theGrio’s 100: James White, corporate turn-around expert revives Jamba Juice

Who is James White?

“When I say I’m the CEO of Jamba, their faces light up. It doesn’t matter who it is – I’ve never had any other reaction,” White told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There was a woman who wanted to take a picture with me so she could show it to her kids. It’s just amazing.”

That reaction is as much in response to his affable personality as it is the popular company that he helms. The native of St. Louis, MO says he was instilled with a strong work ethic and sense of community commitment from his mom, a retired lab technician and his dad, who worked as a skycap at the St. Louis airport well into his 70s.  White attended public schools and studied business and marketing at the University of Missouri.  He earned an MBA from Fontbonne University in St. Louis.

White joined Jamba Juice at a time when the business was failing.  Success magazine says White has “tractor beam focus” which gives him an ability to turn around companies such as Coca Cola, Safeway and Gillette.

Why is James White among theGrio’s 100

“I have experience being able to solve complex problems, so that leads me into turnaround kind of operations. But I also have a capacity to build things and to grow companies and businesses,” White told Success magazine. In December 2008, White took over Jamba Juice. Due to management problems and an unfocused growth strategy, the company saw a rapid decline in profits.

Jamba Juice reported a third-quarter net income of $22.4 million in 2007 and a $12.4 million net loss in the third quarter of 2008. A visionary who sticks to long-term goals, White led Jamba Juice through 8 consecutive quarter growths with over 800 sales units. The third quarter of 2013, for instance, jumped 51 percent over Q3 of 2012.

What’s ahead for James White?

“I think in many ways, Jamba was ahead of its time,” White told CNBC. “If you dial back the clock 20 years ago, Jamba was like astronaut food for consumers. It really awakened a fun and interesting way for consumers to think they were doing something good for themselves.”

The company just launched Jamba Kids meals, healthy solutions for kids including fruits vegetables and whole grains. White says the company’s mission is to inspire and promote healthy living, delivering products that sync with meals throughout the day. Look to White’s leadership in helping Jamba Juice take a major role in school nutrition.