For Australian entrepreneur, Janine Allis, running a mega enterprise was never on her agenda.
In fact, for the founder of Boost Juice, who is also now the director of Retail Zoo, and an investor on the hit TV show Shark Tank, says for most of her 20’s she was foot loose and fancy free, globe-trotting around the world and trying her hand at multiple roles in many different industries.
“I certainly wasn’t one of those little girls who had a lemonade stand or who sold stock cards to my friends at school, far from it,” Janine, 52, tells Kerwin Rae editor Lou Parker.
“I was a traveler at heart. At 21 I put on a backpack and told my mother I was returning in three months, and came home seven years later.”
But after returning down under, settling and marrying her husband Jeff, an ambitious Janine realised that she did in fact have an entrepreneurial bone in her body, when she stumbled across an idea that would set the Australian market place on fire.
Janine Allis’s big idea
“My husband and I were in America and the smoothies and juice category was taking off over there, this is like 18 years ago. Back then everyone wanted to be healthier, everyone wanted to be fitter, and people wanted to get more fruit and vegetables into their diet. The wellness industry was growing quite rapidly, and 20 years on, nothing has changed. I thought smoothies and juices would work really well in the Australian market so I took the idea back and started with a blank piece of paper and put together Boost,” Janine says.
At just 30-years-old with no business experience, Janine credits her naivety for Boost Juice’s rapid success.
“If you don’t know it can’t be done then you don’t have any barriers you put onto yourself. If you don’t know you can’t climb the mountain, you just put one foot in front of the other until you reach the top, so I think if I knew more, then it might of been too big a hill to climb.
“But once you actually start it’s like, mate you’re half way up the mountain, you gotta keep going to the top.”
In the beginning
The juice queen adds she started her business with common sense, no barriers and a “dodgy” plan.
“I did start with a business plan and when I look back on it, it was a very dodgy little business plan,” she laughs.
“But I had the vision which was Boost Juice Bars. Next, I knew I needed capital – my husband worked in radio at the time and spoke to his mates in the industry and managed to get five guys to put in $25,000 each.
“Then it was like, ok, we have to find a site, so we found a site. Then we had to figure out the recipes, and then find a way to keep all of the ingredients we needed in a small kiosk space. Next it was about working out how much yoghurt and product we could fit in the fridge and freezers, and who are our staff were going to be? What did they look like? And not physically but are they friendly? Are they bubbly? What kind of experiences should our customers be having?
“Step by step you just work it out, and you just keep going day in day out.”
Why problem solving is crucial in business
“Everyday we would just wake up and solve problems for the day and then go to bed and wake up again and solve the next problems. There was never a time when there weren’t any challenges. We’ve faced everything from being robbed to having internal staff steal from us, or the media putting something out about us, but when I look back at all the challenges I am actually grateful for them, because every single challenge has made the business what it is today.”
Most importantly though, Janine says you’ve got to make mistakes.
“If you’re not actually making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.”
And that robust and efficient approach is what Janine says allowed Boost Juice to literally put a new store on the ground every week.
But with very little money in the beginning, team Boost had to be strategic with their approach to marketing. So, the business sought out companies who had bigger brands and bigger budgets to collaborate and cross promote with.
Janine Allis is extremely PR savvy
“In the early days we had no money so we couldn’t do top line marketing. Most of what we did was PR based. My husband was in radio for 22 years as a program director and understood how to get the best out of radio. We didn’t just buy off a sales person though, we actually targeted the stations and really got involved in what they were doing. We’d take them smoothies every morning at 6am and hope that they would talk about us. It was the same for journalists, we had to understand the media because when you haven’t got any money you can’t just buy $50,000 worth of radio ads, or a whole lot of billboards or TV commercials – we had to be clever.”
Despite the smart brunette’s do whatever it takes attitude, she says having the right team has always been at the core of their business.
“The key to success in business is people,” Janine states, adding that recruiting high performers will only accelerate growth.
“High performance in my opinion is people who don’t just come in and do their job, because anyone can just go and do a job. It’s the people who come in and add value, the people who think of things that we’ve never thought of before, the people who question what we’ve done in the past to make sure we do differently in the future, the people who do the best that they can at all times – those are the type of people I want to hire.”
Janine on leadership
Janine Allis believes her approach to leadership means that it doesn’t take long to filter out any weak links.
“I never yell but there’s never a time that you’re unsure if I’m unhappy,” she laughs.
“I make people very accountable. I will create systems to keep people accountable, so if someone says they’ll deliver something on a Tuesday, well that doesn’t mean Wednesday, it means Tuesday. If it means they’ve had other things on and have to stay up until midnight to get the job done then so be it.
“This was particularly important in the early days when we had a small team because there’s a domino effect. If someone had missed a deadline then it would cause a ripple through the entire business, so accountability is important. I don’t do it as a dictatorship, it’s very inclusive, I work with my team to make sure that we get the best out of them, and I try very hard to get the best people who are a lot smarter than me.”
Janine says she holds a very tight rope in the early days but once her team prove she can let go, the entrepreneur takes her hands off the rope completely.
“People have taught me over the years that you need to hold that rope in the early days because quite often they don’t want to look stupid and they make mistakes based on not wanting to do the wrong thing and therefore don’t ask the right questions.”
Mistakes along the way
After 18 years of building her empire, Janine says there’s some obvious mistakes business owners make.
“The biggest mistakes people make is not cherishing every dollar. A lot of people waste a lot of money before they realise that the money isn’t a bottomless pit. They get so excited about the pretty pictures and the concepts that they forget that there should be a business model there.
“The other mistake is not being strong enough on the numbers. For example people don’t negotiate with their suppliers hard enough.”
There’s no denying that it’s taken blood, sweat and tears to get where she is today, but all of this business building begs the question, how has Janine managed to do it all while being a dedicated wife and mother to four children?
“I do it poorly,” she confesses.
“At the end of the day the key thing that I’ve got that a lot of people don’t have is my secret weapon which is my mother. She was an enormous help for me making sure my children were fed and bathed.
“But there were many times that my kids went to school in the wrong uniform. All the parents of my kid’s friends always wanted to hang out with me to feel good about their parenting,” she says unapologetically.
Janine admits she didn’t have a lot of friends, or spend time out on coffee dates – it was just work – even on holiday she would have the laptop out!
“People getting into business thinking they will have all the time in the world to spend with their kids are dreaming. You have to sacrifice a lot.” But Janine says there are things you can do to make it easier.
Making it work
The sassy business chick made sure her office was in walking distance from her children’s school so she didn’t miss school plays and sporting events, and also made sure her office was no more than 3kms from the house.
“If I travelled interstate, which was a lot, I would rotate the kids and take a different child with me each time I travelled. I had a toy box in every office, there would always be colouring in pens and a TV in the room.
“Sometimes it worked and sometimes it fell apart. Everything was as efficient as I could physically make it. You want to set yourself up to succeed. I look at my kids now and they’ve all survived and they’re all great kids so I must’ve done something right along the way.”
According to Janine, there’s no such thing as a work-life balance, but she says she tries to eat as healthy as she can and makes an effort to get on her yoga mat most days.
But that’s the way the busy mum likes it.
And when it comes to the future, one thing is for sure, Janine won’t be sitting still.
“I’m still trying to work out what I want to be when I grow up,” she laughs.
“The journey of Boost hasn’t come to a conclusion and I don’t think it ever will but when I look to the future I just want to make sure that my kids are as happy, well-grounded and as secure as they possibly can be, and that everyday I am being the best person I can possibly be”.
And no doubt with Janine’s ambitious nature, she’s already smashed that goal out of the park.