Why Karen Danudjaja Went All in on Functional Beverage Brand Blume

The superfood-latte brand is in more than 1,500 stores across Canada
Blume co-founder and CEO Karen Danudjaja (photo illustration: Anthony Gebrehiwot)

Karen Danudjaja started the superfood-latte brand Blume in 2017, a nascent time in the craze for “functional beverages”—drinks that provide nutritional and health benefits. She’d spotted a gap in the market for dry latte blends—mixtures of powdered herbs, spices and teas. Blume started out being sold predominantly in coffee shops, but now the brand’s colourfully packaged drink mixes—in flavours like Turmeric and Rose London Fog—are in more than 1,500 stores across Canada. In 2021, the company’s direct-to-consumer revenue grew by 300 per cent, and Danudjaja plans to continue expanding her product line.

Age: 32
Based in: Vancouver
Degree: B.Com. (University of British Columbia)

My goal in life:

To love what I do. I’ve never set a goal that’s about revenue or team size; it’s about a feeling. I just want to continue being proud of what we’re putting out into the world.

I thought I’d grow up to be:

A doctor, a writer, a chef or a hairdresser. During high school, I really wanted to be a baker, but I ended up starting a business because my family has entrepreneurial roots.

My biggest growing pain:

Along with many women founders and entrepreneurs, I struggle with impostor syndrome. I am on a journey of trying to overcome it by accepting that I may not know something and dedicating myself to finding the answer.

My most memorable mistake:

My mistakes have to do with being motivated by what other brands are doing instead of what I thought was right for the business or what was right for me or the team. When we think about our strategic plan and where we’re taking things next, it has to feel good to me as well as make sense to the business.

The hardest decision I’ve ever made:

Two years into Blume, I ended up buying out my co-founder. It was right at the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, Blume’s products were primarily carried by cafés, which were heavily impacted by the shutdowns. I had to make the decision to sink all my savings into a business that had fundamentally changed—because I believed it could be something else 10 years down the road. I’m so glad that I did.

A great leader:

Listens. You can’t assume that you know what people are doing in their roles better than they do. Hire people and build a team that is better at certain things than you are.

My version of a power suit:

I’m a jeans and T-shirt person all day every day.

One thing that needs to change in my industry:

The fundraising process. I just went through it for the first time (and raised $2 million). Many people told me it was going to be hard—especially as a woman and a Southeast Asian person. I felt that. I also think that there’s a big disconnect between what investors are looking for and what founders need. I needed capital, but I also wanted advice and support and somebody that I could tell the bad stuff to.

My current obsession:

Looking at the gap in the market between the experience you have in a café, which is often fun and social, and the experience you have buying a product in a store, which is more transactional. The supplement aisle is often functional, not fun. Blume is trying to bridge that gap so you can have familiar flavours and delicious drinks in many settings but not compromise on the quality that you’re looking
for from supplements.

I’d like to be remembered:

As somebody who helped her team in their professional and personal journeys.

This article appears in print in the fall 2022 issue of Canadian Business magazine. Buy the issue for $7.99 or better yet, subscribe to the quarterly print magazine for just $20.