Richmond wellness space gets shot from Jack Daniel’s
On his 33rd birthday, Brelan Hillman learned that BareSOUL Yoga and Wellness was selected as one of six finalists to compete for $10,000 in a pitch contest for Black-owned businesses in Richmond.
With just a weekend to prepare, Hillman, a business partner and board member for BareSOUL, crafted his three-minute appeal to connect Richmond’s history in the slave trade to how Black business owners now are transforming the city, and the roles that BareSOUL and its brick-and-mortar space, The Well Collective, play in that.
“We thought it was important to kind of ground everyone in that reality,” says Hillman.
BareSOUL walked away with the top prize in Jack Daniel’s “New Beginnings: Make it Count” contest, held Sept. 26 at The Len event space in Shockoe Bottom. Local judges included Melody Short, co-founder of The Jackson Ward Collective; Shane Roberts-Thomas, owner and chef of Southern Kitchen in Jackson Ward; and Metropolitan Business League CEO Floyd E. Miller II.
Jack Daniel’s launched the “New Beginnings” contest in 2020 to support Black businesses and this year expanded it to Richmond, which LendingTree ranked No. 3 on its list of the 50 U.S. metropolitan areas with the most Black-owned businesses. Jack Daniel Distillery notes that its namesake founder learned to make whiskey from Nathan “Nearest” Green, who was born into slavery and emancipated before becoming the company’s master distiller.
Another of this year’s finalists, Taryn Wynn, opened her ice cream-making workshop business, Sweet Wynns, in a shared kitchen in Midlothian in May. She had hoped the contest would provide money for equipment and furnishings as she prepares to move to a new location in Shockoe Slip in November. Even though she didn’t win, she says, “we’re just still gonna chug along and figure it all out.”
BareSOUL owner Ashley Williams started her business in 2015 and opened The Well Collective in Shockoe Bottom in November 2021 to expand her wellness offerings and provide space for other businesses. With three part-time employees, Williams plans to spend BareSOUL’s pitch contest winnings on training a general manager, website redesign, business strategy and building out space.
“Wellness is foundational to how we do everything — our mental, physical, social and even our financial state is vital to our being,” says Williams. “Wellness isn’t a luxury but a birthright for everyone. I look forward to growing a culturally relevant and inclusive wellness space in Richmond.”