Rosalinda Ahuatzi has many of the same challenges other new business owners have: product development, marketing, cash flow, rent, supplies and payroll.
She also has a few more: getting around without a driver’s license; hiring someone to run her shop while she attends high school and doing her homework each evening between serving customers.
Ahuatzi was 16 in May when she opened ProShakes Nutrition at 340 East New Circle Road, a couple of doors down from her parents’ Mexican restaurant.
She is now 17, and her first four months in business have been good enough that she has opened a second location inside Fit Warehouse gym off Liberty Road.
Ahuatzi sells meal-replacement shakes, which for $6.50 come with a mango-aloe shooter and a cup of herbal tea. She makes 50 flavors of shakes out of fruit, oatmeal, sugar-free syrups and puddings, protein powders and other healthy ingredients.
There are similar shake shops in south Lexington. When Ahuatzi noticed how well they seemed to be doing, she thought there might be an opportunity for her on the Northside.
“A lot of people who work and live on this side of town would go all the way across town to get their shakes,” said Ahuatzi, who markets her business mostly through social media and product promotions.
She said many customers are attracted to the shakes because they want to eat healthy or lose weight. “It’s also pretty cheap for them,” she said. “It’s $6.50 for being full for four hours. They would rather do that than eat unhealthy fast food.”
Until she generates enough cash flow to hire another employee, Ahuatzi is getting up at 4:30 a.m. some mornings to sell shakes to Fit Warehouse customers who attend early-morning gym classes. Then she goes to her shop, which opens at 7 a.m., to help with the morning rush. Employee Samantha Manriquez then takes over the store while Ahuatzi attends school.
Ahuatzi says she comes back at the shop at 3 p.m. and stays until closing at 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. She gets around by catching rides with her mother or an Uber driver, or by walking or biking.
Ahuatzi wants to open more gym locations, and eventually shops in small towns around Lexington. But that will have to wait until she graduates in December from the STEAM Academy, where in March she won a $500 prize in a district Junior Achievement competition for the business idea she has since executed. Other goals include earning her driver’s license and saving money to buy a car.
She has no plans for college, even though her older sister is studying business at the University of Kentucky. Her boyfriend, who also helps with her business, is a UK freshman.
“School isn’t for me, really,” Ahuatzi said. “I like business; that’s what I'm good at.”
Ahuatzi grew up in a Mexican immigrant family of entrepreneurs. As a child, she says she sold candy and popcorn to other kids at the Fourth of July festivities downtown. Then she helped her parents sell food at festivals and worked at their two El Gran Tako restaurants, on East New Circle Road and Alexandria Drive.
She and her sister learned other aspects of business by helping their parents with English translations, permits and ordering supplies.
Ahuatzi says she financed her business startup with $10,000 she earned working at her parents’ restaurants, plus some additional cash borrowed from her mother after a 16-year-old friend who had planned to be a partner in the business backed out.
“Since I was little I’ve always liked the business world,” she said. “It's a lot of stress sometimes, but at the end of the day I'm really glad I did this.”