Jeff Church

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Jeff Church (born August 24, 1961) Jeff Church, Co-Founder and CEO of Suja Juice, has enjoyed a career of numerous successful entrepreneurial ventures, ranging from a multi-million dollar private equity firm to co-founding and leading one of the fastest growing organic juice brands in the country. Jeff brings an extensive background in social entrepreneurship and goodwill to Suja, in addition to expertise in product branding and operations.

As Founder and CEO of Nika Water Company, a social enterprise that donated 100% of its profits to clean water projects and poverty alleviation around the world, Jeff made a name for himself as a prominent social entrepreneur and has applied this same, successful approach to business, helping skyrocket Suja’s unprecedented growth. NIKA translates from Zulu as “to give.”

In utilizing his vast retail knowledge, Jeff fostered a strong and strategic relationship with key retailers, including Whole Foods Market, which led to quick triple-digit revenue growth and product expansion for Suja. Jeff is also responsible for the groundbreaking launch of Suja Elements, a high-quality, functional refreshment line that uses cold-pressed organic juice, blended fruits and some of the world’s best superfoods, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market.

In the summer of 2015, Suja announced an investment and distribution partnership with The Coca‑Cola Company, as well as a minority investment from the Merchant Banking Divisionn of Goldman Sachs. Jeff played a key role in brokering these deals, which helped to expand Suja’s distribution to almost 50% more locations, including new venues such as college campuses and big grocery chains.

In 2015, Suja was named #2 on the list of Forbes America’s Most Promising Companies, moving up a spot from its #3 ranking in 2014. In addition, Jeff received numerous personal accolades as a 2015 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the San Diego region, and BevNET’s 2015 Person of the Year.

Church graduated from Michigan State University in 1983 with a B.A. in accounting and was named one of the top twenty-five graduating seniors out of 8,000 students. He later attended Harvard Business School and graduated with a Masters in Business Administration in 1988.[1]

Jeff founded Autus Capital, a $25 million private equity firm that focuses on acquisitions of middle market manufacturing and distribution companies. Previous to this, Jeff served as president and general manager of various divisions within ERICO, as well as held associate and senior positions at Morgan Stanley and Ernst & Young, respectively.

Prior to co-founding Suja Juice and NIKA, Church was CEO of Universal Building Products,[2][3] a middle-market concrete forming and shoring company – and purchased, built and sold several companies through his private equity firm, Autus Capital[4] including Aztec Concrete Accessories, Lynx Professional Grills[5] and Pool Tables.

An avid runner, Church also climbed five of the Seven Summits including mountains Kosciuszko (Australia), Kilimanjaro (Africa), Elbrus (Europe), Aconcagua (South America) and Vinson Massif (Antarctica).[1]

Church and his wife Linda live with their four children – Nina, Joshua, Rachel and Jacob – in the San Diego County community of Rancho Santa Fe, CA.[6]

Philanthropy and activism[edit]

After costs and taxes, NIKA Water Company directs 100 percent of its profits to alleviate water and sanitation needs in impoverished countries.[6][7] It is the first bottled water company to donate all profits from sales to charity and be certified as carbon neutral by the Carbonfund.org.[8][9] As the business model, Church used the example of Paul Newman’s company, Newman’s Own, and its charitable arm, Newman’s Own Foundation.

NIKA team members, along with San Diego-based Project Concern International, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), traveled to Nicaragua to bring clean water to more than 700 people, 100 homes, two schools and two health clinics to a local village outside the city of Jinotega for the first time. The engineering feat involved piping water out of the upper elevations of a 3,000-foot mountainside from previously inaccessible aquifers through a concrete channel and into large reservoir tanks. The water was then distributed through a PVC pipe system into the homes, schools and clinics. NIKA, Project Concern and the local community spent approximately $160,000 on the total project.[10][11][12]

“We got into NIKA because we went to Ethiopia and Kenya and saw the water crisis first-hand,”[13] Church said about his family’s 2007 trip to Africa. “I have four kids that are in middle school and high school and when we came back they were inspired and wanted to make a difference. The youth today are so much more socially- and environmentally-minded than my generation, and when I see their enthusiasm and energy, it really gives me hope for the future and confidence that we are in good hands, that our society’s kids are going to make a difference.”

NIKA has a multi-year donation project with Free the Children and built a K-8 school in Pimbinet, Kenya, for 500 students, brought in a clean water system and provided micro credit lending for the village mothers.[8][14]

Church addresses business audiences worldwide on the topic and concept of social entrepreneurship.

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