Transparency is the Key to Trust—Landon Eckles, CEO and Co-Founder, Clean Juice and Freecoat Nails

How do you create trust with your customers? With your staff? With your franchisees? Our guest today, Landon Eckles, shares how he and his wife, Kat, have used transparency as a guiding principle for the growth and success at Clean Juice.

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As the CEO & Co-Founder of Clean Juice and Freecoat nails, Landon Eckles puts his faith first and is inspired daily by entrepreneurship, leadership, business, and team management. In late 2020, Landon was named to one of the Most AdmiredCEOs by the Charlotte Business Journal and is highly sought after as a public speaker. He is also an active member of the Charlotte, NC area Vistage CEO group, his family’s church in Elevation Lake Norman, and spends the rest of his time chasing his five young children. He and his wife, Kat, opened their flagship Clean Juice store in Huntersville, NC in 2015 and the rest is organic history. Currently, there are over 100 Clean Juice locations open across the country with many more in active development. Additionally, in 2020, Landon completed the acquisition of a non-toxic nail and beauty bar and rebranded the company to Freecoat nails.


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Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):

You’ve worked hard to build your business and now it’s time to grow. Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team and a serial entrepreneur. And the purpose of our podcast is to give you a weekly dose of inspiration and education to help you multiply your success. And as we open up the episode today, the question I want to ask is how do you create trust with your customers, with your staff, with your franchisees, if you’re in the franchising business? How do you gain buy-in for future growth and expansion? Well, our guest today, Landon Eckles, shares how he and his wife Kat have used transparency as a guiding principle for their growth and success at their company, Clean Juice.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:49):

Landon and Kat are the co-founders of Clean Juice, and he shares the journey that they started together when they were originally looking to buy a franchise, but couldn’t find one that they thought fit. So, they instead started their own company and called it Clean Juice. They then decided to franchise their business, and today they have over 100 locations in 25 states, with another 60 locations in development. And big news, just last week, they announced that Tim Tebow is now their new national brand ambassador. In addition to now growing Clean Juice, they’ve launched a second franchise concept. They’ve got a lot going on. You’re going to learn a lot from Landon’s interview. So, let’s go ahead and jump right into it.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (01:32):

Tom, thanks for having me. My name’s Landon Eckles. I am the CEO and co-founder of Clean Juice as well as a newer franchise company that we launched called Freecoat Nails. And I can jump into my background, if you’d like?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:47):

Sure. Yeah. That’d be fantastic.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (01:49):

Sure. So, I started my career in the pharmaceutical industry. Right out of college, I jumped into pharma sales and so, that sales and marketing background. I did that for about five years and then jumped into management at that company. So, learned a little bit about leadership and leading a team. That was the first time I had ever had real direct reports. So, I had a team of 12 or so. So, learning through the hiring and the firing, and just the employee side of it. So, that was my first real experience of leadership. And honestly, I wasn’t very good. I wasn’t a very good leader, but we all grow through our careers, right?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (02:32):

I did that for a while and then I actually went on board with a family company doing real estate development, actually in Asia. So, I was traveling a lot. I was in Asia, working on fundraising and working on pretty big real estate deals, which was cool, a great experience. I learned a lot again, about real estate, how raising money for real estate works and how partnerships work. And so, that was a great career, but it took me away from my family. My wife and I had three kids at the time, we were pregnant with our fourth and I was gone a lot, and it was just really, really hard. And so, that’s when we really decided to open Clean Juice, really scratch the entrepreneurial itch that we both had. And that’s when we really decided to go for it.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:20):

Wow. Wow. What a ride. Well, you had me at a real estate in Asia. So, that just sounded interesting, of all places to be doing real estate, I wasn’t expecting that. So, I guess, what were you doing for real estate? Were you buying, selling, building? I’m just curious on that.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (03:41):

Yeah. It was my uncle’s company, and he had been going to Asia, specifically China, for gosh, 25 years, a really long time, just building relationships over there. And so, he created a business around really consulting and around real estate development for really big projects. So, mixed use projects like office, residential, hotel, all in one big project. He’d go over and work with the local municipalities on what that kind of large scale development would look like.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (04:16):

And then, we would also bring in different capital providers, so, people and entities, and companies, who were interested in investing in those projects. Really, through the relationships he had built, we were able to marry some of these opportunities and help bring in really great architects and planners on some of the city development stuff. And so, it was really cool, very, very unique business, very unique opportunity, that I did from probably around 2011 to 2014.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:47):

