Editor's Note: The Daily Transcript followed up with two entrepreneurs who were named Young Influentials in 2013.
The founders of Shake Smart Inc., San Diego State University graduates Kevin Gelfand and Martin Reiman, outperformed their own business expectations in 2013.
A year ago, the duo expected the popularity of their protein- and macronutrient-infused menu to help them roughly triple within the year a payroll that at the time included only 16 employees. Gelfand had hoped to expand in 2013 beyond the company's original location on the SDSU campus, to open four new locations — in Oceanside, La Jolla, Camp Pendleton and a second at SDSU.
All of that and more has come to pass.
The company's payroll now stands at 92 employees. And it's opened not four new locations, but five. It's the fifth one, set inside an LA Fitness in San Francisco, which has Gelfand realizing the company's expansion capability.
"That wasn't really in the timeline at all," Gelfand said. "We already have a developed relationship with LA Fitness, and they called and said they have a new location opening in San Francisco and that it's going to be one of their premier locations."
It was an opportunity, he added, to grow outside San Diego without losing a sense of the company's primary focus around college campuses.
"It was right next to San Francisco State (University) and inside of a mall, so it was just a combination of all of our locations in one spot, so we wanted to jump on the opportunity," Gelfand said. "It's better up there, I think, than even down here. We're doing great at that location."
Gelfand and Reiman founded Shake Smart in 2011. They were dissatisfied with the protein-and meal-supplement options that were available on the market for people on the move — such as college students — who wanted something satisfying and healthful around exercise routines or a busy schedule. Shake Smart's menu includes macronutrient-based shakes, smoothies and coffee drinks with an avoidance of modified processed ingredients. The drinks' base products range from protein-rich milk to oatmeal, fruits, peanut butter, agave nectar and yogurt.
The Camp Pendleton location was opened in April 2013, followed by the La Jolla opening in University Towne Center in May 2013, the Oceanside location in June 2013 and San Francisco in December. The most recent opening came in February of this year, with the company's second SDSU location, inside the new Aztec Student Union.
But the growth plans don't end there. They hope to open a second Camp Pendleton location in May, and one is being considered for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Talks have also begun, Gelfand said, with California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo about the possibility of opening the company's second location outside the San Diego area.
Loans totaling about $250,000 have funded the expansion so far. But that's expected to change, as the company's higher valuation and growth projections call for Shake Smart to begin courting investors this spring. The company may be seeking up to $1.5 million from investors, Gelfand said, as he projects the company to see a 400 percent increase in revenue this year.
"We definitely grew faster than we expected, but everything was just running so smoothly and we found opportunity that we couldn't pass up on," Gelfand said. "I don't feel like we grew too fast at all."