Do you know what’s filling the former Harvest Co-op space on South Street? Juicygreens will open this winter with a variety of smoothies, pressed juices, soups, arepas and salads. Today, we are chatting with Juicygreens founder and owner Ammy Lowney about being in the First Cohort for IFundWomen Boston, making the switch from teacher to social entrepreneur, and how JPNDC is helping her make her small business dreams a reality.

K: Where are you from originally?

A: I’m originally from Barranquilla, in the northern part of Colombia. I moved to Massachusetts in 2002 as a transfer student at Northeastern University. I moved to Miami for a bit then came back to get my Master’s Degree in Curriculum Development at UMass Boston.

K: What were you doing career-wise before you decided to start Juicygreens?

A: I was teaching civics and world history to 11th- and 12th-graders in Boston Public Schools. I fell in love with the civics curriculum. I was partnering my students with local organizations and getting them out of the classroom. Many times, I wished I was going with them and working with the organizations. We would identify a social issue in the city and do research to find a solution. The organizations would provide them with small grants so that they could work to find a real solution. I became familiar with a lot of the social issues in the city.

Juicygreens owner, Ammy Lowney.

The last year I was teaching we focused on food and poverty. We learned a lot about restaurant waste. I then fell in love with the idea of being a social entrepreneur. I started fantasizing about what it would be like to have a café that was socially responsible. I used the same United Way handout that I would give my students to help them brainstorm and organize their projects to start planning my business. My husband was in medical school and I always thought it would be so cool to open a café that focused on serving healthy food. We combined his background with my background and his dream with my dream. Then we made Juicygreens.

K: What steps did you take to start Juicygreens?

A:  My husband grew up watching his parents managing different types of businesses and he’s opened a couple of businesses since he graduated from medical school, so he had a good idea of the steps we needed to take. The first thing we did was create a corporation and hire an attorney to help us negotiate the lease. Then we created the name and logo. We hired a few people to help finish our website. And of course we worked with JPNDC’s Small Business Program on our business plan!

K: What kind of food and drinks will Juicygreens serve?

A: We have a long list! After working on the business plan, we decided that we didn’t want to be just a juice bar. Based on feedback from the panel at the Shark Tank (at the end of JPNDC’s business planning course) I realized that we needed to sell more than just juice to survive on South Street. I used that feedback to focus on being a juice bar and a café. We’ll offer cold pressed juices, plant-based smoothies, cold bowls, warm bowls, salads, Colombian arepas, coffee and apothecary elixirs. Through these offerings I want people to also learn about all the beautiful food from Latin America.

We’ll also partner with local schools to support wellness initiatives and make healthy smoothies affordable to local youth. We’ll ask our customers to support our “soup with purpose” program, which will provide free soup to local elderly in nursing homes.

K: How did you hear about JPNDC? What are some of the ways JPNDC has helped Juicygreens?

Future home of Juicygreens!

A: I was a community organizer before I was a teacher. Because of my community organizing background, I knew there were many resources available to me as a female, minority, new small business owner. One of the organizations I worked with when I was teaching was Hyde Square Task Force. I follow them on Facebook. They shared a post about an organization in JP working with a bank to help a local small business owner. This was really interesting to me, so I clicked on it and found out it was JPNDC. I started looking at all of JPNDC’s social media, especially Instagram. I thought the Instagram was really nice. I realized JPNDC would be a great organization to work with on starting my small business.

I filled out the initial paperwork and then Carlos

[Espinoza-Toro, JPNDC Small Business Program Director] contacted me. He was happy that we already had a business plan and some things in motion. I told him that I wanted to work more with the community and other small business owners. I wanted feedback about my business plan and help with marketing. I had absolutely no idea what marketing was! I participated in the Business Planning Course to improve my business plan and then I found out about the marketing class, which I’m looking forward to taking. The Business Planning Course helped me so much and really changed the model of my business. I owe that to the JPNDC Small Business Program. Carlos really helps me to stay on task. He checks in with me every week to make sure I’m getting things done. JPNDC helps me keep my small business on track.

K: What has been hard for you when starting your small business? What has been easy?

A: The hardest two things have been staying on track and the build-out. The build-out is hard because we depend so much on other people. It’s just me and my husband managing it all. My husband is trying to balance being the project manager while also running two other businesses. He helps me so much by working with the contractors, architects and the City. We signed our lease in June 2017. We looked at a lot of other places before we chose our storefront. We love the charm of the space we chose. It looks like a cottage and I love that.

Working on the website and being creative has been easy for me. Being able to define the mission of Juicygreens and communicating that message has been very easy and organic for me. I would never want to have a café just to sell coffee. There has to be a purpose especially because I know the politics of coffee. It would be a disservice if I didn’t educate people on where and who the coffee came from. I find it very easy to connect with people.

K: How has becoming a small business owner helped you?

A: It has made me into a better person. I’m more conscious of where my things come from and I want to shop everything local. I am obsessed with shopping local. I see how much effort, time, energy, and money goes into starting and running a business that I want to support them. The only way they will survive and remain the heart of America is if we support them. I see how easy it is for a coffee shop chain to start. They can just buy a space and start. They have no struggles. They don’t need the help. They provide jobs, a community environment and a product that people want but there are also small businesses that are doing the same things and they are run by a family who needs their community. Starting my own business has really shown me that I needed to change my ways and only shop local.

K: Tell me about your partnership with IFundWomen Boston.

A: I’m participating in Boston’s First Cohort with IFundWomen, which is working together with the City of Boston to support women-owned small businesses. On December 1, Juicygreens launched a campaign with IFundWomen Boston. I worked with Carlos for two months planning the fundraising campaign. He helped me brainstorm and IFundWomen was the perfect fit. IFundWomen helped me make the video and is going to help me, hopefully, raise $10,000. [You can learn more about the campaign and the benefits of supporting the campaign here.]

K: What are your goals for Juicygreens?

A: My personal goal is to be a mentor to other small business owners. I needed a lot of help and I asked a lot of questions, so I want to be able to give back in honor of everyone who helped me so much.

My mission for Juicygreens is to not only sell healthy food but provide healthy food to all. It’s hard to sustain a business and meet a social goal but we are determined to provide free smoothies to the local youth and soup to the local elderly homes. I’m not doing this to make money. I am doing this to make a real difference. I want people to see our business, connect with our social mission and support it with their patronage.