Meet Michael Weinberger, brand president for Maui Wowi
Michael Weinberger, brand president for Maui Wowi, has been with the company for seven years. He worked his way up from roles in construction and real estate to become Vice President of Operations, then General Counsel and eventually CEO before the Kahala Brands acquisition in November 2015.
Weinberger said that his role at the popular mobile franchise hasn’t changed since the acquisition: to make sure all franchisees and brand employees have what they need to do their jobs. But his passion for the smoothie industry hasn’t waned. In fact, his love for Maui Wowi has grown.
What makes Maui Wowi special?
A few things. One, what we do and how we do it, there’s no other franchise brand that really does it. We’re a mobile franchise, a low-cost investment; that operates at events and in venues. Specifically, 98 percent of the 400 operating units are mobile. That allows franchisees to have super, high-level flexibility on how they want to grow their business, how they want it to look and the ability to create their own schedule. . I want to work nights and weekends, but I can’t work Tuesday nights because it’s my kid’s soccer game. I’ve been in franchising almost 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything else that can match up with that. A majority of businesses in the smoothie industry have a brick and mortar concept where you’re locked into a location. This has nothing to do with that.
Another point of distinction is, there are no territories. In Chicago, if you want to be a franchisee at the St. Patty’s day festivities, great. You can serve smoothies, and you can also decide you want to drive five hours down the road or five states away the next weekend for another event. We have a unique event protection system that allows franchisees to look, make sure they’re not competing with their fellow franchisees, and then take their business wherever they want.
Then, Maui Wowi products speak for themselves. We’re 35 years young this year, so we’ll be celebrating, but while things obviously evolve in business, our brand products haven’t changed in 35 years. Why? They’re that good, and they’re built for the event-venue world specifically.
Other points of differentiation are our brand’s culture, how we work with franchisees in what’s called Ohana. That’s Hawaiian for family, but it’s not cliché. We award franchises, we bring them into the family, we break bread together. Our franchisees support one another, they trade events and help each other grow. There might be healthy competition, but it lifts up that whole system.
What about training and support?
Once you go through the interview process, and we find that you’re a good fit for the brand, you’re awarded a franchise, and you come to Scottsdale, Arizona for a week of training. We have our support team there, with more than 40 team members who touch the brand on a daily basis. From R&D to distribution to regional operations to event protections to venue assignments to accounting, it’s awesome. We spend a lot of time teaching franchisees how to use the event protection system. It’s a login, computer-based system they can do from a phone or computer. We show them how to get events, how to pitch events. There’s also a lot of hands on training in that week. We work events with them, like the Arizona Diamondbacks® major league baseball game to get some real-time experience. After that, they graduate and go home.
In my experience it’s kind of scary. They buy a business, they have this quick training, and learn a lot, but how do they retain it? How do they keep going? After training, Maui Wowi sends a designated operations person to the first event and helps to make sure they’re comfortable, and spend time with them once again. As far as overall training, it’s top notch, and the continued support is always there. There’s a 24-hour, seven day a week online system. If they need something they just send an email, and we get it into the right hands. That’s called Wiki Wiki, which means fast fast in Hawaiian.
What else would be important for a potential franchisee to know?
The question is always, why should I consider a Maui Wowi franchise? But it should be, why wouldn’t you? A majority of people are looking for financial and personal freedoms so they can take care of their family, and they can leave the job that they hate. The job that they dread. This gives them both, while allowing them not to be locked into a schedule. That freedom is there.
There are franchisees who work 10 carts all the time, and some only work the rodeo, or maybe five events a year. Why? Because that’s all they want to work. They love it, it’s fun, but a lot of them fall in the middle.
Plus, we’re super freakin’ fun. We wear Hawaiian shirts. You get all the coffee and smoothies you can drink, and you can pour liquor for your friends. There’s a reason I’ve been here seven years. I haven’t found a reason why I would go anywhere else. Find me a better job and better people, and I’ll talk about it, but it’s not gonna happen.
Kahala Brands™ bought Maui Wowi® in 2015. What should franchisees know about that relationship as they evaluate this mobile franchise opportunity?
We were in the small to medium size range business before being acquired, with 14 full-time employees. The brand looked a long time for a strategic partner and Kahala Brands™ fit the bill. The cultures fit, the people fit, and they allow the brands to operate just as they’ve always operated. They keep the brand leaders intact, and it brings a horizontal alignment of shared services. So instead of having 14 people, now there are 40 who touch the Maui Wowi® brand. It’s volume buying, much more added support and experience, stability, alignment with other brands and synergy more than we had before. I call it Maui Wowi 2.0. It’s the evolution of how things need to go to push that growth in both franchise development and in product sales.
To learn more about the smoothie industry and Maui Wowi’s mobile franchise opportunities, click here.