By Robyn Gautschy The Register-Mail, Galesburg, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Juice bar entrepreneur Megan Robbins discusses what community means to her, what she's learned in her first two and a half years as a business owner, and her favorite items on the "GloBar" menu.
It may be an understatement to say that Megan Robbins has a diverse and well-rounded background. After growing up in Newton, she completed her undergraduate degree at Judson University near Chicago and her graduate degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
In addition to being a full-time teacher and the owner of GloBar Juice and Smoothie in downtown Galesburg, she's working on her second graduate degree.
Over the years, she's worked as a barista, a strawberry picker, a peach sorter, an administrative assistant, a program director, an undergraduate professor and a high school teacher. She has two pets, a husband named Casey, and has been known to sing and play the fiddle.
Oh, and did we mention she's only 31?
Register-Mail: How did GloBar come to be? How did you come up with the idea and make it happen?
Megan Robbins: My husband came up with the idea. I had started a clean skincare line the year before because when I originally moved to Galesburg, there didn't seem to be any opportunities in education for me at that time. So I was working in an office, and I was developing the skincare line from home, and it was growing.
Casey (my husband) knew I was into the concept of having my own business, and he suggested doing a storefront. I was worried about the legalities of doing natural skincare, as it was something I didn't quite have a grasp on the ins and outs of, but he encouraged me to supplement the skincare business with a smoothie bar. I remember him saying, "Just throw a little smoothie bar in the corner -- you'll figure it out." That idea stuck with me.
The skincare line has since fallen by the wayside, but his smoothie suggestion resonated with something that might fill a need in our town. As time has passed, I've learned that ready or not, if you feel deeply about making something happen, you can do it. You just have to be willing to accept the cuts and bruises of the learning process along the way -- and most of all, you have to be willing to ask a lot of questions and learn from those around you who do things well and right. People's genuine belief in me drove me. Without Casey, our friends, my parents, and Walt and Annette at Q's, GloBar wouldn't exist -- so it really has always been, for me, a communal effort.
RM: Why did you choose downtown Galesburg as the location for your business? What do you like about this area?
MR: This one is tough because I suppose I didn't put a lot of thought into it -- I just knew how I wanted it to "feel." I wanted it to feel central, warm, inviting and connected to the wider community. For me, that is what our downtown represents. I am excited to keep contributing to the efforts of making our downtown hip, full of culture and charm, and inviting. I really feel like looking at changes that are possible for the future. We need a downtown that people want to explore and enjoy. I feel like we are halfway there, and there's a lot we could do to continue to draw businesses and creativity. So many people have been working on these efforts for years, so I'm glad to be part of that vision.
RM: What are the most popular items on the menu? Do you have a personal favorite?
MR: Unbelievably, the Cure, our green smoothie, is our No. 1 best seller. In the morning we make batches of fresh green juice with celery, cucumber, parsley, kale, spinach and green apple. For the Cure we add banana and avocado when we blend it. It's 100 percent whole food, like all our other smoothies. We don't use bases, and any powder we have for add-ins are real, organic food. I like that about us! It makes me feel good to know we are putting some good out there in the world, both through our food and the community we are building. Personally, I like the Uptown Funk because it has coffee and chocolate. And I don't feel bad about it! I still eat my greens!
RM: What is something a lot of people don't know about your business?
MR: That Casey is the backbone. My role is really about creativity in recipes, marketing, reaching out through social media -- but Casey, my husband, he does all the hard stuff. He and our co-workers Sunshine and Kayla are there every day doing the manual labor of love that it takes to keep any food business alive -- and they do it beautifully with a lot of generosity. Because I teach, I only work on Saturdays and through the summer, but they are the really dedicated ones day in and day out.
RM: What do you love about your work?
MR: It feels like we are creating a positive space, and this is teaching me a lot about who I would like to be as a human being. In the food business, it's difficult to please everyone. As hard as you may try, you always make mistakes sometimes.
But mistakes don't always have to be negative -- they really can bring people together, they can give people the opportunity to be more kind, and they can help us grow. I am a perfectionist, but I am learning creativity and greatness are more important than constant perfection, and friendship and relationships are more important that just having customers.
At the end of the day, it's work -- it will always be work -- but work is full of beautiful things as well as hard things that can teach you a lot, no matter what kind of work you are doing.
RM: What are the challenges of running a business?
MR: You have to be everything, and you are responsible for everything. The buck stops, and you have to be willing to humble yourself and accept responsibility for the good, the bad and the ugly. You don't know how to be an accountant? Too bad -- figure it out! Haha. Is the toilet clogged? Figure it out! At first, this was daunting, but now, with capable people like Sunshine, Kayla and Casey, it's manageable. No one person can do it -- you have to have a team who cares and is invested. Everyone is an important part of the process, and everyone is essential to the process. At the end of the day, I am still ultimately responsible, but they have stepped in and helped shoulder the burden. So even through the hard things, you learn and gain a new family.
RM: What have you learned from running your own business?
MR: I have learned that I love people and I love food. When you have good people and good food, life is good, right? I thought I knew it before, but running my own business has more deeply engrained in me the reality that all that matters in life are people. You can make money, but money comes and goes. You can make a name for yourself, but reputations can be easily tarnished. You can buy stuff, but quite honestly, having stuff gives me a lot of anxiety. I've learned that people and food really do make me happy. You don't really need more than that.
RM: What is your advice to other entrepreneurs, especially to young people like yourself who are just getting started?