By Olivia Mizelle | Photography by Hillary Schave
Restaurant ownership may not be the path most frequently taken by those graduating with an engineering degree, but for Blended owner Ashley Slocum, food was her calling.
While attending UW–Madison, Slocum held nearly every role in the restaurant industry — serving, cooking and hosting — among them. Post-graduation, the hospitality field was still central to her job as an engineering consultant for food manufacturing plants. She says her passion for the industry pushed her to eventually change careers.
“[I] just love the food industry, and that’s how I ended up wanting to start Blended,” Slocum says.
Back in 2018, at the age of 25, Slocum became a franchisee of Bowl of Heaven, an acai bowl and smoothie spot in Hilldale Shopping Center. Slocum admits that she “trusted her gut” when she pursued her bold career path.
“I have the industry experience and a love for the product,” Slocum says. “So, I just use both of those to overcome that … stigma [of being younger].”
Almost immediately, she exited the Bowl of Heaven franchise, deciding she wanted to run her business as a sole proprietor. She opened her own acai bowl and smoothie restaurant and called it Blended.
Slocum’s husband also owns his own business, so she’s able to talk shop with him, as well as with the other business owners at Hilldale.
And, she’s proud of what she’s built. Because most smoothie bowls and juices are inherently vegan, Slocum says that customers with dietary restrictions have no problem finding something on the menu that suits their needs.
She also finds pride in creating a comfortable and safe workplace for her employees.
“I just really love giving people a work environment that they want to come to, that they have fun at [and where] they also work hard,” she says. “That’s really special to me.”
Slocum, who had her first child in 2023, says she encourages any woman wanting to start her own business to “go for it.”
“It’s a wild ride,” Slocum says. “It’s a big undertaking, but it’s really rewarding, and it keeps the day to day interesting. I am never bored — that’s for sure.”