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Young entrepreneur taps into healthy eating market

At the end of the first day of business, in 2023, Kendel Locke and her employees posed for a “we did it” photo. Pictured are, from left, Courtney Locke, Katy Kingdom, Kendel Locke, Kegan Greening and Ava Turner. Contributed photo.


Among Hannibal’s youngest entrepreneurs, Kendel Locke, at age 20, already has a business season under her belt.

Her business is Hula Bowls, which she operated in Hannibal during the spring and summer of 2023.

Now, the marketing and entrepreneurship major is looking forward to May. That month, she will not only earn her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but will also reopen her business, Hula Bowls, for a second season. The business is located between U.S. 36 and West Ely Road, on Veterans Road.

This year’s business presence will look much different than in the past, she said.

When she opens the business on May 18, it will be in a new building. “I designed the building with the help of Mr. Schellenberger’s drafting class at the HCTC. The five student-architects met with me a few times to discuss a plan for the building, and in the end provided me with a CAD floor plan that all of the building’s contractors have since followed,” she said.

Instead of the shed-type building that housed Hula Bowls last season, this year the building will be 30x40 square feet, with indoor seating and outside decks on two sides, to allow for sun and shade seating, plus a drive through. There will be ample kitchen space, which will allow employees to do a lot of prep work on site, including blending their bases.

“I started Hula Bowls because I wanted something to put on my resume. I was looking to get into a pretty competitive grad school program,” she said. “I started experimenting with different ideas, businesses I could do for the summer” that would make her resume stand out.

When she graduated from Hannibal High School in 2022, she already had amassed college credit hours via dual enrollment. “HHS is so great with giving students opportunities to get credits. In college you do 120 hours, I transferred in 54 hours, and took placement tests for other credits.

She took advantage of summer school and mid term courses, thus is completing her bachelor’s degree program in two years, rather than four.

During her coursework, “I did a lot of market research. I’m in school for marketing and entrepreuniership. I’ve used those projects to learn about my business.

“I settled on acai bowls,” she said. “Hannibal doesn’t have many healthy drive-through options,  and nothing that is allergy friendly.  Since Hula Bowls is all of those things, I thought that this would be something that the people wanted.

“I was way more right than I was planning on being,” she said. She started last summer off with herself and three friends. “I had my pre-summer schedule already made up; after our opening weekend I realized I needed more people. We rapidly grew, finishing the season with 25 employees on the cycle.

Two more additions are in the works:

First, beginning May 18, Hula Bowls in Hannibal will be open year-around; and

second, beginning in June, there will be a second location, at 3000 N. Broadway in Quincy, Ill., right next to Papa Murphy’s.

Healthy product

Hula Bowls are an adaptation of acai bowls, “which were already a thing,” Kendel said. In addition to the bases made from acai fruit from the Amazon Rain Forrest, she also offers dragon fruit, mango and coconut bases.

On top of the bases “you put on toppings, granola, fresh fruit, peanut butter, honey, chocolate chips … build up a combo. We have a menu, or we can customize to make everything the customer wants.

“We hand-cut all the fruit that we sell. We get really fast at it. The time spent cutting fresh fruit is worth it for the end product, she said. “Nobody likes frozen fruit that is thawed; it’s not as good.”

Last year they obtained their fruit from whatever source was available. This year, “we’re hooked up with every fruit distributor and wholesaler in the area,” she said. Still, the unpredictability of customer orders can throw a wrench into the supply chain. “One day, everybody was buying the blueberries, so we had to get more. It fluctuates so much.

“Last year, it was me making the runs for more fruit, or I’d call my mom or my grandma and get some extra help. This year,” because of extra space, “we will buy a lot more things in bulk. If we run low in one spot, we’ll transfer it from the other. That should eliminate the issue of running out of things.”

A good thing

This year, “We’re going to keep a lot of things the same,” she said. “We got into a rhythm that worked really well last year. A lot of things are still trial and error. I try to be open and flexible with what my employees say; they are there more than I am, and they see what’s working and what we need to re-evaluate.

“I love my staff. The people who work there care about the success as much as I do. I couldn’t ask for better people. My customers love them too.”

The Hannibal location, which is in proximity to Hannibal Regional Hospital, “has been great; a lot of our customers are hospital staff. Starting this summer, we will open up at 6 a.m. so more of the hospital staff can come on their way to work.”

In order to encourage other young people to establish businesses in Hannibal, she has created a scholarship for entrepreneural-minded students. She is offering $1,000 for startup capital, to a Hannibal High School student who is interested in starting a business. “I’m excited to see who applies. They have to make a super basic business plan, with a simple competitive analysis, that they will submit with their business ideas. I’ll have a couple of people help look over them. I want to keep doing this every year. Hannibal is growing, new businesses coming in, there is a lot of potential, I want to encourage more growth, as much as I can.”

Kendel Locke is the daughter of David and Sara Locke of Hannibal.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014, after 39 years as a community journalist.


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