In Good Company


By Ron Donoho

Of the 700 U.S. companies vying for a spot on Forbes magazine’s 2014 list of “America’s Most Promising Companies,” two San Diego brands made the cut. “The final assessment is based on growth (sales and hiring), quality of management team and investors, margins, market size and key partnerships,” says J.J. Colao, the list’s lead writer/researcher. Cheers to Suja, the nation’s fastest-growing cold-pressed juice company and poised to see 2014 sales of $50 million. Also sitting pretty is PIRCH, a retail chain store that’s been going with the cash flow by letting customers test products before purchasing them.

Suja Juice Company
When vegan chef Eric Ethan teamed with health enthusiast Annie Lawless to create and sell organic juices a few years ago, Ethan made home deliveries to friends and family on his skateboard. Seeing potential in the fledgling company, one of its early customers, Enlightened Hospitality Group CEO James Brennan (Stingaree, Searsucker), brought the project to the attention of one of his business partners, Jeff Church.

“The key to Suja juices is that you get the health without the punishment - it’s healthy and it tastes good,” says Church a Harvard MBA best known as the founder and CEO of Nika Water, which donates all profits to international clean-water initiatives.

When Church first encountered Suja, he recognized an obstacle to growth: its juices went bad in as little as three days.

“It had no shelf life,” says Church. “So we brought in high-pressure processing for pathogen protection, and that gives the juices a shelf life of 40 days.”

In its first year, sales of Suja’s cold-pressed juices surged from small-time to $18 million, a figure projected to nearly triple in 2014. The meteoric success planted the company at Number 3 on the Forbes list.

Suja juices come in three lines: Suja Classic, available at Whole Foods Markets for $8.99 per bottle; Suja Elements - juices and smoothies that are paired with social and environmental causes; and Suja Essentials, which will soon be available at larger grocery store chains.

What once was a Miramar Road home-furnishings store called Fixtures Living is now PIRCH, a four-location (San Diego, Costa Mesa, Glendale, Rancho Mirage) showroom packed with household fixtures customers can try in-store before purchasing.

“We’re constantly activated,” says the company’s marketing director, Maria Meeuwisse. “The full culinary team is always cooking something. There’s always something you can do in the kitchen, outdoor and bath areas.”

Being able to run water through 30 shower heads, for example, before deciding which one to take home has lured lots of shoppers - up to 5,000 of them a week at the new Westfield UTC store. A Chicago location opens in March, Dallas is slated for 2014, and Atlanta is in the works.

The chain saw revenues of $58 million in 2013, which helped it nab the Number 78 spot on Forbes’ 2013 list. Rapid expansion bumped the retailer to Number 32 this year.