Monique Roussau-Stewart grew up in Chicago and came to California the first chance she got. “I dreamed of living in California while watching The Beverly Hillbillies as a young child and moved west when the opportunity came about,” she says with a chuckle.
While entrepreneurship was not the impetus for the cross-country move, it eventually became a new dream inspired by her son’s football team.
Today her smoothie kiosk in the east county of San Diego, California, has the fitting name of Blendees, where nutritional drinks are blended for diverse tastes and needs.
Kid-Approved Healthy Drinks
“I’ve been making smoothies for years, and it started as a way to nourish my son’s fellow pop warner football players,” says Roussau-Stewart. While she worked as the public relations director for the league, she began making smoothies for fundraisers on game days, keeping it simple by using strawberries and bananas which kids loved.
The popularity of the smoothies gave her the idea to sell drinks at charity events and farmers markets. When her 9-5 job was no longer satisfying, she attended college and studied business and marketing to start her own smoothie company.
Ready to bring her business to life, a fellow classmate mentioned a possible location at a snow cone kiosk in El Cajon, but each time she went to check it out, the kiosk was closed and eventually boarded up.
One day she finally found the property manager and learned how to acquire the kiosk. Roussau-Stewart says it took over a year pursuing the permits due to the city’s bureaucracy. When she finally opened, it was by determination and with no outside funding assistance in 2018.
Keeping her going throughout this time was her church family. “My church family mentored me while opening the business, and I felt God directing me to own the business.”
Blendees is Open for Business
Four years later, the word about the goodness of Blendees continues to spread and repeat customers keep returning. Roussau-Stewart is proud that people come from all over the county for the quality products and good customer service. Some claim the smoothies help their physical issues through drink combinations that Roussau-Stewart personalizes for each person.
The mompreneur follows suggested dietary guidelines about fruit servings with a minimum of 12 ounces or three daily servings in each smoothie. She then adds almond milk, oat milk or water to bind it along with ice. No artificial ingredients are added, and customers can select turmeric, ginger, vegetables and proteins for the smoothie.
She also ensures specialty ingredients are available upon request. Acai bowls at the kiosk have become popular and are created to individual requests just like smoothies. Roussau-Stewart says, “I shop every day for the freshest produce and buy alkaline water and clear ice because it makes a difference.”
During the COVID shutdown, she found ways to be creative by having people order online, making drinks ready without physical contact. Roussau-Stewart believes this method of providing smoothies comforted customers in uncertain times during the pandemic.
A Colorful Sign and Many Ingredients
Blendees’s kiosk is located near one of the busiest intersections in El Cajon, which is 20 miles east of downtown San Diego. In an ordinary strip mall, I noticed the kiosk with bright orange, purple and green logo colors. Parking is easy and the walk-up window lists all the possible combinations for smoothies and acai bowls.
Recently, when a family member felt under the weather, I made my way to Blendees for a soothing smoothie. I asked which ingredients would be suitable for healing physical pain. An employee suggested turmeric in a mango smoothie along with orange juice.
She peeled, sliced, and put the ingredients in the Vitamix and all was combined. The smoothie was made just right, went down easily and the flavors sparked the taste buds.
Roussau-Stewart’s goals for 2023 are to perfect their system for expansion and eventually offer franchises. She is also branching out by selling pre-made smoothies in takeaway containers to a hotel for their guests.
Her motto, “Think healthy, drink healthy, be healthy,” is just right for everyone, from kids to seniors savoring the smoothies.