Deployment To Afghanistan Stirs Up Army Veteran's Dream To Launch Superfoods Brand
Teague Savitch, Army Veteran & Founder/CEO of Blue Bowl Superfoods
Tell us about you and your military background:
My name is Teague Savitch and I am the founder and CEO of Blue Bowl Superfoods. While Blue Bowl is an acai superfood brand based out of Southern California, its roots actually go back to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
I served in the US Army Reserve as an Intelligence officer from 2012 through 2020. I received my commission through Georgetown University ROTC program in Washington, DC while earning my Master’s degree in the field of International Relations from GWU.
I deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 as a Battalion S2 where I was responsible for overseeing a team providing intelligence support to our sustainment operations in what was then RC East. It was during this deployment experience that I found myself yearning for a fast and healthy meal option that also tasted great. While I do give big props to the food options available at the time considering the circumstances, the options simply fell short of what I was looking for.
While deployed I began to reflect on what was important to me as an individual and to my long-term health. So there, in between briefings, missions, and meals, I began to envision my post-deployment life and knew it had to involve being around great tasting and healthy foods.
Tell us about your business:
Blue Bowl Superfoods is an original create-your-own superfood bowl concept with seven retail locations in Southern California. While the idea and inspiration stretch back to my time in the military, the first iteration of what Blue Bowl is today was done in a farmers market 4 months after returning home from deployment in April 2015 and while still serving in the Army Reserve.
Blue Bowl is a place where you can get exactly the superfood bowl you want at a totally fair price. That’s why we make 100% customizable bowls, without up-charging for anything. Our prices are fixed, meaning you choose your size bowl and get anything you want, without paying any extra for toppings. We like to say that, “$2.50 for guac” has no home at Blue Bowl. If you hate goji berries but you want extra mulberries, you got it!
With a strict focus on superfood bowls, and not offering smoothies or juices on our menu, we feel that we can better achieve a high-quality product and experience every time. Our mission is to have our customers and team walk out of every Blue Bowl feeling better than when they walked in.
Describe how you got the business started:
Formulating an idea and taking an idea to conception are two very different experiences. The idea is surely the easy part. It takes courage to publicly (even if just family and friends are watching) test an idea that will, statistically, fail. I remember my family thinking I was nuts for having gone from graduate school to selling fruit in a farmers market.
The initial days actually included a (still) very close friend as my business partner. He worked under me during our deployment and we bonded over plans to start a business when we returned home. He was part of the ideation and early day testing phase of the company before it was called Blue Bowl Superfoods, when we were just doing farmers markets. The hard truth is that the farmer’s market days, even though very successful from the standpoint of popularity and selling out with big lines each day, was very hard, and a path forward as the next iteration was uncertain. This early partner and friend decided to return to school while I decided to charge forward, find a new business partner, and take on the risk of opening an actual brick-and-mortar location.
In terms of establishing the idea, I did as much informal market research as possible. This essentially meant that I was trying every possible product on the market that existed at the time. I ultimately brought together the things I liked and avoided the things I didn’t like and tested things in farmers markets. This allowed for a low cost initial investment of under $1,000 with little additional overhead expense commitments. Once one farmers market turned into four and the product was selling out each day (beginning signs of proof of concept) I began to look at investing in an actual permanent retail location.
The first Blue Bowl location was funded through my deployment savings and an agreement with a scrapy contractor that I would do a lot of the labor. This is also around the time that I brought on a new business partner that I met working in the superfood supply and sales world. Together we ran the farmers markets and put in the hard work of opening the first Blue Bowl location in Orange, CA. Our local farmers markets that we kept allowed us to tap into an existing customer base to support our early days at this first location.
Tell us why you wanted to become an entrepreneur:
I felt that I had experienced working successfully in a large organization with fully established standard operating procedures and wanted to see how I could operate in the other extreme.
“I was drawn to entrepreneurship because I wanted to test myself and grow in a new way where every success and every failure is a direct result of my own decisions and my own effort.”
Describe how your military background prepared you for entrepreneurship:
My military experience was in many ways an experience of new challenges where resiliency was a key ingredient to success. Similarly, today I find that resiliency is needed in my daily work life. Entrepreneurship is largely about problem-solving and working within the constraints of your resources at the time and about being responsible for your decisions and the work you do. This should all sound familiar to anyone who’s served in the military.
Tell us about some of your obstacles and challenges, and how you overcame them:
One of the hardest moments in my Blue Bowl journey was in the very early days when proof of concept fears and opportunity cost to staying the course were both high. My original business partner made the very reasonable decision to leave and go back to school and I was left to either fold or rise and test myself and build upon what had already been built. I chose to march forward.
I found a new business partner, invested my life savings and signed my first lease for a first location, borrowed money from my family, moved into my brothers’ apartment, and brought my personal expenses to nearly zero.
“Ultimately, it was me saying that I believed in myself and that I was okay failing along the way.”
Describe how you're doing today and what the future looks like:
Blue Bowl has grown from a 10x10 foot farmers market tent to seven store locations across the greater Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego county areas. We continue to receive an influx of franchise inquiries from interested parties all over the United States and even abroad.
A major project and goal of ours is to launch our first ever consumer packaged good product that serves as a ready-to-eat superfood bowl found in any freezer section of a grocery store or other such places where frozen products are consumed. In fact, we aim to make this superfood product available to our troops on military installations across the country. Please stay tuned for our progress on this endeavor!
Share some advice with your fellow veteran entrepreneurs:
The best advice I can give is to go all in and stay hungry. Most of the time it’s a grind and not at all sexy. In fact, it often feels quite lonely because of the unique challenges you face. Most of the time you are putting fires out and often find yourself wearing hats that don’t nicely fit but need to be worn.
“Focus on a product or service that you are passionate about and would be a consumer of yourself.”
There’s no substitute for hard work and a high tolerance for uncertainty. In the end, if you want it bad enough, you won’t fail, you’ll just adapt.
Where can we go to learn more: