Save A Plate, Inc (SAPi) is highlighting all the best of local food hustlers: the entrepreneurs that pour passion into every bite and keep our bellies full and happy. The foodpreneurs that are just starting their journey and those that are well on their way. We want to highlight the triumphs and challenges that connect us all.
Starting a food business requires a great deal of passion, optimism, and hustle, and the self-described “Southern Yankee” Alexander Simon has these qualities in spades.
Born in Philidelphia and raised in an Italian household, Simon has called South Carolina home for over a decade. As a burgeoning foodpreneur, the 23-year-old wants to use what he sees as a limitless opportunity around West Columbia to grow a smoothie food start-up and serve the community.
Alexander Simon, Founder of Alexander’s Great Smoothies
SAPi: Today we’re talking with Alexander Simon founder of the burgeoning smoothie brand Alexander’s Great Smoothies.
Let’s start at the top – where did the name Alexander’s Great Smoothies come from? Is that an illusion to the great Greek ruler?
Yeah, in a sense it is. I remember when I was a kid growing up that was a phrase I grew up with. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself though. I just need a cape and a throne and a sign that says try my smoothies, right here!
When did you start Alexander’s Great Smoothies? What made you choose smoothies as a focus?
I started about two weeks ago. This is what I wanted my whole life. I’ve always wanted my own business. I enjoy the act of making the smoothie and hearing people’s feedback. That’s what I always wanted: to have people look to me, and ever since I started making smoothies I knew this could be my trademark.
I started working at a restaurant when I was sixteen. I’ve always wanted to have my own restaurant, and my family has always entertained the idea of having a family-style restaurant. When I really came to think about it, I wanted to start off with a food truck. I decided to start first with smoothies, a classic idea.
So you decided to go with a simple concept first?
You said you had another job on top of starting your food business journey?
Yes, I’m attending school full-time for Business Management, I’m working full-time, and I am also starting my food business on the SAPi APP.
Has studying Business Management given you ideas about how to grow your business?
I wanted to form the central idea of what it means to lead people. I have always felt like a natural-born leader. I’ve always felt like I was part of the management team in any job I’ve had.
What is your current setup for Alexander’s Great Smoothies?
Right now I currently making them out of a home-based food kitchen. I have everything set up the way I like it.
What was the first smoothie creation that told you that you might be on to something?
That was the Strawberry Banana Deluxe. It consists of strawberries, banana, honey, and peanut butter. It’s one of my most favorite concoctions! Blended just right, it’s so smooth and you can’t beat it.
Who is your most trusted taste tester?
I’ll get with my mother and she’ll give me feedback. She was the first one to try the Strawberry Banana Deluxe and she helped me develop the idea and say “this is something worth getting out.”
What are your other standard flavors?
My current top seller is the Pumpkin Spiced Milkshake. I think that one has been successful because of the season. The Very Berry Protein has also been really popular lately. People can build it with requests for different ingredients. And the Strawberry Banana Deluxe.
Do you think your customer base is really health-conscious?
I’ve had a lot of people come to me for protein smoothies to help get them through their day. Some people are just looking for traditional home comfort flavors.
How do you currently reach your customer base?
I currently use Snapchat, Facebook, and the SAPi APP.
To start, I have relied on my close network of friends and family. From my experience, the friends I have grown up with are the best to spread the word. I have had a lot of fun posting on the SAPi APP. I use SAPi for everything. As soon as I had an idea for the Pumpkin Spice Smoothie, I was excited to post it on the APP.
I try to use the limited resources I have to start to get the word out. I can guide people through the SAPi APP, and eventually, get my own dedicated phone number. When I get things moving, I’m excited to put out my own promotions and possibly a website.
West Columbia, South Carolina
Where is your main delivery area?
I currently stay in West Columbia locations. I don’t mind going out within a 15-minute radius, to Lexington, Gaston, Cayce, or Springdale.
Are you planning on expanding to Farmer’s Markets?
Yes, I’ve considered joining the local farmer’s market, and maybe eventually setting up a stand. Right now, I want to use the amazing opportunity I have with SAPi because I think when things start exploding this is going to be the new Doordash.
What’s been your biggest challenge to starting Alexander’s Great Smoothies?
