What is WooGo Juice?woogojuicelogo
A Californian smoothie shop founded by five “brothers” with a selection of tasty smoothies and a unique brand philosophy that attracts customers near and far. Being crazy and having fun is their motto, and what defines WooGo is their lifestyle: a smart balance between career and other pursuits.

Where is WooGo Juice?
Across from the famous nightclub Luxy is Exit 3 of MRT Zhangxiao Dunhua Station. Walk along the alley of Minyao Department Store and turn right on the second lane where Family Mart sits on the corner, and you’ll find WooGo!

Walking into WooGo Juice, we were greeted by the welcoming AC, playful splashes of colors, and artistic in-store designs. Adam and Jason, two of the five founders, were listening to a group of interns giving presentations. It wasn’t difficult to notice that they function like a team, and from the way they interact with each other, you could tell they enjoy being there and what they do. Jason treated us to smoothies he made himself, and each of us took a few big gulps of Peanut Butter and Blueberry Bananza before we sat down and began our conversation. At the time the shop was celebrating their one-year anniversary, so naturally the topic fell onto their on-going events.

The hottest topic was the W.T.F. (Wow That’s Fun) photo campaign on Facebook, a cross-promotion with Hotel Quickly (a last-minute booking app). Whoever gets the most likes for a picture sent to WooGo wins a round-trip tickets to Boracay and a hotel stay. A selection of pictures shows how they have successfully added a twist into their marketing campaign. It’s about having fun and being crazy; it’s about being involved in something cool and sharing it with friends. Round-trip tickets to Boracay sound like a big deal for a smoothie shop, so Elias wanted to know how they plan to cover the promotional costs with their sales. Being the one responsible for public relations, Adam said they choose not to attach online promotion to sales. This way, it gives WooGo a more genuine word-of-mouth reputation, and the events are more about promoting their lifestyle and saying thank you to the supportive customers enrolled in their membership program. Having said this, the photo campaign was specifically designed to reach students, one of the two target customers they want to attract to boast weekday sales. They hope to ensure young people recognize WooGo’s logos and cups in friends’ pictures and on their news feed. With increased exposure, distinctive brand philosophy and a friendly competition of creativity, Adam believes that “if you hear something several times, eventually you’ll have to try it”.

If you have been to WooGo and seen the wall of drawings that change seasonally or visited their website, you would not be foreign to their awesome sense of style and color. To use one word, their design really “pops”. They have been fortunate to work with super-talented artists to create their marketing materials. The designers corporate WooGo’s fonts, logos, and characters into their artwork and the results are fun, upbeat, and pleasant to the eyes. WooGo believes the inviting ambience makes the store an important promotional channel. Having strong indoor and outdoor marketing that clarify what WooGo is (smoothie shop) and what they are about (having fun) attracts passers-by and makes people feel comfortable enough to walk in and check out the store. On top of that, the five founders make the best out of their friendly personality and winning smiles, and a sense of connection built on hearty greetings and easy conversations makes each visit an intimate experience. They want customers to leave with a feeling of “wow, that was awesome” that encourages return visits. So far, word-of-mouth has given them a good reputation and has been one of the most effective marketing strategies.

Co-founder Adam had read about the Enspyre internship program in How to Start a Business in Taiwan and wanted to add something similar to WooGo so he reached out to Enspyre’s Elias and picked his brain for 45 minutes. The result was the intense summer internship that was now coming to an end.

We took the opportunity and talked to one of the interns about working at WooGo. Joanne is a senior studying management and marketing and she is excited that over the course of this summer she was able to apply models learned in school in real situations and come up with corresponding marketing strategies. Thanks to the Western-style program, now she is not afraid to reach out and seize opportunities. Though having worked part-time at restaurants and drink shops before, nothing came close to her role and involvement at WooGo. For the one-year anniversary, she and fellow interns turned their ideas into presentations and eventually physical setups in the store. While we were there we there we witnessed the arrival of the WooGo game wheel, which is part of the anniversary marketing campaign. Joanne said that being a part of the decision-making process simply feels incredible. With two weeks left of the internship she was glad to have met many people and tried different things. Through the experience she has learned to work in a team; recognizing each other’s strengths, assigning tasks and cultivating communication skills. Acting like a proud mama, Adam kept saying the internship had long been the missing ingredient for WooGo.

