2017 CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship Winner – Julia Han


Beach Bowls Acai Cafe

The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Julia Han, University of Southern California 

Small Business: Beach Bowls Acai CAfe

The granola and acai berries collide upon the rough pink battlefield. Encapsulated in the war of crunchy vs. smooth, salty vs. sweet, the two armies intermix repetitively until they become indistinguishable before beginning the descent down the dark chasm into my stomach. The first bite of my Beach Bowls Acai Café experience was this delectable war of tastes, amalgamating into a single, gloriously refreshing sensation.

This experience is familiar to customers of the family-owned business of Beach Bowls Acai Café, which has served the cities of Torrance, CA and Redondo Beach, CA for nearly six years. Offering a simple array of 12 acai fruit bowls and 5 smoothies, the neighborhood favorite is a common stop on the way home for surfers, families, and students looking for a healthy alternative. Furthermore, the small business maintains a respectable community presence by providing employment opportunities specifically for student-workers. As a part-time employee at Beach Bowls Acai Café during my senior year of high school, I found most of my co-workers were also young students who attended local high schools or community colleges. Beach Bowls Acai Café is a town favorite for its invigoratingly healthy bowls and local roots.

However, the business faces a few evident challenges. First, Beach Bowls has a dauntingly high employee turnover rate. Because most employees are part-time students, team members commonly leave for college or better employment opportunities just weeks or months after being hired. The estimated average tenure is just six to nine months, and employees with over a year’s experience are considered veterans of the café. The perpetual “Now Hiring” sign

and the constant stream of new employees significantly reduces the efficiency of the business; during my typical shift with six other team members, at least four out of the seven had not yet been fully trained, thus reducing overall team productivity.

Second, the size of the café has led to customer dissatisfaction by inhibiting business expansion. The behind-the-counter space can accommodate no more than four blenders and a single topping station, while the size of the store cannot hold more than seven employees without causing overcrowding. Employees are instructed to not take phone orders when there are more than five customers in line, and a single bowl order can take over twenty minutes to be served.

With an overall 4/5 star review of Yelp, Beach Bowls still consistently receives complaints due too long wait times and missed calls. As a result, the business frequently loses customers due to scale limitations. Lastly, Beach Bowls is faced with the challenge of a growing industry. As knowledge of the regenerative and healthy properties of the “super-fruit” acai berry becomes more widespread, the popularity of the Brazilian treat also increases, especially among younger consumers. This trend has encouraged competing companies such as Jamba Juice and It’s Boba Time to introduce acai bowls to their traditional drink-based menu. As a result, small businesses such as Beach Bowls no longer dominate the niche market and are pressed to compete for customers with major chains.

Ultimately, Beach Bowls will need to make structural and employment changes to keep up with the demands of a growing industry. However, the café remains a local gem in the South Bay for its delicious bowls and community presence, and as a former employee and long-time customer, I am confident that the unparalleled quality of Beach Bowls Acai Café will remain a solid foundation for its success.