Wow. Really, really, really great experience. So, you go from international real estate investor and person, to now coming back to the States saying, “I want to do something where I’m more homebound. I want to be with my family, my wife and kids.” Where does the idea for Clean Juice come from?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (05:09):

So, it really came from her. I give her all the credit on that one. So, we wanted to do something healthy. Both of us were passionate about health and wellness, and we believe that health really starts from your diet. It’s diet, diet, diet. And then, from there, once you’ve got a good diet, it’s other things like exercise and sleep, et cetera, but the diet is so important. And so, when we decided that we wanted to do something together, we had always loved the idea of opening a little cafe or a restaurant or something, something that served our community, we just loved that concept, that thought around providing something that was truly healthy.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (05:44):

And it’s funny, we actually looked at some of the different franchise opportunities that were out there at the time, and we just couldn’t find anything that we felt like was what we wanted to do. We thought that everyone used organic produce to make their stuff, but we just found that that wasn’t the case. And so, the more we looked around, my wife was like, “Man, I think there’s a big opportunity to do it a different way, where we’re not adding sugar to every smoothie, where we’re actually using certified organic produce to make all of our stuff.”

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (06:17):

And so, it was funny, her famous line is that she was like, “Yeah, I guess we can open one of these other concepts, but I’m never going to eat the products there.” And I was like, “Well, that’s so weird. I would never do that.” Right? So, that’s us, when we really decided that we were going to open our own thing. We spent about a year developing the concept, the menu, finding the real estate, negotiating the space, and coming up with the brand. And I mean, everything. So, I quit the job, spent a year developing Clean Juice, and then we opened about a year later.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (06:46):

Wow. Wow. And so, when you started the business, did you have this idea of franchising, in your mind, was that part of it? Or, what were you thinking when you started?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (06:58):

We really didn’t. Obviously, it was the first business like this that we had opened. We had never been involved in a franchise, neither one of us had franchising experience, but we kept having people come in and say, “Hey, is this a franchise? Hey, where can I buy a franchise? Where’s your home office?” And I would tell them, “It’s in the kitchen, in the back.” There were just so much request for franchising, and so, we started looking into it. At first, we were a little hesitant just because there are some horror stories out there where people franchise, and then they don’t have really good brand standards and ways to audit and make sure that the brand is true at every store. And sometimes these franchisees take over and they start selling stuff that you don’t want them to sell.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (07:45):

And we were certified organics. We’re the first to scale a certified organic food concept through franchising across the country. And so for us, the fact that we go to such lengths to get the materials that we use to make our products was really important. So, we had to make sure that we had all the steps in a row, to be able to franchise before we jumped into it. And then, finally through a lot of research, we found that franchising, it’s an amazing opportunity if you partner with the right people, right? If you partner with the right franchisees, and in the right areas, and do your research on the location. So, that’s really how we got into franchising.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:20):

Yeah. No, I appreciate that. And something you said really stood out because it’s something a lot of our folks that tune in, they are emerging franchisors or entrepreneurs that are maybe thinking of expanding one way, shape, or form, or another, franchising is one of them. And you mentioned something about with being certified organic, it’s a high standard that you’re trying to uphold, especially when you’re delivering this certified organic product somewhere else around the country that’s not close to you, where you can’t just pop in tomorrow and see what’s going on, and go look in the kitchen. So that’s, I know, a common fear that I hear from a lot of folks that are worried about it. So, I guess, are there any measures or things that you did to make you feel comfortable, that you would have those processes or controls in place?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (09:13):

Definitely. I think first and foremost, it starts with who are your franchisees, right? So, we really go through a pretty extensive vetting process, getting to know them. I think that you can put anything, any structure in place, but if someone wants to cheat the system, they’re going to try to cheat the system. Right? So, let’s partner with the people who don’t want to do that. Right? And so, we get to spend a lot of time upfront getting to know our franchisees. I still to this day have meetings with them before they sign their franchise agreement. I want to hear their heart for the business. I want to hear why they want to open a Clean Juice, and really just spend time getting to know them one-on-one, personally, because I think that any good business partnership starts first with a great relationship.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (09:56):

