If there’s one thing we love here at C&S, it’s kick-ass women entrepreneurs who are killing it at the business game. Meet Ella and Karen. These two women with backgrounds in real estate and marketing were united by their common desire to create something special. We recently chatted with Karen about how she met her business partner Ella and launched their popular business, Blume.
Tell us about Blume and how it got started!
We make superfood latte blends here at Blume! Using highly nutritional and functional ingredients, we make drink blends that are micro ground, perfect for lattes. We use turmeric, anti-inflammatories, anti-oxidants and beetroots that are really high in vitamins and minerals that work with different diets.
Before Blume, I worked in the real estate industry where I attended a ton of coffee meetings. Coffee made me jittery and there just weren’t a lot of healthy alternatives available. So I set out on this mission to create healthier drink alternatives that were really easy to incorporate into your life, whether it be at home or in cafes.
The idea behind Blume is when a flower is coming into its full bloom and it’s at its most vulnerable. So Blume is also about supporting supporting people’s journeys and tied back to those pinnacle moments of change when you’re aligning yourself with your values.
Where do you get the ideas for your blends?
We started by figuring out what was actually healthy. In the health world, there are so many different claims and viewpoints of what you should and shouldn’t be consuming, so we tried to look for ingredients and viewpoints that came from a longstanding tradition.
For example, Turmeric has been used in therapeutic remedies for hundreds of years, so we felt confident using it. They were things that we thought we could monetize for the North American palate—things that could be updated so North Americans could enjoy them too.
How did you meet Ella and why did you decide to go into business together?
I met Ella through a mutual friend, we were on a camping trip together. Sometimes you just meet people you vibe with, and she had just gone through a breakup and I was going through a breakup so we were really thinking about what we wanted to do next and what we wanted our lives to look like.
We wanted to do something that was more creative and we wanted to work on our own wellness journeys, so we started meeting up to talk about that and Blume was really natural and born out of that.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
It was something that I always wanted to do, but was kind of scared of doing. Before Blume, I had ideas I would jot down in a journal but I never took action with them. I think I was just really worried about failing and wondered if I could even do it.
Ella was also a really creative person and worked in Marketing, so she was surrounded by people who had kind of taken the leap. I think meeting each other and balancing out our individual skills really helped us get started.
Neither of us had worked on a food product before and never for ourselves, but definitely her experience in what a brand should look like was a huge advantage. She designed the early packages and came up with a name and together we created a brand that represented us and what we wanted Blume to look like.
What did your background in real estate contribute to the brand?
I was in operations—so things like all our financials and budgeting and sourcing, those were things I did in the real estate industry that I could apply to a new industry. I also have a business degree, and things like setting up the business and doing things in a responsible way when it was all self-financed was kind of my experience.
What were the first few steps you took to launch Blume?
The beginning happened kind of strangely. There’s a store in Vancouver on Hornby Street called Victoria’s Health and it was on my way to work. We had had this brainstorming session and I decided I would go in there and see if they had anything similar to our product.
When I went in, I spoke to the owner and we were chatting about turmeric lattes and he said he couldn’t find a product that he liked locally. In that moment I was like, “Oh, well, we’re making one.” He was open to trying out samples as we went and he was our first customer, so it happened very spontaneously. Afterwards, we met with cafe owners and figured out what they were looking for, then met with suppliers to test different recipes.
It’s available on a bunch of different cafe menus around the US and Canada and it’s also available on retail shelves, so you can get it in stores and boutiques or you can buy it online through our website and make it at home. We started selling into the US about a year ago.
Most of what we do focuses on Canada because we’re based in Vancouver, but we have had cafes reach out to us from the US and we’re happy to supply them healthy options. It all kind of happened very slowly and naturally, it’s not necessarily about each individual cup, it’s about how you feel it works and we’re really happy that people who respond to the products like them.
Some new entrepreneurs create a detailed business plan while others prefer to wing it! What was your process like?
We’re somewhere in between. We definitely did market research and we put together a business plan and there was a thought process as to how we wanted to do it, but there was a mentality that you don’t really know until you do it, and as you go you adjust things. So maybe we’ll find out people want sugar, or maybe people want bigger packages or people would prefer caffeine blends, and then we’re ready to adjust to support those goals as we go.
What goes into creating Blume that you think people might not know about?
The sourcing that we do is actually a lot more in depth. We haven’t done a good job of telling that story, but we’re really careful about how we source ingredients, making sure that they’re all organic, that they’re fair trade, sometimes when you go to the store to buy spices, you don’t know how long they’ve been there because they’re shelf-stable, so we put a lot of care into making sure that we have the freshest, best-quality ingredients in our blends.
We do have to import some of our ingredients, for instance Ceylon cinnamon we get in from Sri Lanka, but everything is mixed here in small batches in Vancouver.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the early days of the business and how did you overcome them?
I think it was our working styles. We discovered how to work together since we were really new to each other and had never worked on a business or project together.
We just figured out how to deal with each other and we were also working full-time so we had to find that balance between doing a good job at your actual job and pursuing things that you’re passionate about.
Has there been anything that has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
I think there’s this idea that it can be a dog-eat-dog world but I’ve found in Vancouver that there’s a huge network of business owners who are extremely supportive, very uplifting and happy to answer questions.
We get questions all the time from other local entrepreneurs about “How do you do this? And how did you get here?” and people are really receptive. So something that I was surprised by is the amazing small business community in Vancouver.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who are dealing with frustration and self-doubt in the early stages of their businesses?
I think it’s just about taking one step and not being afraid to pivot. If you have an idea that you feel passionate about, don’t be your biggest barrier to getting started. I think sometimes mental blocks end up being the biggest barrier to doing something and it’s something I battle with too.
Every time we bring on a new product or if I have different ideas or if I want to change something, your first thought is “Oh, am I the right person to do that?” Lean towards being action-oriented.
How do you deal with burnout as an entrepreneur?
I wouldn’t say burnout but as a small business you spend a lot of time by yourself, you’re not working on teams necessarily. So I have struggled with working from home and feeling kind of isolated. I find solutions by setting regular meetings, meeting up with other entrepreneurs, reaching out, being part of co-working spaces, that sort of thing.
What are your go-to wellness tips for busy entrepreneurs?
Just stay hydrated, honestly! Drink some water.
Three years after launching, Karen and Ella are working full-time on Blume and have expanded their market into the United States. If you’re looking for an immunity booster, look no further than their trio of latte blends made with turmeric, blue Spirulina, which is packed with antioxidants, and Reishi, which has long been used in eastern medicine.