Businesses with rooted values show intention and authenticity, and consumers appreciate that. This week, Chris Goode, founder of Ruby Jean’s—a Kansas City juicery—shares the meaning behind his business and how all of his decisions are anchored by his purpose. Our reviewer, Jes Steinberg, a KC educator, shows us how acting with intention makes all the difference in an experience.
On the Yelp Blog: Get to know Chris and his tactics for staying true to his mission while being open to customer feedback.
JES: Knowing the purpose and that being just such a dear thing to him, to his family, to you know, the black community as a whole, I just thought, how could you not want to support this business? And how could you not want to just promote them and encourage others to support them as well?
EMILY: That’s Jes – a teacher in Kansas City. Jes is very engaged in her local community, and often shares her experiences with local businesses through online reviews. I connected with her to talk about a review she wrote for a juice and health foods bar called Ruby Jeans, after seeing that she provided some constructive criticism and the business owner responded directly on Yelp. But first – let’s dive into her connection with the business’s purpose.
JES: There’s a beautiful mural, and the thing that really stood out to me the most was on the wall, there is an image of Chris’s grandma and it tells the story of how and why Ruby Jeans exists. And for those unfamiliar, the place is named after his grandmother and is just a tribute to attempting to bring health to a community that oftentimes doesn’t have healthiest options.
Where it’s located on Troost is a bit of a food desert and so to see a place where you can go and get a cold press juice or a smoothie or avocado toast, and with all of these fresh ingredients was just something very unique.
And it was one of those things where later on, if somebody asks, Oh, have you been to Ruby Jeans? It wasn’t just, yes and here’s what I ordered, or yes and it was great. It was yes, and do you know the story of why it’s called that? And so it just made you feel more connected as well, to understanding and knowing. Why the place existed, what the purpose of the business was.
EMILY: I love how Jes describes that experience. Physically, when she was in Ruby Jeans she was attracted to the mural on the wall, which wasn’t just visually appealing, but informative. She read the backstory on the business while she was waiting for her food, and she could see the hard work and vision that this business owner had all around her. She appreciated the execution of it, and was motivated to spread the word on the business’s behalf through her online review – so let’s hear it, but just RIGHT up to the point where it gets critical – more on that later.
JES: Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I want to live here. Great vibe and beyond and amazing food and drinks. Everything is made fresh to order. Now let’s be honest. No one thinks Troost when it comes to a great place to hang out or eat clean healthy foods. I believe Ruby Jeans is changing that. Their menu is extensive and amazing, including a small fridge of healthy to go items. They have smoothies, toasts, juices, snacks and I will visit again and again.
EMILY: Jes’s review makes me feel like I’m there! She’s so enthusiastic and passionate about what this new business is bringing to the area, and how it felt to be at Ruby Jeans. That passion and enthusiasm wasn’t something that she created – it was something she experienced, but was created by Chris Goode, the owner of Ruby Jeans.
CHRIS: Going into a place and saying, you know what, we’re going to do something that is bold, that is different, that’s impactful. This is needed. That’s never been done. We gotta make this statement.
EMILY: That’s Chris. He’s talking about his brick and mortar location on Troost. The same location that Jes reviewed. Honestly, he’s speaking directly to her description of the business being not what you expect in that part of town. And just a quick note – there was a huge thunderstorm the day Chris and I recorded, so you may hear some of that in the background.
CHRIS: I remember this review and, to her point, that statement about who thinks of this vibe and coupled with Troost is like, yeah, that’s exactly it. You know what I mean? Because you want people to be shocked. You want people to be shocked into, into something different. but when they get there, be very pleasantly surprised, like whoa, wait a minute, kind of look down at their GPS like, wait, where am I at?
EMILY: Chris didn’t grow up dreaming of opening a juice shop, in fact his knowledge of juice cleanses and healthy eating was essentially non-existent until he was an adult. Growing up his grandmother was a very important person in his life, but he unfortunately lost her when he was 14 years old to type two diabetes. Years later, on a trip to visit some friends in LA, he was introduced to juice cleanses and a documentary called Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. While watching this documentary about a man’s 60 day juice cleanse, Chris had a realization about his own eating habits and the young death of his grandmother, Ruby Jean.
CHRIS: And so it started to hit me, like, man, this guy might be onto something because by the end of the documentary, after 60 days, I mean, he was an entirely different guy, and I started to think like, huh, maybe these guys aren’t just weird hippies. Maybe they’re onto something and it really hit me in that moment because I’m thinking like, man, this dude changed his life in 60 days and my grandma lived 60 years and never had that moment of like, you know, recalibration, if you will like, Oh, I’m getting off track.
You know, she never had that, that gauge in her mind and her spirit to say, I need to eat better. I need to work out. And for this guy to be able to do it in 60 days, by just shifting what he put in his body and drinking fresh juice, right. By the end of it, he’s not taking any medicine. I said, Oh man. I got to try this.
