For Air Force veteran, Eldersburg Smoothie King business another chance to lead, inspire others

For Air Force veteran, Eldersburg Smoothie King business another chance to lead, inspire others
Ro Burnett, a retired Air Force officer who served in Afghanistan, Kuwait and the UAE, and his wife Tiana pictured in their Smoothie King franchise in Eldersburg, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

For nearly 25 years — up until September 2014 — Ro Burnett gave his all to the Air Force.

He entered right after college as a second lieutenant and was an aviator, working as a navigator in the first part of his career. Burnett flew all over the world “defending justice” before moving into management positions and then finally retiring just over four years ago.


But after nearly a quarter of a century, Burnett has traded in his uniform for a blender.

The Westminster resident and his wife, Tiana, took a chance and opened the first Smoothie King in Carroll County at the end of August. The shop, 1345 Liberty Road, Eldersburg, will have its grand opening Nov. 13, where free 12-ounce smoothies will be available between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

For Burnett, while the two jobs may seem different on the surface, much of what he learned in his time in the military is transferable to his current role.

“It was just a natural transition,” he said.

Part of having a successful business is having team members who are excited about what they do, he said, something that holds true in the military.

Burnett said he has a leadership philosophy he uses — enable people, train them and remove any obstacles.

“And then [I] watch them amaze me,” he said.

That concept of team building and unity, as well as setting standards and applicable ways to measure those standards, are very much the same, Burnett said.

“Instead of killing and breaking things, I'm building smoothies,” he said, later adding, “At the end of the day, the skills are so transferable because the functions in any organization are the same.”

Burnett grew up in North Carolina, but has been a resident of the Maryland and D.C. area since 2010. He’s been in Westminster for the past five years — as long as he’s been married to his wife, who has been in Carroll for about 14 years.

“We've always been entrepreneurs,” he said, and the two have talked for years about opening some sort of businesses. It just felt like something that was supposed to happen, he added.

Tiana Burnett said, so far, things have been great. The couple have figured out a method that works for them, she said, adding that the experience has been better than either of them anticipated.

She comes from a background of government work, having worked for a federal government contractor for nearly three decades.

In her last assignment, Tiana was in senior leadership at a small contracting company. In that position, she said, she learned a number of things that she’s brought with her to this new job.


“Looking and learning about an area which I had no background in which was human resources and payroll and finance and being in charge of all of that, I was able to to see the different facets,” she added.

The couple looked into many different franchises from Smoothie King to Midas to Chick-Fil-A, but ultimately, it was the Smoothie King that made the most sense, especially as people continue to trend toward healthy food, Burnett said.

And, Burnett said, there weren’t any Smoothie Kings in Carroll, and the couple knew they wanted to bring a business to the county they lived in.

“We want to be a net positive gain to our local community,” he added.