The experiences of Black minority consumers are often not the same as their white majority counterparts. It’s an ugly truth of so many businesses that is either ignored or never discussed.
Building Black businesses means being intentional about how those businesses and their target communities engage. This is part of the genesis for north Nashville’s InnerG Juice & Yoga (InnerG). Founded by Nielah Burnett, InnerG’s website articulates its purpose thusly, “InnerG is on a mission to build better habits, that mold better people, who develop better communities.”
“For 2021, we are in the process of opening our very first storefront,” Nielah tells Launch Engine. “The first of its kind here in Nashville, [it’s] both a cold press juice bar and a yoga studio under one roof.”
Nielah’s journey has been 10 years in the making, and she considers the imminent opening of her business “monumental.” Nielah moved back to Nashville in 2011, after living in Atlanta.
She says, “For as long as I can remember, it’s been really important to me to keep my wellness at the forefront of just anything that I do.”
While living in Atlanta, living a healthy lifestyle was easy for Nielah because the area had so many businesses that were equipped to accommodate her. As Atlanta is a larger city, Nielah could find massage therapists, juice bars, and vegan food—all of which were pretty inclusive. When she moved back to Nashville in 2011, Nielah had a bit of a culture shock as she was not able to find the accommodations that support healthy living that she had come to love in Atlanta. Even now, with Nashville booming, Nielah says that there’s still a lack of representation of Black consumers doing yoga, even though other yoga studios are frequented by Black consumers. Nielah connected with a bunch of different people who told her, “I’m tired of being the only [person of color] in this space.”
She says, “When you meet 40 people like that—and realize that everyone still feels like they’re the only one—that’s the demand I saw.”
Nielah adds that what these people experienced wasn’t overt racism, but just sort of a cluelessness to the distractions created by a general sense of unease. People practicing yoga and being completely focused on what they’re doing with their bodies can’t concentrate when they don’t feel welcome.
“Having graduated with my business degree, one of the things we [were] taught is—if you’re going to start a business, look for where there’s a gap,” Nielah says. “That was a pretty big gap. I figured I needed it for myself. And if I needed it for myself, I’m sure there were others here that needed it as well.”
Nielah spent 2012-2013 hatching a business plan for a wellness space that would serve Nashville better. She knew that she wanted something that was fresh, that provided a great quality of product, and that was inclusive for consumers. To the last point, Nielah says that it’s common for minority consumers to feel unwelcome in yoga spaces, because they’re treated differently by oblivious, if well-meaning, yoga studio members.
Nielah wanted it all, including a yoga studio, a selection of nutritious food options, wellness counselors, and a massage therapist onsite for her facility.
Starting small, she decided first to focus on fresh fruit smoothies. Between 2013-2015, Nielah toured with her fresh fruit smoothie bar, Smoothie Hut, helping the business at outdoor festivals and events.
“The one question I got over and over and over again was, ‘Where’s your storefront? Where’s your storefront?’” she says.
The impetus behind Nielah’s decision to provide healthy food is that it’s rare compared to the many fast food options one might be tempted with when exploring your food options. Juice made sense because of how nutritionally dense it could be, and the way drinking juice makes people feel in the long term. As a mother, she felt the pain of other moms who worry about their kids’ nutrition. Nielah notes that many of the juices given to kids “are not really good for you.” People who want high quality juice drinks often have to make them at home, and the setup/cleanup process associated with that is seen as a prohibitive hassle for many people.
The juices are available to consumers both onsite and via delivery, with weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly juice order options starting at $40/month. The juice blends are made for different health needs, including detox, weight loss, cancer prevention, and promotion of health of the eyes, skin, heart, and bones. The grand opening of InnerG was originally June 19 (in honor of Juneteenth), but was pushed back to the July 9. To promote their grand opening, InnerG will be offering a sale of $30 for 15 days of unlimited yoga, and four cold-pressed juices, and $15 yoga classes for the day of the grand opening.
Nielah says that for 2021-2022, she’ll be continuing to connect with health and wellness advocates trying to build a healthy living community in Nashville and raise awareness for InnerG.
“The best way for us to get the word out is to show people what they’re getting,” she says. “A lot of that comes with us being a part of community activities and… just getting into the space where people feel like they can connect with us.”
For further information about InnerG Juice & Yoga, be sure to visit their website and social media.