Richmond Yoga Studio Gets Shot By Jack Daniel’s




October 28, 2022


Courtney Mabeus/Laura Anders Lee

Ashley Williams’ business BareSOUL Yoga and Wellness won $10,000 from Jack Daniel’s in a pitching contest in September. Photo courtesy BareSOUL

On his 33rd birthday, Brelan Hillman learned that BareSOUL Yoga and Wellness had been 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 BareSOUL board member, penned his three-minute appeal to connect Richmond’s history in the slave trade to how owners black businesses are now transforming the city, and the roles that BareSOUL and its brick-and-mortar space, The Well Collective, plays in that.

“We thought it was important to ground everyone in that reality,” says Hillman.

BareSOUL walked away with the top prize in Jack Daniel’s “New Beginnings: Make” it Count,” 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’ competition in 2020 to support Black businesses and expanded it this year to Richmond, which LendingTree ranked No. 3 on its list of the 50 U.S. metro areas with the most black-owned businesses. blacks. Jack Daniel Distillery notes that its namesake founder learned how 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 shop, Sweet Wynns, in a communal kitchen in Midlothian in May. She had hoped the competition would provide money for equipment and furnishings as she prepares to move to a new location in Shockoe Slip in November. Even if she didn’t win, she said, “we’re going to keep moving forward and figuring it all out.”

BareSOUL owner Ashley Williams launched 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 the proceeds from BareSOUL’s pitch competition on training a general manager, redesigning the website, business strategy and building space.

“Wellbeing is the foundation of how we do everything – our mental, physical, social and even financial state is vital to our being,” says Williams. “Well-being is not a luxury but a birthright for everyone. I look forward to developing a culturally relevant and inclusive wellness space in Richmond.

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