Business Q&A: Glenview's Blended Health & Smoothie Bar also deals in kindness, humor
• An interview with April Doremus, owner of Blended Health & Smoothie Bar in Glenview, which opened in June.
Q. Describe your business. What do you do?
A. We are a smoothie shop that also specializes in acai and power bowls, and kindness and humor.
Q. You opened your business during a pandemic: What challenges did that present, and how did you overcome them?
A. I am a person who runs on outlines and timelines. Prior to the pandemic, I had everything outlined, including my marketing plan -- when to announce, advertise, hit the market etc. The plan, including visits to local establishments, email campaigns and advertisements, was set to kick off March 16. Well, the world shut down on March 13, so that stuck a fork in my plans. From there, I relied on social media, interactive contests and the help of my family and friends to spread the word. By the time we opened, we had nearly 1,000 followers on social media, and we are hoping to continue to increase that as the weeks roll on. Beyond that, everything was just a little bit slower moving; contractors were doing work at different times, orders took a little longer, and we took a more proactive approach to cleanliness and sanitation, which is a benefit to us and our customers.
Q. What made you start your business?
A. I had been working as a human resources executive in health care the past four years and, just before year end, my position was eliminated. When I was looking for new opportunities, I was having a hard time (considering) going back to the corporate world or working for another company that didn't align with my values. I have a degree and background in food service and a daughter and son who love smoothies. I have always wanted to open a restaurant or, more specifically, a bar -- so while this is not what I had originally planned, it was an opportunity for me to create a place where customer service and relationships are paramount, and we can serve something that makes people feel good, inside and out.
Q. Besides the pandemic, what has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A. There is a learning curve when it comes to organization. We have so many ideas and love getting ideas from customers, so managing to not do TOO much has been a balancing act. Following a concept and not overdoing it, but still building something that can please the majority, those things have been a constant focus. And QuickBooks. I was a hospitality major; numbers are not my thing.
Q. What's new in your business or industry?
A. At this point, everything! Transparency in cleanliness and sanitation; masks; upfront information on how we keep people safe, including staff and customers. While this has always been important, it is interesting to kick off a business in food service during a time when nearly every establishment is under extra scrutiny.
Q. What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A. The people! While that may sound like the generic answer, I am a people person. We are trying to create something different. When we interviewed our staff, we told them "The No. 1 most important rule in our house is inherent kindness. Treating others the way you want to be treated, just because that is the foundation for humanity. No. 2 is the ability to laugh. We are rooted in kindness and running on humor, so you need to laugh, be silly, have fun and not take things too seriously. If you treat people well and can laugh at yourself, you will inevitably find success. And No. 2½, serve a really delicious smoothie or bowl so people return. We strive to be a place where everyone feels like a member of the (BLENDED) family.
Q. Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A. I think so? Originally, I wanted to teach high school English but, during my freshman year of college, I took an English class and remembered I don't really like to read. So I quickly switched to hospitality and worked for 12 years in food service before moving to other avenues of hospitality and then health care. And I am so excited that I found my way back to food service in this capacity.
Q. What keeps you up at night?
A. Right now, everything and anything. I get about 4-5 hours of sleep at night just because there are so many ideas! And there's work to be done. You can plan as much as you want, but you don't know what you don't know, so every day we make changes. I get home at night thinking about how we can do better, be more efficient, and take better care of people.
Q. If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A. Always be open to other people's ideas. Someone told me to put the whole menu on the window for people to look at from outside. I hadn't thought about that, but it was a great idea. Someone else suggested creating a T-shirt counter inside the shop where people can order on the spot. It was another great idea, and the Area Retail T-shirt Deli was born. When you explain your concept, people will offer ideas you may not have considered. Be open to everything and build off your supporters' ideas.
Q. Who is your main influencer -- who's business philosophy or advice do you most admire or follow?
A. I am guided by a quote from Maya Angelou -- another cliché I am sure: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Am I "passionate" about smoothies? Not really. Do I like them? Heck yeah! But smoothies are just an avenue for me to create something awesome, in a place where you are treated well, where we will learn your name, and where, if you will let us, we will make you laugh. So, at the end of the day, I really want people to have fun with us and laugh with us and also remember that, even if just for a few minutes of their day, their experience with us left a lasting impression.
Q. Name one or two people you follow on social media and why.
A. The Rock. We share a birthday, he is extremely handsome and totally AWESOME! Tank.sinatra & tanksgoodnews, because his accounts exemplify what I love in life -- sharing kindness and humor.
Q. Tell me one thing people might not know about you.
A. The BLENDED concept actually has nothing to do with smoothies. While BLENDED works well with blenders, the concept is actually derived from our Blended family. My husband and I were married in 2014, and we each brought with us one amazing addition: My daughter and his son. As a foursome, we are super close with my daughter's dad and my (step) son's mom. We celebrate together, we appreciate each other, and we all do our best for our kids. So the BLENDED concept really is about family. Even the most unconventional of situations can turn out to be exactly how it was supposed to be.
Q. What's your favorite smoothie?
A. Do I have to pick just one? I would say the Sunrise. If I close my eyes (and add a shot) it's like laying on a beach in Mexico.
• Do you know of a Glenview or Northbrook business that should be featured here? Let us know at email@example.com, and please include "business Q&A" in the subject line.
950 Harlem Ave., Glenview
847.934.0266 or blendedglenview.com
Owner: April Doremus
Year opened: 2020
Number of employees: 10