EMILY: And that launched Chris’s journey into juicing! More on how that became his why and how he turned that why into a brick and mortar when we come back from a quick break.
EMILY: Chris has just finished his first 10 day juice cleanse, and after a few days of thinking he was going to die, he came out on the other end and felt INCREDIBLE
CHRIS: Oh my God, like I can, I probably can play for the chiefs. You know, like I had this, this insane amount of energy. It was just like this zeal that I hadn’t felt in a while, even being a quasi healthy person, and I got hooked. I started to go to juice bars across the country just as a consumer and I would do this across the country for a number of years. And then the rubber hit the road for me. I didn’t realize I was getting so engulfed in it. I started to come home and, I was drinking juice and making smoothies myself. I was making my friends and family drink stuff that they didn’t want to drink. I was slapping fried chicken legs out of family members hands. You know, I became like the food police for my family. And I would start to reference my grandma, like, you know, Grandma. This is what happened. This is really what, even if we don’t talk about it, this is what it was.
It was her food, simple as that. And so I started to really impress upon my mother and my sisters and, and aunts and everybody else.
EMILY: It was her food, simple as that. When Chris was telling me this story, my heart broke at this moment. All of the peach cobbler, and memories of southern home cooking with his grandma started to take on a whole different meaning in his life, and his dedication to health – not only in himself, but the health of other people, morphed into the beautiful Ruby Jeans.
CHRIS: I like health. I like health. I like making people healthy. I like, you know, encouraging people just to be a part of the lifestyle. So I was like, okay, there’s that? I got a traveling, little blender juicer thing. I take that and a bunch of stuff to a bunch of cities. I go to, I go to juice bars everywhere. I was like, okay.
Health, juice, my grandma, I’m looking at my tattoos. Like, damn I miss grandma. It’s always been like, how do I, how do I show people? And so I’m sitting there and I’m like health juice, grandma health and juice. And grandma, wait a minute, wait a minute.
God was like, will, uh, Chris, I get, I mean, I don’t know if you want me to just whisper into your ear, write it on a whiteboard for you. This is what I want you to do. I want you to open up a juice bar and honor your grandmother.
EMILY: I get chills when I listen to Chris talk about his why behind Ruby Jeans, and it’s that energy and passion that he pours into his business and the community, which has resulted in such loyal love and a large customer base who continue to spread the word like Jes. When we come back from a short break we’ll hear the critical part of Jes’s review and see how Chris responded. We’ll also hear some expert advice from Jes on how to share critical feedback with business owners, and what continues to engage her as a loyal fan of Ruby Jeans.
EMILY: Lets jump right in to the part of Jes’s review where she provided some constructive feedback.
JES: minus one star because they use styrofoam containers and don’t offer recycling receptacles. I hope the management will change this very soon.
EMILY: Well – that sounds like helpful feedback, but did Chris see it that way?
CHRIS: I knew it was true as soon as I read it. So I said, all right, how do you, how do you react? Right because it’s like, dang, I wanted that last star, (laughing) but it’s not really about the star. It’s about improvement. It’s about the bigger picture. And she painted a much bigger picture for me.
EMILY: I’m going to be honest – that was a really mature response on Chris’s part. Getting feedback, especially when it’s unsolicited, is not always fun. Chris could have taken it personally, instead of seeing it as helpful, but luckily he didn’t. He saw the bigger picture. And more importantly – he didn’t let the feedback fall on deaf ears. He did something about it.
CHRIS: I’m glad to say we improved from her feedback, from her recommendation. I appreciate that because as a small business owner, there’s like a trillion things to think of every single hour. Seemingly very obvious things can get lost in the mix because we, you know, we are stretched so thin. Um, so I appreciated it at the, at the core of it.
I mean, as soon as I read it, I said, all right, what does it cost for an extra, recycling container. Um, called my cousin who runs, operates and say, Hey, we need to get a recycling sticker above this trash can. No more styrofoam once this burns through, we’re going to move to, and we’ve been with that specific eco-friendly packaging of that specific type ever since that day. But no, it’s humbling to read reviews in general. But then to get reviews that actually can impact your business and make you better.
EMILY: Now let’s just pause for a minute. Taking feedback is not easy. And it didn’t come easy to Chris either, but he saw the importance and value for his business. He was able to step beyond the star rating. To move beyond his ego, and see this review for what it was. A helpful recommendation!
CHRIS: You gotta listen, you gotta listen because what you can’t be is a know-it-all. Right. And if you have people that have spent their money at your business and like they’re giving you real time feedback, you need to listen, you need to listen. And then sometimes it hurts to listen. I’m not gonna lie to you sometimes. It’s like, ah, you could have been a little nicer, but you’re right (laughing) you know, so yeah.
