COVID, a Young Entrepreneur, and a New Business- Ritual518

It has been a while since we have visited Freestyle Fitness and Ritual518 and it was a surprise to us that construction was going on for the plaza that they are located in.  This plaza hasn’t been changed since we could remember so it was a nice change in these weird times.  We met Sam Kubik inside the restaurant, and her energy and smile was instantly contagious.  It was so nice to finally see her, we do know her as one of our gym trainers from our membership at Freestyle Fitness.  She looked happy to see us after she completed a workout virtually, and was wearing some Ritual518 merchandise.  

Before the interview we caught up about where we are in our lives right now, how her business is doing, and how crazy times are in a year we couldn’t have predicted.  It was nice to finally have a conversation with someone about everything going on in the world face to face.  I was glad to see the stresses of COVID hadn’t affected her bright spirit which makes this business so special.  We hope you enjoy our interview with this spunky 22 year old entrepreneur and please support her business not only throughout these unprecedented times, but even when times are good again. 

How was business when you first opened a few months ago compared to now?

When they opened up, the gym was open as well and the gym brought in clients to their business. Gym members were the base of their main clientele and were able to build the brand from the ground up.  Kubik has been building it as they were going day to day, and suddenly the gym clients were taken out of the equation.  She asked herself questions such as “what type of marketing can they get into without social interaction, how far can social media get them, and how many people can they reach in the community?  The gym members are no longer regulars, so who are the regulars now?”  They have been sustaining their clientele to what they had when they started.  Kubik tells us that little to no money has been used on advertising, sometimes they boost posts on social media, but that is about it.  There has been good marketing on their website and social media which helps to attract new customers.  There was a big event on April 4th, and Kubik thought to herself, “build and perfect the menu until April and then this event will blow us up” but then it was cancelled.  She was disappointed, but she still managed to push through and still have hope in her company.  She also says she talks about COVID multiple times per day with her customers because she feels like they just want to talk about it with someone outside of their immediate family.  

What changes did you have to make to your business model once the restrictions were put in place?

Everything had to be changed, all the tables had to be taken away, cleaning procedures are more frequent, they were already good before the restrictions, now they just have to happen more often.  Take out was already in place before COVID so that didn’t have to change.  There used to be a grab and go fridge, but now it isn’t used because communal areas are not highly looked upon during these times.  Online orders are behind the counter until the customer shows up, and now everything is made to order or pre order.  

Do you think people’s idea of health has changed after this pandemic? Are people using food to heal their bodies?

Kubik says she has tried to stray away from appealing to the immunity side of the healthy food industry because she doesn’t want to give someone the false hope of healing someone from COVID.  Companies out there are getting in trouble for saying that their products of healthy remedies are the go to cure for the coronavirus.  She didn’t want to use this as an opportunity to brand her food as a go to health product, it was not the right time.   

Do you feel greater support from the community now that businesses are under more pressure?

“Yes, we received a lot of donations from the community some are from long standing customers and our more recent customers.  With this support we were able to help out local hospitals, local fire departments, doctors offices by delivering them food.  Some of the support stemmed from nurses that were gym members at freestyle fitness, and they got connected through the foodie pages.  There was a contact list for donations, the essential workers were really happy to be receiving food from a local business.  People truly want to give especially during times like this.”  

Why did you open Ritual518? What is your mission?

“Our mission statement says we want to provide whole nutritious food in a transparent manner, I’m a female and have had body image struggles and has had struggled dieting.” Before she owned this business she asked herself questions like “Was she tracking her food when she went out to eat?”  She trusted healthy places out in the community because it guided her on how to enrich her body. She wanted a safe space for people to feel good about eating healthy, she has macro nutrients available for all of their menu items.  This helps the consumer on how to plan food for the day, and makes it easy for people to not have to look up macro nutrients for every single ingredient.  Plant based is one of the labels she likes because it doesn’t mean eliminating animal products, it just means food based around fruits and vegetables.

What do you hope for within the reopening?

“Have 1,000 customers a day haha”, she only had three employees but the foot traffic alone was not high enough to employ them anymore.  When they reopen, they are going to have to be retrained, and she hopes that it is super busy. She asks the community, “Please don’t let this local surge of support be a quick fix when this is over with, we  are going to need the support of the community even more after this is over.  Talk about your good experience with other people and on social media.  Leave good reviews everywhere because it makes a huge difference.”  She asks herself “what does my business look like to the consumer?”  If you try it for the first time leave a positive review if you like the experience.  She is 22, just got out of school, is on social media and is learning as she goes.  She is using social media to expand her clientele base, she says “it is the best feeling when someone says they were referred through social media. It is empowering what we can do with our platforms.” 

What is it like being a young business owner? 

It’s scary, especially during this time, she feels like she is drowning.  People our age want instant gratification, but with a business it cannot be this way because it takes time to build up.  Maybe in 6 months you will see the results pay off, but you never know what the future will hold. When she looks at the numbers she has nothing to compare it to, no experience in the field so she takes it day by day.  She makes logical decisions, it’s very straightforward, it’s very black and white.  Sometimes she isn’t right, but that’s where Gina comes in to help her because she has been in the food business for a majority of her life.  Almost thrown into it and she figures, “hey if she can own a business during this global pandemic she can do anything!”   It’s such an emotional roller coaster, she thinks she has it one day and then it switches up, everyday she is learning something new, things she wouldn’t have learned in school.  She wishes she paid more attention in her accounting classes. It’s scary to start, but she is trying to think about the future but she cannot take a step back to look toward the big picture just yet.  She feels locked in and the potential isn’t opening the door yet for her to open other locations.  She thought by now or a few months from now she would be able to do more managerial things rather than being behind the counter.  The volume is not there yet, she asks herself at what point are people going to be breaking down the door?  

Was there a thought in your mind to close? 

If they would have closed and didn’t do takeout they probably would not have made it.  This situation was not ideal for business owners, especially small business owners.  People would say just take the unemployment, but Kubik said the little clientele they had would have diminished.  She believes in what they are doing and she is just dealing with the lows now and pushing through the tough situation.  They wouldn’t have survived if they closed for a bit, even with rent forgiveness, they are trying to build a brand.

What do you mean by build a brand?

Mainly on instagram to build a brand, and they are coming out with a summer menu in addition to their regular menu.  They try to make new flavors and new products, Kubik even says people love their specials sometimes even more.  They wanna be known as one of the established healthy food places instead of perpetuating the normalcy of fast food, it’s about making healthy food choices easier.

This interview brightened our spirits and gave us hope for the future of independently owned restaurants.  Sam Kubik just started her business a few months ago and is pushing through this pandemic like a champ.  She still continues to be bright, cheery, and full of energy we know she will be extremely successful in all of her endeavors.  We cannot wait to see where this brand goes, but for the present moment go and enjoy a Cherry Kiss smoothie or a Watermelon Matcha smoothie that we got to enjoy after the interview, which Kubik was so nice to offer us. 

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