BOOM: Dina Mitchell Launches a Gluten-Free MULO Brand

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Dina Mitchell was the brain behind The Tropical Smoothie Café brand in Nevada and Southern California. Starting with only 23 locations, the brand grew to 1,300 and Mitchell’s stores clinched several Franchise of the Year awards and she became the Area Developer of the Year. After fifteen years of growth (including a $22 million year) and same-store sales up 25%, Mitchell decided to sell.

But after a break, she’s ready to rock again. A passionate entrepreneur, restaurant veteran, community advocate, and philanthropist, Mitchell took seven years off and traveled the world before deciding on her next venture — the aptly named PowerSoul brand.

About 30 percent of Americans today avoid gluten and PowerSoul (opened in Nevada), gives them an alternative to most fast-casual brands. The menu includes items like Soulful Bowls and even gluten-free chocolate doughnuts.

We talked to Mitchell about the beginning of this new venture.

Why gluten-free (other than that huge 30 percent stat)?

“I was introduced to eating foods that help me feel better and avoid those that don’t. I started drinking wheatgrass at 16, chewing fresh garlic daily, and making nutritionally dense smoothies. I learned early on that food can make you feel good or sick, but I can only speak for myself; I am very aware of my body. And yes, I am originally from California.

I am fortunate to be gluten-free by choice, but I know exactly how my body reacts to gluten, dairy, sugar, etc. I don’t normally eat bread, but if  I am in Paris. I will have croissants every day from one of the best bakeries in the city. I treat gluten as I do calories; if it’s worth it, I eat it but in moderation; a few bites satisfy my cravings.”

What inspired PowerSoul?

“Because I wasn’t happy with the gluten-free choices and sometimes I couldn’t find any at all. My trips to Australia and New Zealand opened my eyes to how beautiful and tasty gluten-free food could be. Celiacs and other people with allergies deserve a safe place to eat without asking questions about separate fryers, cross-contamination, or what is in a specific recipe, and crossing their fingers that the waiter and kitchen care enough to deliver as requested.

I have lived in Las Vegas for 27 years, so it made sense that this is where I would launch PowerSoul ; I know it so well, and I wanted to tap into the people who helped me grow my previous brand. Then, I plan to jump over to other states.”

What was your funding source?

“Being a successful franchise developer, I felt there was a better way to grow than as a franchise. So, I created an investment model, a Private Placement Memorandum (“PPM”) I raised $1.6M, and the remainder of the total project is funded through an SBA 7a loan while the remaining shares are sold.

My goal is to grow to 100+ locations within the next five years.”

How are you incorporating tech into the concept?

“A part of my mission to Do Better was to incorporate a tech stack to free up my time to focus on operations to create speed and constancy, but mostly so my employees would enjoy their work. That last part is vital to my own and my employees’ happiness. I have been thinking of ways to make our jobs less laborious for a long time, and in 2019, I read more about AI and how it can streamline service, without de-humanizing my brand.

I should probably care more about showing up in searches, but as a consumer I tend to be the only one that skips over ads and looks at ratings. But of course, I watch my Google listings constantly and Yelp reviews, to ensure they’re accurate and remain positive.”

What about the human element?

“Hiring is my favorite part! I am still friends with my first store’s employees. I believe and always have that Individuals remain in a job not solely for monetary reasons but due to their affinity for the brand culture, colleagues, proper training, and knowledge. If customers yell at them, they will hate the job and leave. Most importantly, they need to feel appreciated; I think we all do.”

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.