When WooGo first started out, they found most of their suppliers online, and as they understood the market more, they contacted local suppliers directly for most of them do not have websites. Their main demand is fruits and sometimes the ones with highest quality products only speak Taiwanese, which was another small linguistic hurdle to overcome. Initially, they didn’t have much room to bargain because their demand was too low. Yet they said “the great thing about doing business in Taiwan is that everything is negotiable”. Overtime, they were able to push for desired prices and payment terms. Being the first Californian smoothie shop in Taiwan, it was difficult to find stable suppliers for ingredients that might be uncommon such as sorbets and instantly frozen bananas (the reason for using instantly frozen fruits is that they don’t have to add too much ice to create the “freezing in your mouth” sensation).

Given that WooGo needs a variety of fruits, Elias suggested they get in touch with the fruit trade groups to see if both sides could benefit from any potential cooperation. In the past decade, pineapple growers and government policies had worked hard to increase the value of pineapples. Pineapple cakes have become extremely popular among tourists with the government pushing for their export and advertising them to overseas travellers. Now pineapples are not just some fruit you buy at a local shop but an indispensable ingredient to the top souvenir to buy in Taiwan. Just to illustrate how pineapples cakes have become the “golden brick” for the industry, the most famous pineapple pastry shop Chia Te earned NT$700 million in revenue in 2013. Witnessing such success, the banana industry is also looking for ways to elevate the image and price of their product.

Responding to Elias’ suggestions, Adam shared an interesting story on how they overcame a supply shortage. In the middle of their busiest season their guava contact suddenly told them he was shutting down the supply. After calling everyone they knew they still came up empty. At this desperate moment Adam saw a great opportunity to bring creativity into play and let the interns learn problem-solving skills, so he came up with the idea to call an expert for guidance. His explanation for this was “because, you know, academics are so lonely”. So one of the interns bravely made a call to a guava expert and it turned out that he was very helpful. He talked for a long time, not only sharing his professional knowledge but also telling Joanne places to call and giving her tips. And voila, after following up on the contacts he gave, the problem was solved. So take note – “The lonely academic” approach might just come in handy and help your business next time!

We asked them how they decided the selections on the menu, and their answer was “Classics + Experiments”. They emphasized that being authentic is critical because it draws those who know the flavors, and if they approve of it, others will follow. They also have several flavors such as the Pineapple Cake and Pink Passion (passion fruit juice, strawberry sorbet, non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, guava) that were innovations of their own. Jason explained that Taiwanese customers are quite foreign to sorbets, and that they have to narrow down their ideal selection of sorbets because the suppliers don’t have that many choices for them to choose from.

Adam emphasized that Taiwanese people are very sensitive to seasonal changes, so they respond to this with summer menus and winter menus, and make sure that the flavors they introduce or take down reflect different fruit seasons. The quick responses to changing seasons was also a challenge for WooGo because while the smoothie industry has taken off in places with much colder weather like Canada, Taiwanese people area much more likely to avoid frozen treats during winter. Taiwan people are also hesitant to drinking cold drinks in the morning. Yet challenges are not an obstacle if you know how to adjust your products and expectations. WooGo keeps its menus updated and tailor store hours and marketing to fit these considerations.

On the menu they list all the ingredients for reference. The yogurt used in the drinks is made in-house as they strive to provide organic and healthy food. They are looking forward to introducing supplements to their menu, as it has been a long-awaiting backburner project. The supplements can be another challenge because Taiwanese customers are not used to adding calcium or protein powder to their drinks, but the team has faith in the local spirit of trying new things and is ready to add collagen as their first supplement.

WooGo believes a good company attracts good team members. They say it is difficult to find desirable employees with good command of English, yet they have successfully attracted many applicants because of WooGo’s distinct Californian easy breezy, surfing and chilling style. Young people feel that working at WooGo is a fresh and exciting experience and are inspired by the five founders–creating a lifestyle around the business and each has their own passions and pursuits. Adam said a key to choosing employees is that whether this person makes other people smile. They have a test: if you were caught on a desert island, would you want that person with you? And if the answer is yes, they are assured that the person will be a great addition to the company.

