Jerri Evans keeps her mother’s vision of living a healthy lifestyle alive through a chain of green juice and food shops she opened in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
Evans’ mother, Annette Turner, passed away from breast cancer in 2010. Three years later, Evans, a D.C. native, left a career in engineering and returned to the city of her birth to open Turning Natural, a healthy food, smoothie and juice shop.
“Juices were a big part of [Turner’s] lifestyle during her [9-year] remission,” Evans said. “So, juices, being vegetables, fruits all of that stuff was a part of her transition to a healthy lifestyle. Green juices were a saving grace for her.”
The shop, Evans said, helps her reconnect with her mother. She now owns three locations in southeast and northeast D.C., and District Heights, Md.
“I wanted to feel something again,” Evans said. “I wanted to be back in touch with my emotions and my feelings because I was pretty much away from that.”
Evans was one of six health gurus featured by the Toyota Green Initiative at its Broccoli City Festival, which ran from May 1 to May 6 in Washington D.C. to promote health, sustainability and economic development.
The Toyota Green Initiative bills itself as a campaign that continues to foster fresh, innovative ideas around sustainability within the African-American community. It began in 2008 and initially targeted HBCUs before widening its focus.
The initiative is one of several created by auto maker Toyota to involve small businesses throughout the country.
“We definitely want to engage small business,” said Mia Phillips, Toyota’s national manager of multicultural brand strategy. “So we make sure that we sponsor events that allow African Americans and women in particular to grow and flourish and learn how to grow their business.”
All of the Toyota Green Initiative members are small business entrepreneurs in several different fields that have one thing in common: they promote healthy lifestyles.
One member, Khnum “Stic” Ibomu, is the founder of RBG Fit Club in Atlanta, a gym that focuses on keeping people physically fit. He is also a Hip Hop producer who created a genre he calls Fithop.
“I think the reason you don’t see a lot of [focus on fitness] is because you got to be living a certain lifestyle and got to talk about it authentically in Hip Hop music,” he said, “then you got to be authentically of the Hip Hop culture. There’s not a big market of both.”
Along with being a producer and fitness club owner, Ibomu said he is also a mediation instructor, long-distance running coach, and certified archery instructor. Ibomu, who is now in his 40s, said he changed his lifestyle dramatically after doctors told him he would lose his leg from the amount of alcohol and other unhealthy substances he was consuming when he was in his early 20s.
“It’s street and its coming from my own struggle to become more healthy and well-rounded,” he said.