This Family of Tropical Smoothie Cafe Franchisees Is Using Their Business to Build Community
After a successful corporate career, Toya Evans wanted to take control of her professional life. So in 2016, along with her two daughters, Lauren Williamson and Chanel Grant, Evans opened up a Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Since then, the trio have expanded their portfolio to include two additional Tropical Smoothie locations (with two more under construction) and a Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. As they work together to build their success, they’re also focused on spreading the wealth — lifting up their own community as well as would-be franchisees across the country.
Why did you decide to go into business with your daughters?
I had been running a race pretty hard in the corporate world. Responsibility always seemed to be increasing, but it was more of a “hurry up and wait” story when it came to promotion opportunities. One day my daughter said to me, “We can barely get ahold of you — we call and you hit the auto-decline button.” So we decided to build something together instead.
How did you land on Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Hand & Stone as two brands to invest in?
I did some research on growth markets. We considered senior care, drug-testing franchises, really the gamut. We ultimately settled on the health-and-wellness space — my daughter Chanel was originally going to study naturopathic medicine, so it felt like a fit, and an area where we could grow.
You’ve been very specific about where you open these businesses. Why?
We wanted to be in an underserved area. Prince George’s County is predominantly African-American, and what I saw growing up in this area — and even now, as an adult who lives here — is that we took our money outside the county when we were looking for goods and services, because they weren’t present here. We want to change that narrative a bit and build within our community.
Last year was tough on entrepreneurs. What did 2020 look like for you?
We opened three new branches during COVID — two new Tropical Smoothies and our Hand & Stone location. As challenging as 2020 was, it was a time for us to slow down to speed up. We have aggressive goals, and we needed to put some systems in place to meet those goals. It’s very different going from being a single-unit franchise owner to being a multi-unit franchise owner. We’ve introduced a multi-unit manager, and we’ve put more reporting and tracking procedures in place to allow the three of us to step out of the day-to-day operations. Now when we want to grow more, we’ll be ready.
Early on in the pandemic, when business was extra slow, you and your daughters created an online course to help others become franchisees. Why?
So many people would reach out to us about our businesses: “How did you do it? Can we have coffee?” And we just didn’t have the time to sit and talk with everybody. So we built out a program through the lens of “If we had to take this journey again, what would we want to know?” We started from the simple question of “Should you be in business for yourself?” Because it’s not for everybody. We move through exploring if you’re a good candidate for franchising, how to identify brands, how to understand the FDD, how to pick attorneys. People from all over the country have purchased the coursework. People are always eager to hear about your journey, but inherent to that journey is: “How do I get started?”