Amanda Garrett Akron Beacon Journal
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 29-year-old Taylor McKinnie is the one-woman entrepreneur behind Mizz Shakesum. As Amanda Garrett reports, "she launched in 2019 and hopes to grow into a franchise, first with her own brick-and-mortar store in Akron and, eventually, out west, in California and Nevada."
The pink, purple, yellow and chocolaty-looking concoctions in Mizz Shakesum’s refrigerator at Northside Marketplace look like decadent treats.
And they taste like ice cream sundaes, pina coladas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Taylor McKinnie has intentionally designed these smoothies to be sneakily good for you, packing them with protein, fiber and nutrients she says many people don’t get enough of in their everyday diets.
McKinnie, 29, is the one-woman entrepreneur behind Mizz Shakesum, which she launched in 2019 and hopes to grow into a franchise, first with her own brick-and-mortar store in Akron and, eventually, out west, in California and Nevada.
“I give myself timelines of how I’d like to do things,” McKinnie said. “Within five years, brick and mortar and within 10 to 15 years, venturing out west where everyone is health conscious.”
Taylor McKinnie's entrepreneur story McKinnie, who still works full time in customer service for a local bank, is the first entrepreneur in her family, besides a cousin who works as a disc jockey.
In retrospect, much of her life seemed almost designed to prepare McKinnie to launch Mizz Shakesum.
The roots of McKinnie’s entrepreneur story began at Copley High School. During her junior and senior years, McKinnie said, she lived with her dad, who kept the house stocked with junk food. She gained about 30 pounds and felt miserable and exhausted all the time.
After McKinnie graduated from high school, she went to the University of Akron, which has its own fitness center.
“Membership comes with tuition, so I said I better use this,” McKinnie said. McKinnie didn’t work out hard, maybe only 10 or 20 minutes on a treadmill at first. But she also discovered a new way of eating at a cafe outside the university gym that featured smoothies and healthy sandwiches.
Within three months, she lost 15 pounds and then added weightlifting to her routine.
“It just grew from there,” said McKinney, who graduated with a degree focused on psychology counseling. “Over the next couple of years, I had the best shape I ever wanted.”
McKinnie started posting videos online of herself working out, received a personal training certification in 2015 and later went to work as a personal trainer.
At the same time, she took a job at the juice bar inside the now-defunct Earth Fare on West Market Street in Fairlawn.
“I fell in love with making smoothies,” McKinnie said. "I would add bee pollen, dragon fruit, spirulina [blue-green algae considered a super food by some], all sorts of things, just experimenting.”
Some of her personal training clients told her they didn’t like smoothies because the protein powder tasted chalky, but McKinnie said she knew that was because they hadn’t yet tasted the smoothies she made.
Smoothies aimed for health and fitness In 2018, Mckinnie started bringing her smoothies to her personal trainer clients.
“I forget what the first one was, but it was something green and they said, ‘Oh my God, this is really good,’ ” McKinnie said.
As word spread by mouth and on social media, McKinnie began selling her own smoothies on the side to people who reached out.
A couple of personal training clients also became friends and invited her to sell her smoothies at Akron’s East Avenue Flea Market.
Things went so well there, she decided to turn her smoothies into a business.
“I always wanted to do something in health and fitness, but I didn’t know until then what, and this was it,” she said.
McKinnie settled on a name, Mizz Shakesum, received a business license in early 2019 and then discovered Northside Marketplace, a sort of retail incubator for local startups like hers. About 35 small businesses have space in the building just north of downtown Akron.
Many of the individual spaces are not routinely staffed because their owners — like McKinnie — work other jobs while they're launching businesses. To make it work, the entrepreneurs share a common cashier.
“The first time I went in, I thought, ‘This is amazing,’ and I loved the crowd,” McKinnie said.
McKinnie met with Cassie Testa, a leasing and sales agent for Testa Properties, who told McKinnie everything she would need to set up a Northside space and sell her healthy drinks.
“There was a lot of trial and error,” McKinnie said. “I would do things and find out it wasn’t the right way to go.”
The health department, for instance, rejected the first type of refrigerator she planned to use to store her smoothies. McKinnie had to buy a commercial-compliant refrigerator, with a device that would keep her drinks cold even if the power went out.
It cost a couple of thousand dollars to get Miss Shakesum up and running. She uses the ghost kitchen — a professional chef’s kitchen that can be rented by the public — inside the Well Community Development Corp. on East Market Street to make her smoothies, juices and acai bowls and sells them at Northside, to private clients and, until the pandemic, at fairs and flea markets.
While COVID-19 has put the kibosh on many big gatherings, McKinnie said business has been strong at Northside and among her private clients because so many people are striving to be healthier.
She also makes special requests — like for someone doing a juice cleanse —and will deliver drinks for an additional cost.
At the same time, she tries to keep the Miss Shakesum menu fresh. Over the holidays, she added seasonal smoothies like NOG-gin Boggling, a mix of dates, bananas, nutmeg, cinnamon and almond milk.
In January, as people made New Year's resolutions, she added Pitaya Paradise, a pink smoothie made from dragon fruit, the common name for pitaya, a tropical fruit with red skin and sweet white pulp.
McKinnie said it’s low-calorie, loaded with fiber and has antioxidants that may help fight chronic disease. It tastes like a cross between kiwi and pear. But McKinnie's best-selling standard — and her favorite — is Power Packed Purple Haze.
It’s a combination of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberry juice and vanilla plant protein powder.
Most smoothies cost $5.50 or two for $10. Some specialty smoothies cost a little more.
Smoothies, she said, aren’t a fad.
“They’ll be around forever, because there’s no easier way to get your nutrients,” McKinnie said.
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