As executive chairman and executive director of Retail Zoo, the husband-and-wife team oversee four retail brands, including Boost Juice, which is the largest juice and smoothie franchise in the southern hemisphere.
What makes it work?
Their differences. Janine is a details-driven dynamo with no formal business training. Jeff is a macro-thinking marketing powerhouse.
“I was on maternity leave with my third child when Jeff and I decided we didn’t want to work for anyone anymore. We tried publishing, unsuccessfully, then we toured a comedian but we didn’t make any money.
It was on a trip to the US in 1999 that we saw these bars selling juices and smoothies. In Australia, there was nothing in the market that was healthy and as a consumer, I wanted it. So we got home, I sat down at the computer, typed in “business plan” and off we went.
Because Jeff doesn’t get into the details, he has more courage in the decision-making process. He’s great under stress. My strength is that I’m high-detail. Often in life, if you get the right one plus one, it can equal 10.
Working with your spouse has its challenges. There have been times when I’ve glared across the table at him. I could throttle him sometimes but I always put myself in other people’s shoes and I didn’t want a husband and wife bickering in meetings. We learned early that if we work on the same project, it often doesn’t end well so now we have complete responsibility for our respective areas. And we never take an issue to bed. The key thing is respect.
We haven’t always got it right but 20 years on, I love him more than I ever have in my life. Having the business together has kept us on the same path and kept our interests alive.
I don’t believe the business would be where it is today without both of our brains. Individually we would have been successful but together we are formidable.”
“While I was still group program manager at Austereo Radio Network, I visited every major shopping centre in Australia and signed up sites for Boost. I came home and gave all the leases and contracts to Janine and said, ‘Here you go, darl, something for you to build.’ That would epitomise my role; I’d do something that caused Janine immense stress and then she’d piece it all together and make it work.
I think the big thing that set us apart was putting Janine forward as the face of the brand. I hired the best PR companies and set about getting the story out that this health-conscious mother-of-three had come up with all the recipes and so on. It went like wildfire, as opposed to a bunch of faceless businessmen putting money into juice bars because they thought they were going to be the next big thing. We had heart, soul and we had a beautiful young Australian girl from the ’burbs who became the driver of the brand.
Janine, who probably knows more and thinks more than I do, will always have sleepless nights worrying about things but failure doesn’t come into my vocabulary too often. She stays with problems longer than I have the patience to. We’re complete opposites, though we’ve started to morph – I’ve gotten nicer and she’s probably become a bit more robust in business. Boost Juice was a combination of two people coming together – one who believed we could do anything and one who could make it work.
I’d say 95 per cent of the time, working together has been brilliant. There was a rough patch because Janine was working 15-hour days, I had a lot of pressure at my work and we had three young kids [they’ve since had a fourth]. I questioned how much the business was overtaking our lives. It was the beast in the room of our marriage for 12 months but you get through it. At the end of the day, we love each other dearly and that holds it all together, doesn’t it?”