Many know the name Marnie Ashcroft, the brains behind Glow Juicery, the cold-pressed juice and raw food café founded in Edmonton and expanding across the country. Marnie has taken the juice and raw food movement by storm, but oddly enough, few know much more than that about this driven business owner. We sat down with her to hear her story and the surprising vision for her company.
What made you decide to become a business owner?
Before Glow Juicery I owned my own custom home building company, but my passion for business really started at a younger age. I worked for organizations that encouraged an entrepreneurial approach within the company. When I was 25 years old, I was promoted into a leadership position and my boss said to me, “You have been given this opportunity, now own this job and do your best.”
I was comfortable being paid on commission from the time I was very young, and was always attracted to working in retail jobs. I was driven by the belief that the harder I worked, the more I would earn — that I could control my own destiny.
“Glow Juicery is a great opportunity, but I have to hustle; I know I have to own it and work as hard as possible.”
I was always attracted to jobs that were business development-focused, and I think that’s at the core of an entrepreneurial mind — someone that’s very comfortable working hard and yielding the results of their work.
I’m really blessed by my early employment experiences. I was given a great opportunity, but I also didn’t take it lightly. It was this same work ethic that I developed early on that I apply to running my own business. Glow Juicery is a great opportunity, but I know I have to hustle; I have to own it and work as hard as possible.
Is being a business owner as glamorous as it sometimes seems?
Maybe people look at me and think, “I don’t know… she looks put together and she has time to workout, et cetera — it must be pretty easy and I could probably do that too.”
The truth is that people have no idea how hard it is to keep all the pieces together. Maybe it’s because I come from a family of driven, hard-working people that I even manage to make it all work — sometimes it barely works. I sometimes think if I gave even one less percentage of my time and myself, this entire business could fail.
Being an entrepreneur is so much more work than a lot of people ever want to do. I think you have to be built a certain way. You are constantly riding a wave of opportunity that could or could not happen.
There are months when the money can be rolling in, and then you have months where it just isn’t. You have to remember that, and monitor your finances accordingly. You can’t bank on projects and spend anytime you’d like. That is the one lesson that has been the hardest to learn. I have to work to the lowest common denominator when I run the business budget. I’ve learned that this year — really aggressively. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s okay to get financing to ride those waves, to ask for help.
How has 2016 differed from years past for Glow?
This last year has been the unravelling and rebuilding of things that needed to be figured out. I don’t know if people realized that Glow experienced such a huge volume of growth so quickly over the last two years, and one purely based on demand. People wanted us everywhere, every event, every city. I wasn’t very good at saying no. I was trying to be responsive to market demand.
For the first two years, I pushed that gas pedal as far to the ground as possible. I would have 80-100 emails a day that were just people asking things of me and the company that I couldn’t say no to. I don’t know how we survived it. When you push the gas pedal all the way, saying yes to everything, it’s stretching that rubber band as far as it goes. Eventually it has to come back. 2016 has been a year of contraction of the rubber band. This has been the year of saying, “no we can’t do everything anymore.”
The team can’t handle it, the infrastructure can’t handle it, and Marnie can’t handle it. Instead, this year we got really serious about the things that needed to be fixed and opportunities we needed to turn down. It all happened to coincide with a financial contraction within our province. It gave us all some space to breathe and to look at what long-term sustainability looks like within our company.
“… this year we got really serious about the things that needed to be fixed and opportunities we needed to turn down. It all happened to coincide with a financial contraction within our province.”
It would be a dream to keep on that previous path with the pedal to the metal, but it would be really exhausting and unrealistic. We have gone through a lot of staff because people just don’t want to stay with you when you’re being that aggressive. For goodness sake, I’ve probably broken up with myself ten times! (*laughs*).
This has been a year of contraction in many ways, but it’s also been a year where we’ve started to see more stabilization and honesty about our focus in the business. We’ve let go of some things because now we’re at a point where we don’t require that same level of infrastructure. We’re still learning, we’re still maturing in different ways, but the company has grown up and become more sustainable.
