When Bridgette Cummings moved to Missouri from the West Coast, she wasn’t able to find the healthy food and drink options she was accustomed to. So, when the opportunity presented itself to offer healthy shakes and teas to the Springfield community, she took it – by way of an acquisition.
Cummings owns The Healthy Edge LLC, primarily a shop for protein shakes and teas, but it also serves protein-based iced coffees, waffles and acai bowls.
In July 2019, she bought an established business, The Healthy Edge Nutrition Club LLP, and reopened under a new LLC.
“I was only 24 years old,” she says. “My thought process was, as long as I can serve something to the community, then I don’t care if I make money or not.”
Making it her own
Cummings purchased the business from Bryan Vanwinkle for $18,000, as she saw a chance to share her passion with others.
“When I lived in California, I would teach a workout class and then make smoothies after the class as a recovery shake,” she says.
Cummings was already a distributor of Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. (NYSE: HLF), a nutrition company producing protein-based powder formulas, boosters, snacks and supplements. Having a brick-and-mortar store where customers could drop in and grab a quick meal replacement was an avenue to open up her own local business.
In the first year, The Healthy Edge grossed $300,000 in revenue, and in 2020, $500,000. With about 200 customers per day now, the store’s 2022 revenue hit $650,000.
Creativity and mixing it up each day is where the job is extra enjoyable for her, Cummings says. Although she already has access to recipes, Cummings says she develops many of her own, and her store includes new specials every week – including themes like “Star Wars,” Disney or the 1980s.
“A lot of the recipes come from my own head,” she says. “My staff also helps come up with flavors. A lot of my flavor ideas are inspired, too, by Andy’s Frozen Custard and Culver’s, or just walking down the cereal aisle at Walmart.”
One stipulation from Herbalife is that she use 50% of its products in her recipes. Cummings says she has had some challenges in overcoming assumptions about the brand being mostly focused on multilevel marketing or on locking customers into a plan.
“The only thing that’s been a big challenge is the negative connotation that people perceive with it,” she says. “A lot of people think if you come in, we will try to sell you on a product with hundreds of dollars spent in an auto-ship plan or something. It’s not like that. You literally come in, buy a shake, we tell you to have a good day and you leave. That was a huge challenge in the beginning and still is kind of, but not as much since we’re well established now.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cummings says she didn’t know if her store would be shut down, but it was deemed an essential business and so customers started taking teas, shakes or food items home.
Out of that, Cummings started offering additional options, such as take-home packs or a 30-day supply of tea or shake mixes. This also opened the door for Cummings to highlight meal replacement shakes as a weight management tool.
Genesis McTeer, the store’s general manager, started as Cummings’ customer, while embarking on her own fitness and health journey. She’s now been working at The Healthy Edge for over two years.
“I’m really into my health and these shakes helped me through my eating disorders,” McTeer says. “When you’re starting your health journey, it’s hard to talk to people about wanting to lose or gain weight from it. The vibe here is different. Everyone talks to everybody, and that’s what brought me in.”
Growing new businesses
Cummings has helped start five other entities that are still in operation: Sunshine Nutrition LLC and The Healthy Habit LLC in Springfield, Healthy Blenz LLC in Rogersville, Rise Nutrition LLC in Republic and Complete Image Studio LLC in Mount Vernon.
The stores have individual ownership, but each is organized as an Herbalife distributor. As they are not franchises, owners do not pay franchise fees; rather they pay Cummings 9% of their store’s sales directly through Herbalife.
Lexi Delonjay, owner of Sunshine Nutrition, worked for Cummings at The Healthy Edge before branching off on her own. April marked the two-year anniversary of her store.
Delonjay says being a business owner was something she always dreamed of.
“I knew I wanted to open up a business of some sort when I was 18,” she says. “I always worked two jobs growing up and saved money. My passion was helping people feel good about themselves and fitness, but I didn’t want to be a personal trainer. Then (Cummings) took me on a business trip with her to see what it was like, and I just fell in love with it.”
Delonjay says her store now averages 50-70 customers a day, and she’s been able to pay off her $15,000 startup loan.
Currently, customer counts are down by about 20 people a day, because her location in the Southern Hills Shopping Center, 3004 E. Sunshine St., is under renovation. According to Springfield Business Journal reporting, the renovation is expected to cost about $2.9 million, but an estimated completion date was not available by press time.
Delonjay says she’s looking forward to the finished renovations because she’ll have a courtyard outside where customers can enjoy their drinks.
Looking forward, Cummings says if others approach her, she would be interested in helping those who want to open their own shops, identifying Nixa, Ozark, Willard and Marshfield.
“I think it would be amazing to have one in each community so people don’t have to keep driving to Springfield, and it can be a quick healthy option for every local town,” she says.
Springfield Business Journal’s 2023 Trusted Advisers event honors 20 businesspeople.