For Malamiah Juice Bar owner Jermale Eddie, his ability to impact the greater Grand Rapids community as an entrepreneur is more important than the bottom line.
“Our mission essentially is to elevate community health through healthy products, community partnerships and youth employment,” Eddie said.
Three years ago, Eddie opened Malamiah Juice Bar at the Downtown Market with his wife after a transformative experience with juicing. This October, he won 5×5 Night and took home $5,00 in cash along with $5,000 in legal services from Varnum LLP.
Although Eddie had no formal business experience, he and his wife spent a couple of years in Texas starting a church from the ground up– an experience that he said was instrumental later on in managing the learning curve of starting a business.
“That same experience that we used down there is the same experience we used to open the juice bar,” Eddie said. “Essentially, it was on the job business training.”
The Eddies also utilized free resources in the community– like the Small Business Development Center located on Grand Valley’s Pew Campus and the Small Business Resource Center at the Grand Rapids Public Library–to give themselves a crash course in business education. When the time came to get a bank loan, they found themselves in a tough spot.
“(We had) no experience, no money, no collateral, overdraft fees on our accounts… it didn’t look good,” Eddie said. “But, we felt strongly about this idea that we had that we felt would benefit the community.”
Following a stream of rejections came an approval for a fourth of the amount that they were asking, but it was enough. Given everything they had working against them, the Eddies are certain that someone spoke on their behalf.
“I believe part of how we got that was based on our reputation in the community,” Eddie said.
With that, the Eddies opened Malamiah and began using their business as a vehicle to engage with the community and advocate for healthier lifestyles. The Eddies passion for community engagement is multifaceted; not only are they present at dozens of community events, they also work with the Grand Rapids Mayor 100, a program that allows them to employ one inner city high school student per semester. Eddie views this as an opportunity for mentorship.
“We are taking a risk on students with no experience through this program, so they can have their first job through an employer that actually cares about them as individuals,” Eddie said. “We care about their performances, but we also care about them holistically.”
Through the program, Malamiah has hired three permanent employees.
The juice bar also heads an education initiative with area schools where they bring juice samples and teach kids to make their own. They then provide the schools with wristbands that are awarded to the students when they reach certain exercise goals. When the students bring their wristbands to the juice bar, they receive 50% off.
Eddie says the most rewarding part of Malamiah is seeing the positive impact their products have on people’s lives; they frequently receive testimonials from customers about how juicing is changing their lives.
“We are showing people how to heal their body and take care of themselves naturally without a whole bunch of medication,” Eddie said.
Eddie intends to use the winnings from 5×5 Night to add a mobile component to the business by purchasing a truck that would allow them to have more visibility, and expand their community engagement.