Meet Zach Berman and Ryan Slater – The Juice Truck
How many times have you taken a vacation and come up with a brilliant business idea? Probably quite a few. Many of us relax on a beach in a faraway land thinking of things that could be, but few of us follow through with those dreams.
That’s where Ryan and Zach differ. While on a yearlong backpacking trip they discovered a mountain town in Nepal whose residents depended on the juice of seabuckthorn berries for their nutrients. This discovery inspired Ryan and Zach to seek out unique juice blends in every country they visited for the remainder of their trip. Upon arriving home, their juicing ideas were spun into a well-honed business plan, and The Juice Truck was born.
Identifying an Opportunity
When the City of Vancouver expanded its food truck licences in 2011 Ryan and Zach instantly saw an opportunity. They applied to become part of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation’s (CYBF) mentoring process and started their journey. To be accepted into the CYBF program, the pair had numerous meetings with Small Business BC’s own Business Plan Review specialist to make sure they were ready to launch their business.
Once their plan was secure the pair took the first step in the food truck application process, which started with a rigorous analysis of their business plan followed by a tasting panel that included Vancouver favourite, Vikram Vij.
Both from entrepreneurial families, Ryan and Zach knew they had to keep motivated to work hard and stay adaptable. They also knew that they couldn't do it on their own, so they reached out. Their support network now includes their CYBF mentor and Blo Blow Dry Bar co-founder Devon Brooks, smoothie chef Aviya Kones, Girlvana Yoga creator Alex Mazerolle, and of course their parents.
They also seek inspiration from Booooooom’s Jeff Hamada, Art Perry and Ben Reeves, as well as the original juicer, the late Jack Lalanne.
The Fine Art of Partnership
Great partnerships are often featured in our success stories, but the road to success isn't always an easy one. Finding the right balance of shared responsibility and complimentary skill sets between two people is rare.
But this balance is something that Ryan and Zach have managed to achieve. “Zach is the idea man, and I am the implementer,” explains Ryan. Both personable and good at connecting with their customers, and the two have worked hard to become a part of their community.
Standing Out from the Crowd
As the first mobile juice and smoothie bar in Canada, they're committed to bringing their customers the best juice possible. “We're one of the few businesses in North America using a special hydraulic cold pressing technique to yield our juice. The process is similar to how fine olive oil is made,” Zach explains. By combining this process with their travel-inspired flavours, they produce a truly unique product.
Juice is one of the fastest growing food trends in major cities around the world, and Ryan and Zach are determined to be pioneers in this growing health food industry in Vancouver.
One of the things that they both strive for is to push the boundaries of what can be juiced or blended. “We took a successful concept in juice and health and made it new again,” says Ryan. “We applied a raw gourmet mindset to our menu and created a business model unique to any other juice bar in Vancouver.” The mobility of their truck has also allowed them to be adaptable: acting dually as a storefront and as a mobile catering business for events. Being a small business has also served them well, providing them with the ability to adapt new and exciting menu options on a regular basis.
The Evolving Product
As the pair reguarly consumed their own products, they noticed a huge shift in how much healthier they felt. Better still, their regular customers noticed the same shift. They subsequently evolved their product line to include "The Juice Cleanse." With the help of their nutritionist, Ryan and Zach formulated three different cleanses that focussed on health rather than weight loss, and in the process proved that no matter how old the product type, there are always ways to be innovative.
Ryan and Zach work hard to establish themselves as an active part of their community. They continually search for innovative ways to collaborate and work with various local businesses, including participating in weekly food cart events in the Downtown Eastside.
But building their community isn't Ryan and Zach's only achievement. Over the last year they have been featured on the Food Network’s Eat Street television program, were listed in Vancouver Magazine’s 101 best things to eat or drink in Vancouver, were rated the #1 Juice Bar in Vancouver by BC Living, and were featured on Shaw Express, City TV Noon News, Breakfast Television and Global BC Morning News. They were also a Top 5 finalist in Small Business BC's Successful You Awards for Best Concept.
When asked what their most significant lessons were over the last two years they told us:
- Always keep purpose in mind. It’s easy to get carried away in the snowball of a start-up but stay focussed.
- Make allowances in your plan for seasonality. All businesses have their high and low points for business, make a plan of what you plan to do to accommodate those times.
Make sure to keep it fun and light, it makes the serious matters much easier.
- Be ready to put in long hours.
Zach Berman and Ryan Slater
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