And so, we spend that time upfront to get to know them. And if they tell us things like, “Yeah, we’re really passionate about healthy living. We’re passionate about organic.” We know that inherently, they’re going to probably follow the right steps and not try to cheat the system, right? From there, there’s definitely a lot of mechanisms in place, that we put into place around secret shoppers, around audits, unannounced audits, things like that. But before you get there, you got to make sure that there’s a process and a procedure for everything that you do.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (10:29):

So sometimes, we’ve found that it’s not ill intent, it’s that maybe they just were trying to do something that we just hadn’t explained very well. Right? And so, a lot of times it comes back to us to make sure, hey, let’s make sure we put the right process, procedure into place, update the operations manual so that they know exactly what they can do, have to do, to uphold the brand standards. And we’ve mostly been very successful with that.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:54):

Yeah. Well, and I think also it says a lot to you as the franchisor because you’re taking the time and effort to go through that screening process, and that’s half the battle of getting the right people in. And then, it sounds like from what you just said, that after they come in and you identify, things change, systems change, processes, new people come in and you find some gaps or things that are missing. So, it sounds like you were also then going in and updating procedures and processes and being prepared for those new things that came along and supporting those franchisees.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (11:32):

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think, our responsibility as a franchisor is to continually improve the operating system. And so, whether that’s the menus that we serve or how we do things in our supply chain, operations manual, how things are served. I mean, there’s just so many things that we have to continually improve. And that’s just part of our promise, it’s part of what we do. We always want to get better.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:58):

Yeah. Yeah. And I resonate with that. We have three core values at our company. One of them is basically, continuous improvement and make it better. What are we doing today that needs to change for tomorrow? And so, I appreciate that. There’s a lot of effort that goes into it and making that happen. So, talk to us a little bit about how you grew, where you are right now in terms of approximate number of locations, and I’d like to talk about franchise number two and how that came about.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (12:30):

Yeah. So, we opened our first location right around six years ago and today we have 105 locations opened across the country. We’re operating in more than 25 states. We’ve got another 60-plus stores in development with Clean Juice, across the country. So, it’s been awesome. I’d say, how did we do it? I mean, I think number one, you got to have a good brand, right? You got to have something that people want to buy into. You got to have something to people like, whether that’s in food or services, it’s got to be unique. It’s got to have a great offering. It’s got to have a good economic model to it. And it’s got to be something that is desirable. So, that’s number one.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (13:16):

And so, if you get those things dialed in, then you can start thinking about franchising, but we’ve grown through franchising primarily. We own 13 of those 105 locations. So, roughly 10% of the stores that are out there, we own, which is a good number, which is what we like, just in terms of what we can manage versus also managing the franchise portfolio. And yeah, I mean, we’re excited where that brand’s going to go, what we’re looking next at, airport opportunities and college universities, things like that, to get some of these younger guys interested in health and wellness. And that’s what they’re demanding anyway, they want healthier stuff on campus. Yeah, that’s the next path that we’re looking at, while of course, growing the franchise business. And yeah, so that’s what we’re doing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:07):

That’s amazing. That’s amazing. And it makes sense. I mean, I travel a lot and when you’re in the airport there are very few quality choices for you to purchase. It’s basically a bottle of water and a pre-prepared salad or fruit or something, and that’s it.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (14:25):

Right. Yeah. Everything’s freshly made, right? And it’s all using certified organic, truly healthy ingredients. So, we serve juices, we serve smoothies, acai bowls, freshly made salads, wraps, sandwiches, all with the best ingredients. One of our core values here at Clean Juice is, transparency is the key to trust. So, everything that goes on our menu is what goes into the smoothie. And unfortunately, you don’t find that really with a lot of our competitors who are out there. We’re not going to tell you it’s a kale pineapple smoothie and then put 10 tablespoons of sugar in it. We don’t do that. In fact, we don’t use any sugar. And so, everything that you see up on the menu board is what you’re getting. And it’s pretty unique, but also it’s pretty dumbed down, and that’s how we like it.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:18):

Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s an incredible story. You have an awesome brand. You’ve been building this, you’re clearly on the pathway here for a national, international brand, being the leader in your space. And in the wings, or maybe moonlighting here, you have this second brand. So, talk about this second company you have starting, that’s not in the food business, and so I’m interested. Tell us about that.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (15:44):

