FGCU Alumni Become Their Own Bosses with Elements Real Food Coffee – Eagle Media
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FGCU alumnus Jenni Bier and her husband, Zack, knew they wanted to be their own bosses and get away from the routine of their daily jobs.
Starting with a student loan, the couple turned the uncertainty of their future into successful restaurant Elements Real Food in Asheville, North Carolina.
“With little money to start a business, a food truck seemed like a viable blueprint toward entrepreneurship,” Zack said. “Even when we were in college at FGCU, Jenni was always into healthy food and all that stuff. We always had potlucks with our friends in college, and she would be the star.
Zack took time off from college to travel across the country, and that’s when he met Jenni.
Both had similar majors, and they were both from Fort Myers. Zack graduated from FGCU with a degree in environmental communications and Jenni with a degree in environmental studies.
After graduating, the two moved to Asheville, where they lived for two and a half years before growing tired of the jobs they had; Jenni worked as a bartender and Zack worked at AB Tech.
For the Biers, things started to fall into place with the success of their food truck. Zack and Jenni jumped into the food business headfirst with no real plan.
The two used a $1,000 student loan to buy a trailer, which would become the Roaming in the Raw food truck.
“In the beginning, it was always the money that was the hardest part,” Zack said. “I worked in the financial aid office at Asheville College, so I kind of knew how people got student loans. And, you’re supposed to use it for school, and some people do. Or, some people use it for living expenses or whatever.
With the food truck up and running, the experience taught them the skills to make their plan work.
He was a blind man leading a blind man on an adventure of ‘is this really going to work?’ After just three months of opening Roaming in the Raw, the two were able to quit their jobs to pursue careers in the food business full-time.
Jenni explained that the Biers started out with raw foods, smoothies and juices as the staples of Roaming in the Raw.
“While I was going to school I got a part-time job at this place in Cape Coral called ‘Back to Nature’. We were vegetarians and I cooked my food at home because there is no not many places to eat in Fort Myers when you’re vegetarian,” Jenni said. “I thought I’d just clean things up, but they asked if I could cook during my interview.
At “Back to Nature,” an organic market that serves fresh juices and ingredients for clean eating, Jenni learned that the foods she thought were “healthy” weren’t entirely good for her.
While at the store, she learned about whole, raw foods and clean eating, which she later applied to Roaming in the Raw.
During Asheville’s first freeze, their business saw the food truck’s pipes freeze and they soon had to find another way to serve customers.
“We were kind of like, ‘Uh oh, what are we doing?'” Jenni said. “We called farmers markets in the Sarasota, Venice and Englewood area, found living conditions and spent about three months there, from December to March. When we returned (to Asheville) we decided that we were only going to bottle juices and smoothies and not cook.
Several investors asked to be part of the company the Biers had created. However, even with the idea of investing in a restaurant, the couple refused.
“We didn’t even think that way yet; we were still in the food truck world, without a lot of money. We couldn’t think of the big picture yet, but they kind of planted this seed in our brains that there was so much more than a food truck that could be possible with what we were doing,” said said Zack. “We didn’t end up taking anyone’s investment, which I’m very grateful for. We still own 100% of our business.
Elements Real Food is the Biers’ newest venture, with a location on Liberty Street in Asheville and a second location opening this year on Long Shoals Road in South Asheville.
“It’s pretty epic; it just doesn’t seem real. We’re still not used to living comfortably,” Zack said. “We were always coping, and this is the first time in our lives that we’ve tried to prepare for the future. It’s funny. It’s definitely different.
Once Elements Real Food took off, the Biers began offering more than just their food truck inventory, adding an option for customers to “build your own six-pack” with their pre-made juices squeezed at cold or even order juice cleanses on their website, an idea Jenni brought with her from “Back to Nature”.
Their most popular product is their cashew milk, flavored with superfoods like cocoa to provide a variety of flavors.
The cafe is dedicated to the promotion and production of healthy, high quality “real food”, with high demand for their glass bottled cold pressed juices.
Les Biers pride themselves on their quality food with a taste to match its clean and colorful presentation.
On the menu, customers can try everything from a traditional acai bowl – with acai, blueberries and cashew caramel topped with homemade gluten-free granola (to name a few ingredients) – to their daily and constantly rotating desserts.
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