Honestly, just believing in myself with all my other commitments of full-time school and work. Right now it’s just me. After work is when I usually start to deliver and days when I’m off. In the future, I’ll be making a standard delivery schedule.
Where do you see Alexander’s Great Smoothies a year from now?
I would say hopefully all over media platforms. I want to see it go across borders and maybe a small franchise with SAPi’s help. I want to be out there delivering out there non-stop.
We’ll be following your journey and rooting for your success! To finish our article can we ask you some rapid fire food questions?
SAPi’s Fast Rapid Fire Foodie Questions
Who is someone’s food hustle you admire?
What city has the best food scene?
Best food there?
Crab Shack off of Center Street
What’s the best music to make smoothies to?
Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Post Malone, really everything!
What is the most precious tool in your food business?
What’s your go-to smoothie?
I make the Hulk Bash Refresher; apple, spinach, cabbage, and peanut butter, that’s my wake-up every morning.
What cuisine is missing in your local area that you would love to see?
A wing bar.
What is the strangest food you’ve ever tried?
Gator bites! And they tasted like chicken nuggets, and they were good.
SAPi Food Hustlers: Breaking Bread with Fourth Circle Doula’s Jessica Callahan
Each installment of SAPi’s Food Hustlers will highlight locally minded people who are doing their part in the food business ecosystem. Whether they are running a Refugee Kitchen or scaling a food truck, we want to know what drives them!
In the first edition of Food Hustlers, we’ll highlight a woman who is a community food activist by passion and a food doula by profession.
Jessica Callahan was born in the rural countryside of Southwest Washington without an authentic dish of any nationality to be found within many miles. In fact, her most exotic self-served after school meal was rehydrated Top Ramen with slices of cheddar cheese thrown on top for good umami measure.
Raised by a salt of the earth mother who surrounded their country house with a garden acre of produce, she knew fresh from the dirt ingredients when she saw them, but not necessarily how to wield them.
Eventually, a move from the outskirts of the culinary desert of rural Washington and into the notoriously food-centric community-driven city of Portland, Oregon, led her on a self-paved path of food therapy.
Encounters with naturopaths and urban foragers, and a heightened desire to feed her growing family better (in both the nourishment and health sense), led Callahan to become a food doula.
Realizing that food had always impacted her emotional well-being, she began to wield food as a powerful tool of healing and support. From making witchy tinctures out of her urban Portland garden to sending baked cannabis confections out her back door to fellow moms in need more than 15 years ago, she has evolved into a sought-after Private Chef and Food Doula with her company Fourth Circle Doula.
Callahan has a created her own bespoke food ecosystem by forming a nexus of local farmers and community gardens and teaming up with other local changemakers to bring food equality to her current small town rural community in Toledo, Washington. Tasked with a mission to spread loving kindness by the plate, she is the food changemaker every community deserves.
So how does a loose and wild backwoods urban forager turn into a refined food therapist? We meet her mid-strainer at her kitchen counter while extricating tiny tomato seeds from last year’s preserves to find out.
Callahan’s Seasonal Grilled Peaches
Thank you for making time for us during dinner prep! Can you tell SAPi about your food hustle with your company Fourth Circle Doula:
A food doula can do a lot of things, but what I do as a food doula is more along the lines of being a private chef but with a real nurturing and therapeutic component. I am essentially a private chef except with the primary goal of nourishing and caring for you beyond just preparing the food.
Sometimes I prepare food in my client’s kitchen and sometimes in my own kitchen. Most of my clients prefer me to come into their homes because it has that extra freshness, and they are possibly able to learn in the process.
What was your food hustle before food doula work?
I started out as a postpartum doula, working to care for families when a new baby (or babies!) arrived. This had a heavy food component where I was nurturing new moms and families through a big transition time, preparing nutritious meals, and taking the time burden off their shoulders so they could recover and enjoy their new family.
I also had a cottage business many years ago making “herbal baked goods” that I felt were a real symbol of nurture and care. Actually, I still use herbs, just different ones!
I would never have said I was a foodie growing up – I think I just knew what food did for my feelings! I wasn’t exposed to a lot of different foods growing up at all. Then I had a roommate in Portland who was a super foodie and introduced me to a whole new world. Then entering motherhood, I wanted to go beyond using food for just nutrients.
A few nauseous pregnancies led me to learn how to do a good job on the few foods I could get in. That really kicked off a mission of food empowerment.