Yeah. Well, it’s a couple of things that I love. Number one, franchising, right? I think it’s a great brand. So, we bought a concept and then we rebranded it to Freecoat. So, the concept had been in operation for about five years, but it’s only recently been Freecoat. We bought it about a year ago. And the reason why we love the concept is because they had just started franchising, right? So, that was built into place, but more importantly, it’s a health and wellness spin on the nail setting. And unfortunately, in the nail industry, there’s so much unhealthiness involved in that service, just with the toxins that are used on the paints, just some of the different ways that in traditional nail salons, how they run the business.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (16:28):

And so, we feel like health and wellness is where people are going. They’re not just going there for food, but they’re going there for services, and looking at these different, unique opportunities to clean up different things in their life. And they’re wearing these paints on their cuticles, on their fingernails, that are there for weeks, months. I mean, sometimes years, people go every single two weeks to get fresh paint on. And your nails can be some of the most absorbent part of your body. And so, if you’re putting all of these paints on there that are laced with all these different chemicals, what kind of effect is that having on you? Right? And then also, the experience when you walk into a traditional nail salon, the first thing you get hit with is this smell of death, it’s like this chemical wall.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (17:10):

And so, when you walk into one of our stores, you don’t smell that at all. It smells really fresh, really clean. We have medical grade filtration systems just to keep the air really clean. None of our paints have most of the toxic chemicals that are in there, they’re all excluded. So, we have a certain standard that we use. So, we just really want to clean up that industry and we feel like it’s a huge opportunity. The brand is really clean and good-looking, and we think it’s of today’s consumer. So, we’re really excited about that. We have three locations that are open now. We have two more that are going to open in a couple months, and we’re franchising from there. So, it’s been going well.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:50):

That’s exciting. That’s really, really exciting as you’re starting this next new venture. Well, it seems like Clean Juice is on this pathway of really fast growth. It’s hitting that point where you can really start exploding, that you’ve got the pieces in place. And now, this new brand coming up, it’s exciting. Well, Landon, I’d love to jump into the format for the show, while we’ve got you in the hot seat, we ask every guest before they go, the same four questions. So, the first question we like to ask is about a miss or two that maybe happened along the way and what you learned from it?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (18:25):

I think, it’s a great question and I think it’s broad on purpose, right? I could sit here and talk to you about business misses all day, but I think that for anybody who’s listening, the biggest misses in our life that we can learn from, are the ones inside of ourselves and the ones that we deal with personally. And so, I feel like the times in my life where I’ve had the most success is where I’ve been the most self-aware. And so, when I’ve struggled with certain things, like in my 20s, I was partying too much, focusing too much on fun versus play versus my career. When I was able to take a step back and look at who I was and who I really wanted to be and how those things weren’t really aligning very well, I was able to make change.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (19:09):

And so, I think that sometimes we go through life and we’re acting in a certain way, but maybe we don’t even realize it. But for those of us who can take that step back and say, “No, I want better for myself, and I’m willing to take those hard truths on, hey, this is going well, or this isn’t. And I need to make some changes if I really want to be the best version of myself.” And so, I had to go through that and I’ve been through that. And so, I would not be here today if had I not addressed some of these things that I was dealing with.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:41):

Yeah. Yeah. I totally relate there. And how about on the other end of things, a make or two along the way? You’ve had quite a diverse background and career with the different, really, career points you’ve had. So, I’d love for you to share about a make along the way.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (19:58):

Well, I mean, obviously with Clean Juice, just the fact that the brand is what it is today, is a big make, but I would say more of how we got started on the make is, we had to take a risk, right? And so, I think so many times in life we’re presented with different opportunities and a lot of times we’re going to miss out on something, just out of fear. And many times in life, we make decisions based on fear and nothing else. And so, had I been scared to lose the couple hundred grand that I was going to put into the first location, we wouldn’t be here today. And so, I had people who told me, “Don’t do that. That’s not a great idea. I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (20:35):

And so, a lot of times you just got to really pray, listen to your gut, take that risk. And a lot of times risk is viewed as a negative thing, and I don’t view it like that. I view it as a positive thing. Had I not taken that risk to open Clean Juice and store number one, we wouldn’t be here today. And so, just the fact that we did it, we took that risk, was a big make for us and our family.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:00):

Yeah. Yeah. And what about a multiplier? You’re in the franchising business, so that’s certainly a natural multiplier, but anything that stands out to you, that you and Kat have used as you’ve expanded the business?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (21:15):

Yeah. So, we talked about the brand, we’ve talked about franchising, the third leg to the stool that we haven’t talked about yet, is people. And so, you don’t get to multiply a business without people. I could only take Clean Juice to one, maybe two stores by myself, if I’m just operating them. So, you need a great team, you need a great people. And really, I couldn’t have ran the first store without a great team working in the store. And so, you’ve got to have a vision, you got to have purpose, you got to have focus, but if you’re not building people and developing people along the way, it’s never going to be what it could be.

