone in the community, so I also gave back.

I still feel like I give back. I’m at the finish line of every 5k race. I support teachers and all the school programs. I try to give a lot to the community, and in return I have received such a following.

I feel like 70% of our customers come a minimum of three times a week. Another 25% of them may come every day. For those folks, we make their smoothie when their car pulls up. We know them so well that we can guess what they will order. It’s a blessing. Our customers are like a little family. The community is so small that everybody knows Planet Smoothie.

What makes for a successful Planet Smoothie franchisee?

You have to be outgoing and love people, because it is a happy, fun product. You also have to enjoy healthy foods and know how important it is to promote a healthy product.

I think you also have to be a good leader. That helps people become confident. If you are a dictator, you don’t need to run a Planet Smoothie. You need to be a leader and an encourager to make a strong team.

How important is the Planet Smoothie team?

I am very picky about hiring. Of the 60 people applying, I might hire two. I also do a lot of hiring events.

Team building is important. I will take staff out for frozen yogurt, and we may have a meeting somewhere where we are all being served. For our Christmas party, we went to the gym and then out to dinner.

I want my place to be the cool place to work and make sure it’s drama-free. I allow them to switch schedules with one another. They all help each other out. That creates camaraderie. I help you, you help me and we’re a happy family.

I think, too, they like tips. I feel that really helps them to be good employees. They see the return in their positive attitude coming back to them. If they are positive, they’ll make more money. If they are miserable and grumpy, they will see that in their tip jar, as well.

I have a quote from Walt Disney hanging on the door, “Do what you do so well that they want to come back and see it again and bring their friends.”

I want my staff to be so outgoing and warm that customers want to come back to experience the Planet Smoothie love.

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