From military service to smoothie maven: How Felicia Banks launched a friendly family business from her army background
As a dedicated mom, entrepreneur and veteran, Felicia Banks is an expert at navigating many roles. After serving 27 years in in the army as a technical expert in logistics and retiring in 2016 as a Chief 1 Officer, Felicia always knew that she wanted to own her own business.
Her entrepreneurial story started unexpectedly, when Felicia decided to place a special order from Tropical Smoothie Cafe as a surprise lunch for her daughter. Little did Felicia know that the simple school lunch would change the trajectory of her career.
Following her daughter’s rave review of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Felicia checked out a local cafe to experience the restaurant for herself and absolutely fell in love with the high-quality products that provided a better-for-you option.
Felicia’s determination and entrepreneurial drive led her down the path of business ownership with Tropical Smoothie Cafe, as she opened her own location in her tight-knit military community of Cameron, North Carolina and never looked back.
Her military background gave her a solid foundation of discipline, supply support, and countless civilian interactions. However, Felicia never envisioned herself taking the leap into business ownership with a restaurant or cafe due to her lack of experience in that space. Because she entered through franchising, she knew she had the strength of the brand and experience from its standout support team—especially since she was immediately impressed with the interactions she had with the leadership team.
“Absolutely everyone from Tropical Smoothie Cafe was so kind and welcoming, really helping me through the whole process from real estate selection to opening our doors to my business operations,” said Banks. “The CEO, Charles Watson, is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and that really trickles down throughout the entire franchise system. I could not think of a better team to guide me through the transition from the military and into franchise ownership.”
Since opening up her cafe a year ago, Felicia has prioritized giving back to the community, especially as it has a large military influence. Many veterans reside in the Cameron/Fort Bragg area, which has provided many opportunities for Felicia’s Tropical Smoothie Cafe to get involved with community members. In addition to providing a military discount at the Cameron location for all current and former service members on a daily basis, she has partnered with local military events to provide free catering and has donated to area high school athletic departments and homecoming events.
Local Veterans are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the meaningful relationships Felicia has built because of the brand. The employees at her local cafe and customers truly make coming to work exciting, especially when it comes to interacting with regulars.
“We have people who come in everyday that we’re on a first name basis with and have been able to connect with on a personal level,” said Felicia. “When we see their car roll into the parking lot, we immediately pull out the blender and start making their usual order!”
The community truly embraced Felicia’s Cameron cafe and the past year has been full of overwhelming support for Felicia and her family, who all play a part in the business. With two grown kids, Felicia plans to give her son and daughter the opportunity to live out their dreams through her Tropical Smoothie Cafe location.
Ultimately, Felicia’s business would not be top rated for customer satisfaction and be as successful as it is without her hardworking crew members. Not only do they take pride in their dedication to cleanliness and customer service, but they also have a strong camaraderie that guests take note of.
The discipline and strong work ethic that came from Felicia’s 27-year military background proved to be the greatest asset in opening her Tropical Smoothie Cafe location in Cameron.
“If you are a military veteran with a passion to open a business, I cannot recommend franchising enough,” said Banks. “My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with good people who lift you up, and put the hard work in, because then it will be a truly gratifying experience.”