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (21:50):

I have to trust people to do a much better job than I could do in their certain roles that they have now, here at Clean Juice, and had I not given up that trust, had I not poured into people, we wouldn’t be here. And I have people who started with me when we very first started and they’re still here and they’re still doing a fantastic job. So, people development is probably the biggest thing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:15):

Interesting. Well, I appreciate that. And I think you’re right. We’ve heard a similar response from other guests as they’ve come on the show. And I’m just curious, is there anything in particular that as you think about the great people that have been around you, I’m just thinking out loud here, but is there anything in particular that you felt like you’ve done in terms of helping grow or develop those people, or train or support them? Is there anything in particular that you’ve felt like stood out in keeping those people on board?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (22:43):

Yeah. I would definitely say there has to be some like-mindedness, there has to be shared values. And so, for us, it’s pretty easy to see what our core values are. And so, we talk about what our core values are. I mean, they’re no secret, they’re up on our office, they’re up on our website. People can see what our core values are. And so, I think that when people align there, and when you get to know somebody, the biggest, I think, limiting factor is not the knowledge that they have, but their willingness to grow. And so, if they’re willing to learn and if I’m willing to teach and if I’m willing to learn, then it’s probably going to be a great relationship. And so, attitude is everything. So, finding the right people, with the right attitude, with the right vision behind your mission, is what it’s all about.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:31):

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and the final question, Landon, is what does success mean to you?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (23:38):

That’s a great one. It’s one I’ve thought a lot about. I could say a lot of things, but I think for me, success personally, is am I able to achieve the fullest version of myself through God, who God intended me to be? And if I’m able to do that, if I’m able to live my fullest life based on the gifts that I’ve been given, that’s success to me.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:04):

As we bring this to a close, is there anything that you were hoping to share or get across that maybe you haven’t had a chance to say yet?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (24:14):

No. I think you’ve asked some really great questions. Obviously, we’re really excited about what we’re doing in the health and wellness space and the franchising space. Easily can check us out at and I mean, we’re all over Instagram and you Google Clean Juice, you’ll find us.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:31):

Well, you answered my last question, which was, how can people get in touch with you if they’re interested in learning more?

Landon Eckles, Clean Juice & Freecoat Nails (24:37):

Yeah. So, for me personally, I’m most active on LinkedIn, so you’ll be able to find me on there.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:43):

Landon, thank you so much for being a guest on the episode today. And let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So, takeaway number one is, like-mindedness and finding franchisees with like-mindedness. And he talked about how this idea of like-mindedness has been a key to his success in finding franchisees who want to do the right thing when they’re operating their business, or even just the staff running their company on locations. That’s been a really important component for them.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:15):

Takeaway number two is, trust your gut. And I like how he talked about when, how Kat said that if they bought one of the franchises they were looking to buy originally, that she would never eat there. And so, that’s when they decided to start Clean Juice. And I thought that was a great takeaway because they instinctively said, “You know what? I think we’re going to pass on this opportunity.” It just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the right way to go.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:42):

And the third key takeaway is that they are focused on continuously improving. Their job as a franchisor is to continuously improve systems, processes, marketing. The new addition now of them bringing Tim Tebow into the operation and as a brand ambassador, just things to continuously improve. And certainly, I know I relate to that a lot, that’s one of the core values at our company.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:06):

And now it’s time for today’s win-win. So, today’s win-win is, transparency is the key to trust. The title kind of gave it away, but transparency is the key to trust. It’s the key to trust with your staff, with your franchisees, with your vendors, with your suppliers, with your spouse, with your kids, with your, with your, with your … And I love how Landon really emphasized that the transparency for them, has helped lead to their success as an organization. So, it will be a win for you, a win for any person involved in your life.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:48):

And so, that’s the episode today, folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and to give us a review. Remember, if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise their business, please connect with us at Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.

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