By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
If entrepreneurship is defined by persistence and a deep, personal commitment to a mission, Nashvillian Nielah Burnett clearly qualifies.
The self-described “athletic and health conscious” native of Denver, CO arrived in Music City in 2011 from Atlanta where she had access to a wide range of options like gyms, juice bars and vegan foods to “make sure I’m taking good care of myself. I lost that element when I got to Nashville.”
Music City has evolved a great deal in the past decade with the rapid growth and migration of individuals from other regions who brought with them the demand for those varied food, drink and exercise options that were in short supply when Burnett arrived.
Now, driven by both her desire to make a difference and a personal tragedy in 2018 that underscored the importance of healthy living, Burnett is one of the entrepreneurs using the Wefunder platform (see our recent teknovation.biz article here) to raise capital for her new business.
InnerG is Nashville’s first cold-pressed juice bar and yoga studio. Located in North Nashville, the start-up describes itself as “on a mission to build better habits, that mold better people, who develop better communities.”
More than just a slogan for a business, InnerG is a cause for Burnett, one that is fueled by the challenges that minority entrepreneurs face and the ramifications of failing to take care of yourself.
As she related her journey during a recent interview, Burnett took us back to the 2012-13 period when the best option for healthy drinks was a Smoothie King, because there was a void in the boutique juice bars that were more prevalent in Atlanta.
“My fiancée and I went to neighborhood events to assess interests,” she said. Finding growing awareness in the community, she tried without success to secure financing, but banks were not willing to take the risk on a single mother without any business experience.
Asking and answering her own question about what she needed to do, Burnett enrolled at Belmont University where she earned an M.S. in Entrepreneurship and Business Management in 2017. She also used the time to build most of the vision and business plan. Within a year, she had plans to open a store and had even talked with a landlord who was planning a new building.
“He offered advice on things to do,” Burnett said, adding his most cogent advice: “Be prepared when the time is there.”
Then, tragedy struck. Burnett was pregnant with her second child when her daughter was born 16 weeks prematurely and died within nine days.
“It was a reflection of not taking care of myself,” she says. “I was not resting, not getting enough nutrients in my body, not doing yoga. It devastated me, but also reminded me of why I was on this journey – personal health and that of others. When I returned to the purpose of the journey, everything started falling in place.”
Today, InnerG and her other efforts to help individuals life healthy lives is about honoring the daughter she lost. The retail store in the Buchanan Arts District is quasi-open, Burnett says, with a robust delivery business. She’s building out a virtual yoga platform, and she planning for fresh food vending machines.
“I’m also working on helping create vitality zones in Nashville,” Burnett says. They will be places where Nashvillians can go to recharge themselves. After all, it’s about healthy and wellness.
Those interested in supporting her Wefunder campaign can go to this link.