October 17 is always a special day for Alesha Hicks and David Magby. It’s when the college sweethearts reconnected at Morgan State University’s homecoming in 2015. They had lost touch in the 13 years since they graduated from the Baltimore college. Now they’re engaged and hope to get married on the same date this fall.

Hicks is a former government contractor who worked in IT security and Magby used to be a Metro bus operator. They bonded over a shared dream to open their own business. “We’re really into fitness and eating properly,” Hicks says. “A Tropical Smoothie Cafe opened in our neighborhood and I couldn’t stop going. We went so much that we called the number for franchising and never turned back.” 

They opened their first Tropical Smoothie Cafe on Oct. 17, 2018 in Temple Hills, Maryland. Now they’re gearing up to open their second franchise. It should open at The Shops at Dakota Crossing at 2490 Market St. NE within the next couple of weeks.

In addition to smoothies boosted with superfoods like chia seeds and acai berries, Tropical Smoothie Cafe also offers wraps, quesadillas, salads, and sandwiches. Hicks loves the avocolada with avocado, spinach, kale, pineapple, coconut, and lime. “Providing healthier food options in communities has always been at the top of the list,” Magby says. “It’s so easy to find a burger and fries and pizza.” 

The couple is also focused on hiring young adults from the community and mentoring them. “These are great kids—they have dreams and they want to talk to you,” Hicks says. “You see them working hard. It’s an awesome thing to see and you get to hear their ideas.” 

Magby hopes they’re inspired others to dream big and become business owners. “This is doable,” he says. “A few years back, we didn’t know we were going to do this. People come to us all the time and say, ‘Since you opened, you have provided me with some inspiration.’ They want to go back to school or open a business. We know we can’t stop now. We in it. We’re deep. A lot of people are rooting for us and counting on us to do well.” 

He thinks franchising is a smart pathway to ownership for first-timers. “Your percentage of failure should be significantly lower because you’re buying into something,” Magby says. “People know the name, the logo, and the product. If we opened ‘David and Alesha’s Smoothies,’ people would ask, ‘Who are they? What are they putting in there?’ This is a safer route and you have the support.”

Tropical Smoothie Cafe has been around since 1997 and continues to see growth. According to its website, the company opened 124 locations in 2019—more than any single year in its history. It also signed 213 franchise agreements.

“I’m glad that Tropical Smoothie Cafe is the one we went with because they taught us a lot more about the business and what to do if we decide to open up something of our own later on,” Hicks says. 

In the immediate term they’re focused on their second Tropical Smoothie Cafe. “We’re stepping into new territory,” Hicks says. “We want that community feeling. Yes we’re black-owned, but we are community-based. We’re for everyone.”

Tropical Smoothie Cafe, 2490 Market St. NE, tropicalsmoothiecafe.com