A typical day of a Food Doula Photo Credit: Fourth Circle Doula
What kind of people are in need of a food therapist like yourself?
I’ve been so lucky to have consistently had clients seek me out through word of mouth. Most of the time its people who have autoimmune issues, allergies, Chron’s, or Celiac disease, where eating out or preparing their own food is really hard for them. They have to prepare every one of their meals, so I help them to follow their diet while giving them a break.
I have also had a lot of overworked parents who might have kids who are picky eaters who are over cooking one dish on repeat. I think what a food doula offers is support for food stress. For instance, reminders that mealtime isn’t just what they eat. It’s the sitting down, lighting a candle, saying what you’re grateful for, whatever it takes to create a nourishing experience, not just a meal.
I also feel like it’s part of the privilege of having the client base I have. My service makes a lot of difference in these people’s lives and sometimes the people who need it most can’t afford it. I try to think about other ways to give back to the community using my skills by dropping off food to people down with COVID, helping out at local farms, and volunteering with the local food exchange.
What does a typical day/week look like in the life of an acclaimed food doula?
Honestly, I don’t cook a lot during the day. I tend to cook later at night. Like all small businesses, I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the day doing admin tasks like menu planning, I try to stay fresh all the time. It’s a labor of love to chase ingredients from farms, co-op groups, and a community “grow to give” exchange. I also live on a cattle farm, so that’s easy to source from.
This summer, Callahan helped to form the grassroots Toledo Neighbors program which saw residents from all different walks of life teaming up to revitalize the local food bank and create a local food exchange.
You are recognized as one of your community’s food changemakers- where is the system thriving in your community, and where does it still need fertilizer?
I think it’s fortunate living in a rural community where everyone with a yard is growing something, even if it’s just some tomatoes in the front. Luckily in the Northwest, we don’t deal with drought and growing our own food can ease the burden on the larger food system.
People in this community really care about food access for everyone. It seems to be a great uniting force, and there seems to be no political divide. It really helps our humanity.
For example, the Toledo Neighbors community group grows food specifically to give to anybody. With that group, the emphasis is that you don’t have to be low-income to come to get food; it’s for everybody. It’s a nice way to exchange and stay local and take the stigma out of donated food. No, you don’t have to be low-income, communities share food.
What we need help with is finding an easy way to shift the other resources that make it difficult for people to utilize the free food resources. They have all these fresh fruits and veggies for dinner but don’t have the hours of cooking and cleaning up to invest. We need to make family work schedules more manageable so they aren’t pulling up to the fast food place out of survival.
It shouldn’t be a burden when you get beautiful farm-fresh produce. We try in our community groups to get already prepared food out to people to ease the burden. People can’t just eat out of cans forever.
What are your favorite food rituals for making your own meals, and do you have hard and fast kitchen rules for your family?
I think because I love to cook always that I probably have a rhythm that involves starting with a clean kitchen and putting on my podcasts (any NPR or Marc Maron).
We meet at the kitchen island, and my family eats while I’m still working. I’ll kind of eat and work on one side, and we’ll talk. I love that time.
You lead both your professional and personal life with an onus of “Loving Kindness,” do you think kindness can be edible?
I think there is alchemy in the food that drives feelings and love. I think it’s vulnerable to want to care for people like that, to put all that into the food you make for people truly out of love. It’s not vulnerable to just boil everything that is grown and put some salt on it and say: “here are your calories”.
I think cooking is the ultimate act of kindness. It doesn’t really take what I perceive to be too much work. It’s very natural, pure, full, and good. I feel like you can take whatever feelings you’re having, and you can go into the kitchen and come out with a love meal.
I really love making people feel cared for and nurtured. Words are harder for me. I’m a real serious introvert. Food is my love language.
What is the strangest/fun request that you have gotten as a food doula?
I did have one client who ate rice pilaf and zucchini noodle lasagna every single day for nine months.
What’s a piece of advice you would give a future food doula?
My piece of advice is that loving-kindness is not just for your clients but for yourself. You need to maintain your boundaries. If I knew what was ahead in my career, I would do it all over again.
Cheesy Grits with Slow Cooked Greens and smokes Chili Oil Photo Credit: Fourth Circle Doula
To finish our interview can we ask you some rapid fire foodie questions?