So far they have relied on word-of-mouth to find cool people to work with. They look for hard workers with the right attitude and values and personality that are compatible to the shop’s core beliefs. For young people, Adam said that he frames the opportunity into something big by sharing the expansion plans with the employees and make them feel special to be a part of the first original store. The staff feels more motivated when they expect there’s more to come and when there are new and exciting things going on. They post new hiring signs and are constantly interviewing people in case they find great talents.

For training, they modeled their program on a U.S. frozen yogurt chain company “Menchi’s” and named it “WooGo University”, a four-day session on not just making drinks but on company values and customer service. They believe that “if you know what you are doing, you are more likely to execute well”. The training is short but complete, and it is effective in coping with the relatively high employee turnover rates in the restaurant business. Cultivating autonomy is a big part of the training, and they place great trust in the staff and authorize them to make decisions as long as it is out of good intentions. When it comes to managing employees and overseeing their performance, setting expectations is critical. They set the expectations when the newly recruits first sign on so that the workers know the consequences when there are any issues. This two-way contract virtually binds the two parties and motivates both sides to perform well. WooGo upholds its commitments to their staff and expect them to do so as well.

Like Enspyre, WooGo has successfully applied for the Taipei City Government’s subsidies. The program they got accepted was a rental one, and the money they receive covers half of their rent for the first two years. They heard about the potential small business loans/grants through the Taipei City Government, right around the time that our book How to Start a Business in Taiwan was just coming out. They purchased the book and found it “really really useful”, and met our consultant, Tal. Tal encouraged them to check out the government subsidy event. They did, and decided to apply. You might be curious, thinking how did Woogo stand out among the crowds and beat other bigger and more established companies to receive the grant. Their niche lies in their strong community focus since their grand opening day.

They asked themselves what the business means to the community and what contributions they can make to the Taiwanese society. On the opening day they gathered artists and musicians, and the whole community is involved in a friendly exchange of arts and culture. Customers buy raffle tickets for the drinks, and the winners get the paintings made by the artists. Many participants said they had been waiting for such event to bring the neighborhood together, and were happy that WooGo provided a platform for locals and foreigners to perform and mingle. They also cooperated with a charity group (Happy Mount) by promoting what the organization does to their customers, which is housing 11 to 57-year-old physically challenged people and providing 24/7 care services.

Their community-conscious approach to run business and their involvement in charity work set them apart from other applicants, and it is something that WooGo has been very proud of. The application process took time and was rather problematic because everything had to be in Chinese, yet the founders were not proficient in the language. Luckily, Alice from ITRI helped them out with their applications and gave them advice on the programs to apply for. Finally, they presented in front of the subsidy and grant committee and explained the values they embody and bring to the society, and successfully persuaded the committee that WooGo deserved the money. Later that year they presented in front of the government for a Christmas special event and at a symposium the following year. (Ensypre was also invited and we have an article about the symposium. Please click HERE.)

As they celebrate WooGo’s one-year birthday, expansion plans spring in every direction of the business. In a few months, they’ll have a space outside of ATT for FUN to park their truck and do a series of promotion along with the grand opening of an international clothing brand (whose name remains confidential). Anticipating A LOT OF traffic, this will give them a great opportunity to further test-run their products and push for brand recognition. Currently they are negotiating with ATT for FUN for more advertising space, and they are brewing the idea of shooting a mini movie in the hopes of catching the attention of chic shoppers in the East District.

Opening another store is also being evaluated, and the location of the second store will very likely to be in Tienmu, a neighborhood with many target customers and where their products, services, and style are well received. Other projects include cooperating with gyms to raise band recognition, and so far their experience with O3 Fitness had been very positive. When it comes to cross-promotion, it’s a good way to reinforce each other’s customer base as long as two parties target the same audience and share similar core beliefs. It’s about being equal partners and open to communication and ideas.

When the five founders first started their business, they dreamt big and hoped to open tens and hundreds of store locations and eventually develop a brand to spread their message and lifestyle and turn it into a culture. After one year this vision stays strong and they look forward to exploring other ways to embody the fun, determined, and creative life that they find fulfilling and meaningful.