Many small companies have borrowed strategies from Starbucks in hopes of replicating the java king's success. Here are four such businesses:

  • "Starbucks has moved coffee from being a commodity to an experience. We are moving dry cleaning from being a chore for the customer to an experience," explains Kirk Kinsell, the CEO of Hangers Cleaners, based in Raleigh, N.C. (See "Upstarts:Dry Cleaning" in the January 2001 issue of Inc. magazine.) To distinguish its 40 stores from other dry cleaners, the company uses nontoxic liquid carbon dioxide as a cleaning agent. Kinsell says his outlets look like "fine apparel stores" and don't smell like petrochemical refineries.
  • Much as Starbucks has created a base of loyal customers, Jimmy John's submarine sandwich chain has developed a cult following by locating most of its 100-plus stores in college towns. "We do strong guerrilla advertising each fall, when all the freshmen enter school," says Linda Kelley, president of the Jimmy John's franchise, based in Elgin, Ill. "Once we get them hooked, we have them for life."
  • Maui Tacos, based in New York City, has taken everyday Mexican fast food and spiced it up with exotic Hawaiian flavors, imitating what Starbucks has done with upscale coffees and flavors. The result, says Maui Tacos CEO Chuck Leaness, is gourmet fast food offered in a stylish setting.
  • Paul Clayton, CEO of Jamba Juice Co., based in San Francisco, admires Starbucks for its revolutionary ability "to drive significant sales volume through a small footprint." That translates into a lower investment in real estate and into higher returns -- a principle Jamba Juice is applying to its 330 stores, which sell fresh juice, smoothies, and health snacks.

Copyright © 2001 G+J USA Publishing