Spotlight on Kiera & Margo
At Spotlight, we got the opportunity to talk to founders of Blend and Soul, Kiera and Margo. We chatted all about starting a business during a pandemic, the highs and lows and pursuing your dreams.
Funny story! Our journey started by visiting a local food hall in our community and noticing that there were limited healthy food options. It was a beautiful sunny day in Raleigh, NC, and we were riding down I-40 listening to BOSS by Beyonce and Jay-Z when Kiera & I came up with the idea of creating our own freshly squeezed cold-pressed juices! Crazy right? Our juicing interest was sparked by vowing to live a healthier lifestyle, but also making it cost-effective. Incorporating natural ingredients with a unique blend is what birthed Blend of Soul. Blend of Soul is all about healthy food, fresh cold-pressed juices, and encouraging our community to live a healthier lifestyle with a little taste of soul. We pride ourselves by using all-natural ingredients, tasty flavours, and a unique blend of soul in everything that we create. What makes us unique? We design each recipe with taste and feeling first, not price. If we don’t LOVE it, we won’t create it.
Overcoming challenges and setbacks
TRUTH MOMENT: We always believe in transparency and vulnerability, so here goes nothing. As a new business, it has been really hard for us because we personally fund everything ourselves! The amazing juices that our community knows us to create, supplies, shipping costs, educational materials, taxes, and the list continues is completely funded through our PERSONAL funding, so no help whatsoever. Let’s not forget an entire pandemic sweeping our nation. It has also been tough because we are brand new, launching in October 2019, so the process of learning the ropes, getting our name out there, networking (humbling, yes) but also very challenging when you’ve never run a business on your own.
How we managed to overcome these setbacks honestly took a lot of going back to our financial roots. Budgeting our own personal budgets has helped us keep that same energy when it comes to our business. We’ve learned to do cost comparison when it comes to purchasing our supplies and we are not afraid to use coupons! Thanks to our moms for teaching us the coupon way of life. It’s simple initiatives like this that have shown us the importance of creating strong financial habits when running a business.
When we created Blend of Soul, we created it with love and passion, but we have learned that there will be hardships along the way. We have also learned that if we don’t believe in ourselves, who will? It all starts with us. Yes, it has been hard. Yes, it has been overwhelming. Yes, there have been many tears. But guess what? There have also been many laughs, many screams of joy, many customers and fellow business owners coming up to us and thanking us for all that we do for the community, so much love and support from our families, each other, and the beautiful bittersweet feeling of building something that you created with someone you love all because we both wanted better for ourselves, our community, and our culture. So, always BET ON YOURSELF. You won’t regret it. Your future self will thank you.
Drive and determination
We would have to say society’s views that black women aren’t good enough. We were tired of seeing lack of representation when it came to minority business owners. We decided that we wanted to change this narrative and create something that reflected our creativity, while also highlighting the beauty of our culture. We felt that we always had to be better than our fellow counterparts. We had to create those seats at the table that through hundreds of years of history, we were never allowed a place to sit. American politician, educator, and author Shirley Chisholm once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
To anyone looking to start a business remember always stay true to yourself. It means being completely honest about how you truly feel. Life is too short not to live it the way you desire. Stand for what you believe in. Know that you don’t have to conform to the standards of society. Create your own lane. Live your life in your truest form. Our three top tips would be:
Research, research, research! It’s imperative to research your products, customer and market base, etc. Research as much as you can on the product that you are hoping to create. What are some need to know about your product? Why should customers pick your product over competitors? What are you hoping to accomplish through launching your product or service? These are all questions we had to ask ourselves during sleepless nights on our phones researching and reading up on different fruits and vegetables and what benefits each has on our bodies. Research is what helped us create the amazing juices we’re able to share with all of you!
Have a purpose for what you’re doing. Having a purpose is what is going to drive you when life gets weary. Our purpose is to provide healthy, cost-effective products to our community with a little taste of soul. We want our customers to enjoy our juices, but not break their banks! Remember your WHY.
Lastly, networking! Networking is imperative when starting a business or career. As they say, sometimes it’s not about what you know but WHO you know. We’ve met so many amazing like-minded individuals and customers through social media, virtual workshops, and word of mouth. We’ve been presented with amazing opportunities and have expanded our customer base tremendously all through networking.
Getting to know your team not only shows that you’re a great leader, but it also allows you to view each person’s strengths and weaknesses and how you will use them to create a cohesive team environment, while also promoting growth and development amongst each team member. Also, don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Nothing is worse than a know-it-all leader. There may be more than one way to complete a task. Be open to listening to ideas from your team because two heads are always better than one.
Highs and lows of running a business
The best part of our job is most definitely the customer experience. We absolutely LIVE and pride ourselves in providing amazing customer service because as customers ourselves, this is what we would want. Everyone remembers a GREAT experience, and this is what we really love about our job. We love not only creating the amazing product that you all know and love but the bright and beautiful smiles on our customer’s faces when they first taste our juices or reading the fun posts and photos that come across our social media pages! It’s the passion and love that we have for people that makes creating our business worth it.
Honestly, the worst part of our job is the sleepless nights and balancing of personal lives and work lives. Kiera is a full-time registered nurse working 40+ hour work weeks, so it can become really tough on her to work a full day and then come home and work another almost full afternoon into the night, and then wake up and do it all over again. We jokingly call her Wonder Woman (hence her WW cup that she brings to meetings! Shhh don’t tell her I told you haha), but she honestly is Wonder Woman in our eyes. She not only works at our local hospital day in and day out, but she comes home and puts 100% into our business streamlining our operations, paperwork, finances, creating, consulting, directing, etc.
Coping during COVID-19
Due to COVID-19, we’ve had to advertise more sales/discounts in order to stay afloat and to keep our clientele coming back. Our sales have been reduced due to the fact that most of our customer base is currently out of work because of the current pandemic. It’s been hard to obtain the necessary capital that we need to continue our business because there is an array of businesses that need help during this time, and there may not be enough funds for everyone. To help offset expenses, we’ve applied for a multitude of business grants including the Small Business Initiative sponsored by GoFundMe.
Working remotely can be lucrative if you maximize your networking. Remember when we discussed this earlier? Take the time to reach out to fellow business owners and customers to make those long-lasting connections. People will remember that about you. Your authenticity will take you beyond your dreams!
Adaptation is key to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Due to the fact that we are a brand new business, we’ve had to adapt to maximize our social media platforms. We try not to spend a lot of time on our phones because that takes away from our time, so we incorporate other fun ways amongst each other to reach out to our customers. Promoting ourselves during this time has gained us new customers and has introduced endless opportunities. The opportunities are there, you just have to go out and get it!