California native Jill Summerhays grew up on smoothies, a frozen fruit drink her health-food-conscious mother introduced to her. But when Summerhays moved to Utah for college, she had to say goodbye to not only the California sunshine, but also the smoothies she loved so much. "There was nothing like that [in Utah]," she says. "Your only choices were soda and milkshakes, so I started tinkering with a recipe."
In 1983, Summerhays married husband Jeff, and the two made their first smoothie together on their honeymoon. Starting a full-time business was far from the minds of the newlyweds; Jeff was working at his family's chain of restaurants, and Jill wanted only part-time work. But she knew her smoothies would be a success, so she and Jeff started working at weekend special events, such as the 1983 Utah State Fair, giving out free samples to introduce people to their drinks. "We pretty much had to educate them on what these drinks were," says Jill.
The popularity of the smoothies grew, and the couple began working events every weekend in the summer. Jeff decided to leave his family's business and dedicate his full attention to the smoothie enterprise, which they named Maui Wowi. The Summerhayses continue to operate Maui Wowi in the state of Utah but turned over control of the corporate organization, including franchising, to Michael Haith, who moved the company's base of operations to Littleton, Colorado.
Today, Maui Wowi has franchisees selling smoothies from carts at shopping centers, arenas and various special events nationwide. Many of these franchisees are coming to Maui Wowi for the same reason Summerhays did: flexibility. "If they want this to be a small business, they can have it be a part-time, weekend-only operation," she says. "If they want it to be a full-time business, they can do that as well--they can build it into a huge operation with many kiosks."