Bright Lights, Big City

Smoothie Operator

By Brian Ng

And you thought your credit card bills were bad. Dave Duffin, 32, maxed out 10 credit cards to get the $70,000 needed to start his Salt Lake City-based company, Zuka Juice Inc. "I closed my eyes and took a leap," says Duffin of his risky start. But it's a risk that's squeezed out millions in sales.

Duffin and his brother Rob, 28, opened their first juice bar and smoothie shop in Provo, Utah, in 1995. Their first full year in business saw almost $1 million in sales. Now the brothers have more than 100 locations (75 of which are franchised) and 1998 systemwide sales that topped $30 million. (Needless to say, that initial credit card debt is long gone.)

Duffin got the idea for his business while living in Jamaica and enjoying the delicious island juices and smoothies. After coming back to the United States and working in sales and marketing for several years, he knew it was time to take a calculated risk and start his own island-inspired company--a juice bar retailer "committed to creating the finest juice experience throughout the world." With a tribal motif and a focus on premium ingredients and premium people, he was ready to go.

"My dream ever since I was a little kid was to conjure up the guts to take the risk and start my own company," says Duffin.

Zuka Juice is seeking franchisees nationwide; total start-up costs begin at $150,000. For more information, call (888) GET-ZUKA or visit http://www.zukajuice.com.

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This article was originally published in the February 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bright Lights, Big City.

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