As you’ve moved through some growing pains this year, how has the vision for your company impacted your decisions?
You know, it’s been interesting… In the latter half of this year, the Glow Juicery brand took some flack publicly for choices that we made within our business. The decision to carry a few non-vegan products on our retail shelves was a choice that made people question the integrity of the brand and the vision for the company. The truth is, the decision to carry these products aligns perfectly to Glow’s vision.
The retail products we choose to incorporate into our stores are all-natural, made consciously and safely, and have the potential to offer your body healing benefits.
Truthfully, the company wasn’t designed to be only for vegans. The company was created for people who want to make conscious choices around eating — consuming plant-based foods is the best place to start. When we first started just selling juices and cleanses, we had clients asking, “What do I do now? I’ve had the juice, I feel really good, I want to continue to eat well,” and that’s when we introduced our raw food menu and the retail options.
Ultimately, we are a place that clients can visit for convenient nutritious and delicious foods and juices. Clients trust us to create healthy, plant-based options for them and their families.
You mentioned that you took some flack for selling non-vegan products. Can you talk a little more about Glow’s approach to food?
There is definitely the culinary aspect of food, and people naturally want to put categories and labels on culinary businesses, but we are looking at the bigger picture. We are looking at creating food and juice programs in hospitals and schools that are designed to bring about change in people’s lives and the way that we interact with food as a culture. That alignment takes Glow out of that culinary landscape. Food still has to taste good and be intriguing, but we focus on the vision that Glow was designed to be something different – to be incorporated into a lifestyle of healing and wellness. We do, and always will, believe that food is medicine and food is fuel.
Glow is not a vegan restaurant even though we are regularly changing the minds of omnivores who are making conscious decisions to purchase our plant-based offerings. At the end of the day, we just want to put good food in people’s bodies.
“… Glow was designed to be something different – to be incorporated into a lifestyle of healing and wellness. We do, and always will, believe that food is medicine and food is fuel.”
I just see a different picture. Our bodies metabolically need different nutrients. What you choose to do with your body is very individual. What we want to do is provide information about various options that we think are conscious and well-sourced, and good for the body. What you decide to put in your body is a personal decision. It’s completely up to the individual client.
My ultimate vision for the company, and the vision I still hold, is that one day all doctors will be prescribing juicing as part of cancer therapy. That was my goal when I began to research juicing before I started the company. I want to change the minds of modern medical practitioners. I want them to truly validate the fact that food can greatly impact the healing process for critical care patients, or anyone dealing with inflammatory disorders. Glow Juicery is my catalyst for bringing healing foods and juice to people most in need.
What’s next for you?
My plan for the next period of time is to continue to do what feels good for the company – build a company that is really stable and solid. It’s kind of two-sided. There is the part of the brand that I have a strong vision for and want to keep growing, but there is also an understanding that this brand needs to evolve and respond to what Canadians and our franchise owners have told us they need.
What’s next for me is plugging back into the business to ensure that we are being responsive to what our owners and clients are telling us they want. It’s re-committing to the brand to ensure that it resonates as well as it did in our first few years.
We can never stop adapting and changing and growing this business — ever. I will never stop creating and building. I will never think, “Yup, we did it. We made it.” That’s not in my nature and that would be irresponsible to those that invested in my vision of growth and change.
If a business isn’t being responsive to its environment and adapting and changing, it won’t survive. If I don’t continually stay plugged-in and know what the needs are of the business across Canada, then we just won’t grow. In 2017, my intent is to show that there is a renewed focus on growing and building a connected, relevant brand that I believe can be very successful, that is why we are investing in the heart of downtown Edmonton and more communities across Canada.
I feel like we’ve just begun. We’ve barely begun. 2017 will be a year of exciting development and change that will take Glow Juicery to the next level.
*Special thanks to Iconoclast for letting us photograph in their beautiful new space in Le Marchand Mansion.