Red Mango

- High Point, NC

As an American race car driver, Bobby Labonte has won 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series including a championship in 2000. Beyond making a career running laps around people, Labonte has also been active in business as the head of a marketing agency, his foundation and now, a Red Mango -- one of the fastest growing retailers of all-natural, nonfat frozen yogurt and fresh fruit smoothies. Labonte spoke with as he prepared for the Daytona 500.

What franchise do you own and why did you choose it?
Bobby: Red Mango. I have a passion for living healthy, eating and exercising. And when Red Mango opened in Greensboro, I became a fan of their product, look and energy. When I met Steve Mosh, the owner, the opportunity came along to get my feet wet ... and my passion took over.
How has NASCAR prepared you for owning a business?
Bobby: There's a celebrity status that has come from being in NASCAR for me. There have been great partnerships in the past years with companies that I've had the chance to meet and talk with. CEOs and VPs of marketing and a whole realm of people. You learn things from them ... You don't partake in their business, but you watch and see. You're aware of the surroundings.
How involved are you in the day-to-day operations at Red Mango?
Bobby: I'm more of a customer. I let Steve, my partner in it, run the operations. He puts it in the hands of the store managers. I know them by name and encourage them along. They know what they're doing and I appreciate the fact that I can call them my friends. I let them do what they do best.
What are the most rewarding things about owning a business for you?
Bobby: To see the evolution go from a thought to paper to a structure with people to results. To see results that started off as a thought in a dream, a wish, a hope. And the people you meet along the way -- the partners you garner and the employees you savor.
Most challenging part?
Bobby: The challenge is keeping the machine well-oiled. That's always a challenge and it's a moving target that never stops. Your goal is to always try and have it figured out before it comes off the tracks.
Was the franchising process painful or painless?
Bobby: Painless for me. Steve did a lot of the work. I flew to Long Island, met with Dan Kim and the rest of the executives at Red Mango. We decided to pull the trigger and they made the process much easier.
If you could bestow one morsel of advice to someone looking to start a business, what would it be?
Bobby: Do it because of the passion for what it is -- or what it can be for you. Meaning, my likes and wants are different than other people. Have a passion for whatever it might be. To want to help people and want something to grow is key. If you do something you don't like, it's going to be a long road...

Read Other Athlete-Owned Business Interviews:
Darryl Strawberry
Steve Nash