For the past two years Karen Mejias has been the creative director of Mindful Maia, an organically sourced juice & tea truck based out of RI. Having graduated from art school in San Francisco, Karen wanted to bring the positive and creative energy she found on the West Coast back home, where she strives to combine her eye for beauty with a mindful menu of healthy concoctions. Last week, I was lucky enough to welcome Karen, a 2019 Food Accelerator Alum, back to SEG for a quick interview.
Lex Majoros: First off, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Karen Mejias: I’m 23, and I grew up here in Rhode Island before heading off to college in San Francisco. San Francisco was really life changing. I loved the energy there, how you would be walking to the corner shop and somebody would always give you a smile – I wasn’t used to that growing up. Living in San Francisco, I worked at a co-op with an overabundance of organic vegetables and herbs. Coming home, I realized just how much I missed having that access to healthy foods, that positive energy.
LM: So how did you get started on Mindful Maia?
KM: After I graduated from college, I found that there was an opportunity in front of me: my uncle had a truck parked in front of my house for a whole year and nobody did anything with it. With the truck, I had the opportunity to bring that energy, that lifestyle that I loved in San Francisco – the juicing, the organic fruits and vegetables – back home to Rhode Island. It was a moment when life gave me the chance to say yes, and I did. I started learning the ropes last year, doing two months of raw juices and teas, and that’s when I entered SEG.
“I went to college for fine art, so I get to experiment with that creativity in my truck, making these beautiful creations which makes me apply my art side, my creative side, into something that I love, and then give it to someone and it’s like, ‘Here’s my heart!’ ”
LM: What was your experience first getting involved with SEG?
KM: I had a tour of SEG’s space, and as soon as I walked in I could just feel the energy and knew I wanted to get involved. I ended up applying and was accepted into the Food Accelerator. It was great meeting everyone involved in the program. Everyone was focused on achieving some degree of social impact, and it definitely gave me hope for the future, knowing that there’s something here, a positive energy that’s just asking to be grown.
LM: And what was it like to develop your venture with the Food Accelerator?
KM: Both SEG’s network and the tools taught in the program were really helpful for growing my business. The Food Accelerator’s workshops were my first time in a business class, so learning those tools and how to apply them in the real world was important.
LM: Did you have any major challenges in trying to grow Mindful Maia?
KM: So the advisors at SEG might say, “Oh that’s possible, here’s a tool,” but it’s not like anybody is going to actually sit down and implement that tool for you. Early on I had to sit down and figure out how to actually use these tools for my own benefit. The challenge here is that most of the time it comes down to whether you want it bad enough, since it’s so easy to give up at that early stage. Getting over that hump pushed me to move forward.
LM: Then the challenge was really organization and actualization?
KM: Yeah, they really complement each other, because once you’re organized it all makes sense. I wanted to do it and I figured it out. So I did my own spreadsheets in a way that was tailored to my tools. I applied everything that I learned from SEG and then I aligned it with what my business needed. In the beginning of the Accelerator they told us, “Have a goal. Sometimes, the goal is not even close to where you’re actually going to be, but you should still have one.” I overcame mine by being organized, utilizing my tools, and by working hard.
LM: So is there a single piece of advice that you would give to an entrepreneur just starting out?
KM: People might want answers too quickly. Some answers take time, some solutions take time, and if you ask the right questions, you will be answered accordingly and will find the solutions you seek. If you want to make a decision but are unsure, take your time with it until you are sure of the impact you want to create instead of jumping to emotional conclusions or conclusions based off of what everyone says.
LM: Where do you expect Mindful Maia to be in the next five years or so?
KM: I want my own shop that is plant based, nutrient based, that involves superfoods, that involves herbs, and I just want to bring it to the next level. And I would also have my truck, which would be used primarily for events. The shop wouldn’t be a restaurant but more of a juice shop, a healing shop. A place where you could come in and already feel the energy. I want a place for people to come in and be like, “Wow, I feel really really good”– I want to use that kind of momentum.
LM: What’s the easiest way to find your food truck?
KM: The most updated and connected platform to find me on is Instagram. I make a lot of stories, share meals that I made, and post my schedule. I’m usually on that platform supporting other mindful companies and updating my schedule there regularly. I went to college for fine art, so I get to experiment with that creativity in my truck, making these beautiful creations which makes me apply my art side, my creative side, into something that I love, and then give it to someone and it’s like, “Here’s my heart!”
LM: I know this is probably a tough question, but do you have a favorite smoothie that you think everyone should try?
KM: In combining art with food, I create smoothie swirls, where you can taste different flavors separately and mix it as much as you want! It’s really an experience in itself, because you get a delayed explosion of flavor and it’s never boring. And although I do change flavors almost weekly, I recommend trying the swirl. I’ve also worked super hard on my acai recipe, so that’s always a go-to if you want a more fulfilling snack.
LM: Anything else you would like to say about Mindful Maia or put out there?
KM: We’re still learning, we’re still growing, expanding in terms of solidifying our team, and moving forward! We’re having a good season – I’ve actually already surpassed my goal, but I’m excited to see where the season ends. Running Mindful Maia has brought other opportunities as well. I taught a class on mindfulness this week to a group of students entering high school, which was so rewarding. So I enjoy it and I recommend that anybody who wants to be part of this wave we’re creating to come join us, because there’s plenty of room!
By Alexander Majoros, Social Media Intern
Lex is a rising junior at Boston University, where he is the editor in chief of Arché, BU’s undergraduate philosophy journal. Before college, Lex was a longtime cellist in the RI Philharmonic Music School’s orchestras and spent a summer teaching music through a nonprofit based in southern Vietnam. These experiences instilled in Lex a deep appreciation for the impact a social venture can have on local communities, and he aspires to continue working in social enterprise in the future.