Joe + Tiana Bard
Tiana and I started Banzai Bowls about 9 years ago. It began by making the recipes that we currently sell, in our own home for ourselves and friends. The idea came to me right around the time the recession hit. We were struggling; I had $20,000 to my name and my job was struggling to pay me. No one was making these acai bowls, at the time, it was just a family recipe, but our friends always praised them when they would come over. So, why not start a store and sell them?
I ran the idea by Tiana one weekend as we went on a camping trip up in Big Sur. She was skeptical, of course, wondering where we were going to get the money to start a business, but by the end of the weekend she was fully on board. On the way back from the camping trip we drove past our current location on 17th Street in Costa Mesa and there was a vacant shop for rent. We took it as a sign and immediately contacted the owner. Eager and full of
hope, we met him at a coffee shop and expressed our idea, stressing that we would be the first business to sell this and wouldn’t have any competition. His response was completely unexpected, “That’s not good!” He didn’t like the idea of taking a chance on something that wasn’t already a proven success like pizza or burgers. Still, he asked about money and with hesitation, we told him we only had $20,000. At that point, he was decidedly not on board as it all seemed thoroughly irrational to him.
That didn’t stop us, upon leaving we would endeavor to get a loan from the bank. Despite our best efforts (and the fact that I had been with the same bank from the beginning) they denied us a loan. So, we went back. They denied us again. So, we went back. On this trip, one of the managers of the branch invited us into her office. She let us know that despite our financial standing with the bank, the economy was the reason we were getting denied and they were unable to take the risk. I went hysterical. I was frustrated, I was yelling, I was at the end of my rope. Someone just needed to give us a chance. After a few moments of this, Tiana grabbed my arm and let the lady know we would be leaving.
It was around that time – in a state of despair – that we had an eye opener. We realized we were relying on man to pay our bills, to open the right doors, to make a way. We needed to be relying on God, fully and sufficiently believing that he could make a way.
We decided to go back and meet with the owner of the vacant shop, but this time we were praying. Before and after and during, we didn’t stop praying for God to change this man’s heart. After numerous meetings, the owner finally settled on at least showing us the inside of the shop to see if the space would be functional for our business idea. As we walked in, it was as though life turned to slow motion. They had everything already in there from blenders to fridges to counter space. That in itself was an answer to prayer. We had been consistently questioning how we would even be able to buy all the equipment that would be needed if we were able to get the shop. After that meeting we prayed.
Some time went by and the owner finally contacted us about another meeting. As we walked up to the same coffee shop we had been to so many times, something felt different. The first thing he said to us as we approached him was, “I’m done.” Confused as to what that meant we asked for clarification. “I’m done,” he said. “You write up a proposal and let me know what you want to pay for rent and we will go from there. I want $10,000 up front.”
So, that’s exactly what we did. If he wanted $10,000 up front then it was essential that we had the other $10,000 to get the shop up and running. That being the case, we proposed free rent for the first year, $1,000 rent for the second year and $2,000 rent for the third year. He went for it. He accepted our offer. Only God could move that man’s heart, only God could make a way.
Even after that, we continued to get pushback from neighboring businesses telling us not to do it, the location was “cursed,” but we pushed forward knowing that God had opened the door and made a way. And month after month, to year after year God has continued to make a way, one miracle after another. We have now been in business for 9 years, have two locations in Hawaii, and five locations in southern California.
This store has become our testimony.
From being able to share the glory of God with our employees through managing in love, to where we source our ingredients from, to running our business with integrity – God’s hand is in all of it.
At the beginning of this adventure, we were in between churches, but shortly after opening our Costa Mesa location, one of the St. Andrew’s pastors came in and invited us to check it out. We’ve been attending ever since and are currently most involved with the preschool ministry as two of our children have already gone through the preschool and our youngest will soon attend as well. We love and trust the staff to look after and teach Jesus to our children. This business has allowed us to give back to the community in so many ways. We sponsor the Preschool Carnival at St. Andrew’s every year as we believe they have the same vision that we do: to impact our neighbors through love and generosity. We call St. Andrew’s our home church because we believe in their vision and carry it out in our lives through the business God has so graciously given us.