Thirsty Coconut nearly failed in its first two months. “In 2012, I never would’ve guessed that we’d be where we are today,” shares Luke Einsel, founder. “Today, we have hired over a dozen employees, constantly growing revenue and our own warehouse in Louisburg, Kansas. Back then, we had a bad idea.”
Thirsty Coconut started with a retail model—selling smoothies at a stand in Oak Park Mall in Johnson County.
“Eating healthy was on everyone’s mind and at the time our smoothies had artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup, which were not popular,” explains Luke.
Luke shuttered that part of the business posthaste and instead started renting out his smoothie machines here and there at private parties and corporate events for the next two years. He made enough money to cover costs and pay himself a small salary.
Making healthy business decisions
In 2014, his wife gave birth to their first child, which set a fire under Luke. “It was time to make Thirsty Coconut into a real business or get out of the smoothie game.”
Two years of on the ground market research made it clear to Luke, he needed to change his rental process. “Driving machines from event to event was eating up so many resources. If I left the machines with the client, and serviced them, then I could expand.”
Next he thought back to the lesson he learned at Oak Park Mall—customers want healthy options—so he stocked his machine with 100 percent juice-based smoothies. “This wasn’t only appealing to our current clients. It also opened Thirsty Coconut up to an entirely new market: school distribution.”
In 2015, Luke purchased one of his competitors and decided it was time to start growing his team. He brought on his brother Garth as a partner. “I think of Garth as a founder. I couldn’t have built this business to where it is today without him.”
Their brother Darin helped them jump start the business as well as an investor and available hand on deck.
Writing their recipe to success
That year was a grind for the Einsel brothers. But it was worth it. They tripled their revenue from the previous year and reinvested all of the profits back into the company. In the spring of 2016, they purchased yet another competitor (their fifth purchase). This one came with a forklift and a small space, which meant Thirsty Coconut could move out of the garage and needed to hire their first employee.
Not long after, Luke joined ScaleUP! Kansas City, a coaching program for growth-focused entrepreneurs offered by the UMKC Innovation Center at no cost to participants thanks to a generous grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration. During ScaleUP! Kansas City it became to clear to Luke that he needed two things to grow his business—a serious warehouse space and a (much) bigger team.
The Einsel brothers looked in and around the Kansas City metro for an ideal location to move their business and finally landed on Louisburg, Kansas, a rural community southeast of Olathe. “We found a perfect space at the right price and all of Kansas City is within driving distance. Plus the city manager was such a delight to work with and the entire community was very welcoming.”
Add the secret ingredient—great employees
When the local paper announced that Thirsty Coconut was moving into town, folks started calling them to ask if they were hiring. The answer? Yes, very much so.
Today, less than a year after moving to Louisburg, Thirsty Coconut has 13 employees. And Luke is proud to share that 5 of them are grandparents. “We have a great company culture. There is so much knowledge and experience on our team and everyone is focused on serving our customers with a smile.
Luke oversees the sales people and the office staff and Garth the warehouse workers and delivery drivers. Neither of them are micromanagers. “We trust the people we hire to put forth their best effort everyday and treat our customers as friends.”
Stay fresh and keep growing
The Einsel brothers have grown their revenue by 250-300 percent each year since 2014 and are on pace to do $1.5 million this year. They have worked closely with John Addessi at the Kansas Small Business Development Center on financial projections throughout, which helped Thirsty Coconut secure its first bank loan this year.
“We feel we have survived the startup phase and now it’s time to focus on improving quality of life and work environment for our employees.” Which is a good thing because they plan to hire three more this summer.
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