When Braeden Ralla opened Purpose Smoothie Co. in Steveston (#115 - 3900 Bayview Street) in June 2017, it was a bittersweet day. His vision for a business committed to the mental and physical benefits of good nutrition had finally been realized. But the story behind how this bright and inviting heath-focused cafe came to exist was deeply personal.

“I’ve had peanut and egg allergies my whole life, so when I was a kid I got into making smoothies—it really became my thing,” he says. “And when my mom was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, I would make these highly nutritious smoothies just for her with all the ingredients she needed.”

Ralla’s mother passed away in 2016. But in many ways she is the heart and soul of her son’s business. “Our name comes straight from her and her purpose-driven life—it’s about not living the way other people tell you to,” he says in a quiet moment between serving and chatting to his customers.

Purpose Smoothie Co.
Braeden Ralla was inspired by his mother to create Purpose Smoothie Co. | Photo: ​John Lee

It’s that familial fortitude that helped Ralla create Purpose Smoothie Co.—despite never having run a business before. “I was working as a labourer and also coaching basketball, but all the while I was developing a business plan. I really wasn’t sure if anyone would take my ideas seriously, though.”

He needn’t have worried. Friends and family—including his construction industry father, who helped renovate the store—were hugely supportive. Now, two years after launching, his independent business has become a magnet for wellness-minded locals and visitors looking for wholesome sustenance while travelling.

Smoothie central

“All our smoothie ingredients are natural with lots of frozen fruit and superfood elements—we don't use ice like a lot of other places,” says Ralla. “The bottom line is that it has to taste great but it should also make you feel good afterwards.”

The Purpose menu includes eight 20-ounce Super Smoothies and three smaller Snack Smoothies. All are handmade to order, and the larger ones are rich and fortifying enough to act as full-on meal replacements. These Super Smoothies also have designated health and wellness benefits, ranging from stamina growth to anxiety reduction and from focus boosting to immunity enhancement.

Purpose Smoothie Co.
A Mango Turmeric smoothie under construction. | Photo: ​John Lee

And while the top-selling smoothie is The Stack—it’s made with strawberry, banana, whole oats, almond butter, chocolate protein, and almond milk and is aimed at building and repairing muscle as well as lowering cholesterol—Ralla recommends two specific beverages for those tackling fall’s cold and flu season.

“If you’re feeling rundown at this time of year, go for the Mango Turmeric or the Green Monster. Add ginger and black pepper to the first one and maybe double the amount of ginger and include a Vitamin C Booster in the second one,” he advises.

Winter warmers

If you need an additional cold-season pick-me-up, the Purpose menu also includes teas as well as Superfood Lattes, crafted from unsweetened organic almond milk. And when you’re craving a hearty homemade broth to stave off the wintry chills, Ralla’s grandmother can help you out.

Her curried chickpea and curried kidney bean soups are extremely popular at the cafe at this time of year. And they’re the kind of fortifying bowls of goodness only family recipes can deliver. “My grandmother was born in India and we all learned how to cook from her. She’s 82 now, but she still comes in to help—she’s amazing.”

Still hungry? Purpose Smoothie also serves up fresh-made wraps and customizable poke bowls, plus a fortifying Bombay Bowl that includes grandma’s kidney bean curry recipe plus brown rice, cilantro, tamarind, and more. This also comes in a curried chickpea version that’s aptly named the Power Bowl.

Beyond bowls and smoothies

Ralla has also expanded his non-menu offerings since 2017, curating a clever array of products in a health store section near the entrance. “I’m very careful about what I include. I have to believe in it and it has to fit with what we’re doing here,” he says. “I try all the products and if I love it, I’ll stock it!”

Purpose Smoothie Co.
There's also a health food section in the corner of the cafe. | Photo: ​John Lee

The current line-up includes protein bars, vegan crackers, mushroom coffee mixes, and even a spiky acupressure ball. The cafe also sells a couple of their own supplements in powder form: Focus, an all-natural blend of mushrooms and superfoods that works to aid memory and concentration, and Recovery, a potent anti-inflammatory made from turmeric, ginger, chai masala, and more.

Purpose Smoothie Co.
You can purchase supplements at Purpose. | Photo: ​John Lee

What next?

Catering gigs and health-focused gift baskets—they’re ramping these up for the festive season right now—also keep Ralla and his team busy during the fall and winter period. But in quieter moments, he works on growth plans for his fledgling business as well.

“The goal is to develop Purpose as a full health-based empire with multiple locations across Canada—one smoothie at a time. But we’ll never loose sight of our foundation: to help people feel their best while living a fast-paced lifestyle.”

It’s a commitment that Ralla’s mother, a dedicated marathon runner with a great zest for life, would fully support. “I feel very fortunate to have had a mom like her,” he says. “And I always remember that on the day we opened back in 2017, the sun suddenly came out. My mom had a tattoo of a sun on her ankle. It was definitely a sign.”