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    What Inspires Nékter Juice Bar CEO Steve Schulze

  • Nékter Juice Bar's president and CEO spent time in infomercials before foodservice.

    Nékter Juice Bar
    Nékter was a trailblazer in the juice space.

    My past experience wasn’t in foodservice; I spent 10–15 years in infomercials. You have to be very creative, you have to be willing to disrupt the space, and you have to be very clear on your messaging. While I was doing that, I noticed that legacy juice brands had lost their way and become glorified Dairy Queens. I thought there was room to disrupt the space and reinvent it. I took over an old Starbucks space, and from day one it was a very busy store. We did about $1.3 million our first year. There wasn’t an idea to build two or three or 10 or 50 or 100. The goal was to just open this one store, have fun, do something good for the community, and see how it goes.

    I don’t think there’s any question that Nékter was the first disruptors in the space. There’s been a seismic shift in the way people view food. The timing for us obviously was critical. When we started out, there were probably people thinking it could be a fad. As time has gone on, that’s changed. I don’t think the idea of health and wellness is going away anytime soon. There’s an expectation of transparency in the sense that what you’re feeding your body, to a certain degree, is medicine and health and wellness.

    A lot of people would say foodservice is one of the greatest businesses out there. For me, there’s a different challenge every day. I’m a curious person, so I always like to see what’s going on and then tweak and fix it. I just block out the white noise. I think too many people get distracted by other opinions. I have a glass office—literally a glass office—so if anybody is going to question things, I’d like them to just walk in my door. I prefer that people disagree with me than agree.

    The first thing I’ll hire off of is curiosity rather than experience. We’ve got a corporate office with probably 45 people, and there are quite a few of them that literally started off as juicers. Our very first employee was starting freshman year of college and is now running a multi-million-dollar division for us. I think being transparent with your team members is just as important as it is being transparent with the guest.


    What was your first job?

    Waiter in nothern Michigan.

     

    What’s your favorite menu item at Nékter?

    The Greenie with extra lemon.

     

    What’s your favorite type of food beyond juices?

    Seafood and steak.

     

    Who has inspired you as a leader?

    Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are extremely forward thinking and creative. It’s amazing what those guys have been able to do. I think reading and learning about them has helped me view things through a different perspective.

     

    What are some of your interests outside of the business?

    Golf and Pilates.