EMILY: I think what Chris said speaks for itself, but I want to reiterate one point. When people are patronizing and spending money at your business – they’re experiencing their version of your business, and if you don’t listen to how they felt, you may lose opportunities to grow. But what about Jes? What compelled her to share that? And did she honestly think Ruby Jeans was going to listen?
JES: I was compelled to write to them about the styrofoam and recycling because the environment is very near and dear to me. And I just wasn’t sure whether or not they were aware or if that was something that eventually they would be working towards. It was slightly ironic that here’s all of this, organic fruits and, um, health for your body. And yet, what are we doing to the environment if we’re throwing away styrofoam after each and every use of it. And so to take all of those things into consideration, I just thought that this might be something that they hadn’t thought about. And. He did respond, the next time that I visited, there were the recycling bins and my food was no longer served in styrofoam. And I was so happy to know that a business owner would take into consideration something that a customer said.
EMILY: We often find most business owners don’t respond to their online reviews.
JES: I had not received very many responses, any reviews that I have left before.
EMILY: And, even more than that, many businesses pass on the opportunity to take feedback and opinions from their customers and actually take action in their business.
But, business owners who do take feedback from their customers are the ones who end up building lasting relationships and are able to engage their customers in a much more meaningful way to create loyal fans. One important thing to note is that there are some things about your business that are core to who you are. I do want to acknowledge that not all feedback has to be taken to heart or implemented in your business. We’ll hear stories this season where a business’s standards or practices are not what a consumer expects – but they are core to who the business is. The main point is that if you avoid feedback and reviews altogether, you’re going to miss opportunities to not only improve your business, but build a loyal customer base. Chris’s mindset when it comes to reviews, may be helpful to reshape your own perspective.
CHRIS: You know, to be honest with you it is very, very cool to me and very humbling to know that there was an idea that birth in my spirit and that idea has now come forth and people that I don’t know, that I’ve never met, never seen will come into said idea, as now a brick and mortar establishment – support tangibly with their dollars, and then go as far to say, you know what? I liked that place so much. I’m on it. Tell you how much I liked it. That every time for me, he is humbling.
EMILY: Something really valuable that we learned from Jes is how she was able to acknowledge what negative feedback can do to a business, and had some great advice on how to frame feedback in a way that may be more accepted by business owners
JES: I think always pointing out the good first. That’s just a good tactic. In life in general, if you have some type of criticism or critique. And so I do always try to start with what were the good things? What were the positive things? What did I enjoy? What did I like? What should they keep doing? And then, you know, point out something that could easily be changed to benefit or to better.
I also know sometimes when things are just open, you have to have a little more grace. You have to make sure that all their ducks are in a row and it’s difficult to start a business to open a business.
EMILY: When Jes first visited Ruby Jeans and wrote her review, the business had just recently opened. It’s difficult to start a business, to open a business. Have a little grace. Think about the value of your criticism and feedback. Maybe even consider if there’s another channel for you to communicate it.
But something else very critical happened here. Not only did Jes write this review, she became a loyal fan of Ruby Jeans who feels deeply connected to the brand.
JES: What I loved about Ruby Jeans was it was a very surprising space. I loved all of the attention to detail. A few weeks later, my workout group, we all went after our workout and had breakfast there. And then that became this like monthly tradition where we would pick a specific Saturday and after our workout, we would all go and it felt great to work out and then go eat this healthy food and, you know, share different things and see what other people were ordering, and it was just a great place to have of our community be able to be together, to meet.
EMILY: From the first visit when the mural on the wall caught Jes’s attention, she’s felt connected to Chris’s vision for Ruby Jeans. She would feel and see his passion throughout the business, and she liked the feeling of being in the space, whether it was by herself, or with her group of friends.
Chris knows his why, and it’s a big one. But the sharing of that why in his business, and communicating that why and that passion to his customers is what continues to create such loyal fans. His engagement both in person as well as digitally through responding to online reviews creates a connection between himself, his brand, and his community.
When you think about feedback, look at it through the lens of your why – and why you started your business. Does this change make your business better? Does it add to your purpose and increase the consumer experience? People will come back when they feel that.
CHRIS : Customers will always be the middle point between success and failure. And so if you’re not attached to that person’s voice authentically I think you’ll miss the mark every single time. So I know that it’s necessary, but it also, for me is helpful because it can steer our business, farther into the future because typically if one customer is feeling something or thinking something, there’s more to come. So being very quick to act is important to me.
And, you know, just, just taking it as graciously as possible. Even the one star reviews, even the one star reviews sometimes. You know, there are those reviews that you’re just like, ah, nope, you’re wrong. And you’re mean, and I’m going to let you know that too, but that’s there in lies even more authenticity, right?
EMILY: And that is how he continues to move forward and take feedback and customer criticism so graciously. By acknowledging the feelings and experiences of his business, but always coming back to his main why and the why behind Ruby Jeans.