Skip repeated menu and go directly to contents

San Diego State University

Fowler College of
Business Administration

The Shake Smart Start

Shakesmart cup with various ingredients around its base

What do you think of when you hear the words "protein shake"?

Most of us would think of a chalky, bland drink that is gulped down within a half-hour after a workout. While it's not necessarily a pleasant experience, it's still a generally considered to be a good practice for maintaining muscle growth and health.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

As a student, Kevin Gelfand ('11, management) had a membership to SDSU's Athletic Recreation Center (the ARC) located on the west end of the campus. A problem arose when he realized the drive from the ARC to his home in Pacific Beach was more than 30 minutes, which limited the benefits of the shake.

Instead of moving or switching gyms, Gelfand saw an opportunity to help himself and others in the same predicament. He and fellow business student, Martin Reiman ('12, marketing) had been experimenting in creating various blends of protein shakes and the two of them embarked on a business plan to offer their shakes to ARC members right as they left the gym.

Not your ordinary protein shake

But these weren't just any protein shakes – they tasted good, were low in fat and would be conveniently offered either at or near the gym. With this, the idea of Shake Smart was born. "We did a lot of research to get ideas for shakes that were not only nutritious, but also affordable and delicious," said Gelfand. "We wanted a product that was more than just chocolate and vanilla, so we created recipes that were low in sugar and calories, but high in protein that could be used as a meal replacement."

We did a lot of research to get ideas for shakes that were not only nutritious, but also affordable and delicious.

Getting Started

The ShakeSmart stand at SDSU

The original Shake Smart kiosk at San Diego State.

With their initial product offering that met their taste and nutrition expectations, the two students were able to raise the capital, but locating their business on campus proved to be more of a challenge. "Aztec Shops, the auxiliary that controls the dining options on the San Diego State campus, had to be convinced to take a chance on two first-time businessmen who were also undergraduate students," said Gelfand. "Numerous members of the College of Business faculty helped us prepare for the meeting with Aztec Shops by offering help with our business plan, drilling us on public speaking and even providing advice on inventory and systems operations."

With the eventual approval from Aztec Shops, the pair set up their first Shake Smart stand outside the front door of the ARC on January 3, 2011. And with flavors like chocolate/strawberry, carrot cake and blueberry/banana/peanut butter, they attracted sales as well as attention – Shake Smart was Aztec's Shops first-ever on-campus business operated by SDSU students.

Numerous members of the College of Business faculty helped us prepare for the meeting with Aztec Shops by offering help with our business plan, drilling us on public speaking and even providing advice on inventory and systems operations.

Moving Beyond SDSU

The SDSU campus business was so successful that Gelfand and Reiman starting making expansion plans by the end of that year. They enlisted the help of SDSU's Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and their director of programs, Bernhard Schroeder, for assistance with those plans. They are in continual contact with Schroeder, whose support Gelfand credits as being "instrumental to the company's growth."

Their first expansion was more of a business lesson than a business opportunity. Opening in the spring of 2012, the second Shake Smart was located near a fitness center in Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. When the fitness center and area around it was closed down by mall management for remodeling, Gelfand and Reiman had to shift gears.

Fast forward, one year later when Shake Smart re-engaged on its expansion plan, opening three stores in San Diego County between April and June of 2013. In December of that year, the company opened their first shop outside of San Diego in the San Francisco City Sports Club, and in February 2014, they opened their second location at SDSU in the new Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

Future Plans

Currently, with 74 employees, Gelfand and Reiman are continuing to explore new opportunities and are currently working with officials at Camp Pendleton to open a second location on the base. They also plan to unveil a Shake Smart app that will allow customers to pay without having to take their wallets to the gym as well as receive rewards points. And in one of its boldest moves, Shake Smart will introduce their re-branding strategy this fall with a new logo, colors and brand identity that is in-line with the company's healthy product offerings.

While Gelfand's and Reiman's hard work and innovation has paid off, Gelfand is quick to point out that they had help in the beginning. "Without the support of the SDSU College of Business faculty and the willingness of Aztec Shops to take a chance on us, Shake Smart might never have launched," he said.

Without the support of the SDSU College of Business faculty and the willingness of Aztec Shops to take a chance on us, Shake Smart might never have launched.