The Rapidian

Women Who Rock!

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Anissa Eddie, co-owner of Malamiah Juice Bar in the Downtown Market, is shaping the Grand Rapids community, one juice at a time.
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About the Zonta Club of Grand Rapids

The Zonta Club of Grand Rapids is a local chapter of Zonta International, a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. Since 1921, Zonta Grand Rapids has been dedicated to improving the legal, political, economic, professional, health, and educational status of women both locally and internationally. Through their 501(c)(3) Foundation, Zonta Grand Rapids supports service projects and education fellowships to improve the quality of life for women. For more information on the Zonta Club of Grand Rapids visit www.ZontaGr.org, and “Like” us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Zonta-of-Grand-Rapids.

 

As Anissa Eddie and I sit down at the Wealthy Street Bakery, she gives a quick wave to a passerby outside. The passerby happens to be a fellow business owner at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market where Eddie and her husband Jermale are co-owners of the juice bar, Malamiah (pronounced Mal-uh-my-ah).

When the Eddies first decided to open the juice bar two years ago, the primary motivation was to create a new career opportunity for Jermale. Initially, Eddie was not planning to be heavily involved and her husband believed that creating healthy juices and smoothies that tasted delicious would be a great business concept. The two quickly realized, however, that this was going to work best as a complete partnership and that they had so much more to serve the Grand Rapids community than juice.

Eddie, a social worker by trade, says her first career has definitely helped shape the way the juice bar is operated. 

“[Social work] is so embedded in my identity, and the lens that I see things through - there was no way to separate that piece of myself,” she said.

In fact, given in large part to Eddie’s social work background, she says that owning the juice bar is ministerial for both her and Jermale.

“[Malamiah] is very much aligned with what I am passionate about. I will always have that direct person-to-person relationship with customers, but I hope that we can be a part of a bigger movement. Have a voice that can address bigger issues – youth employment, equal access to nutritional food, and health disparities in a broader systems,” she said.

From the outsetall while trying to get the basics of owning a business downthe Eddies were gearing up for things well beyond serving fresh pressed juice. Eddie said that once they decided to fully commit to this business, they began brainstorming on how they could embed important social elements into their business right away.

“From day one, we were writing a mission statement and we didn’t know exactly how we’d implement that into our business. We wanted to have health education and youth employment as part of our focus, so we put it in there knowing we could figure out the details as we went along! she said.

“When you look at it at face value, youth employment might not hava direct correlation with the juicing industry, but we we’re going to make it fit. It’s something that we can really feel good about giving back to the community.”

In fact, Malamiah’s commitment to Youth Employment is one of the most well known and respected initiatives in the Grand Rapids community. The Eddies mentor both young men and women, and Eddie says that she and her husband love seeing youth employees open their first bank accounts, get their drivers’ license, and figure out next steps from starting college to getting their first apartments. While Eddie sees how the program offers advantages to both males and females, she says she particularly recognizes the value in the message it conveys to young women.

“Helping young women to recognize the preparation that they need for life success is an important element of our youth intern program - I don’t think they necessarily get the same amount of messages all the time related to the importance of education and importance of employment when compared to young men,” she said.

While Eddie recognizes the strides women have made, she is well aware that girls are not always afforded the same opportunities as boys simply because of the stereotypes that are still engrained in our society. Because of that, the Eddies love to discuss college and how this job will launch their young employees into their next career. Eddie says that her hope is that early employment at Malamiah will be the catalyst for females to be secure and independent on their own from thereon.

And just to recognize that whether they end up with a life partner or not, they are going to have to do this for themselves. I just love seeing that happen for young women, so that whatever they end up doing later, it will be in addition to what is already secure, and not because they are reliant on somebody else,” she says.

In addition to youth employment being a big piece of Malamiah’s mission, the Eddies are also committed to recognizing and bridging health disparities in the African American community. As the only African American owned business in the market, the Eddies feel a sense of responsibility to make sure that certain things are noticed and discussed.

“There are certain groups that don’t feel that the Downtown Market is a place that caters to them. We recognize that feeling and validate it, but at the same time we want to help address the issue too,” she said.

“The community aspect and the social elements are so big for us, that it’s not just something that we are going to ignore. We want to understand, Why don’t you want to come?’ ‘Why do you feel out of place?’ and ‘What needs to happen to change that? We do feel a higher level of responsibility to push that as a conversation. We have a seat at the table and direct access to people that make decisions and we want to bridge the communication gaps and be part of the solutions.

Malamiah’s community outreach is certainly illustrated through their awardsAwarded five awards since inception, Eddie says that while they have all been an honor, the Chamber of Commerce EPIC award has been their greatest achievement so far.

“[That award] feels the most important because it was the most involved in terms of being eligible to receive the award,”Eddie said. The process involved both she and her husband submitting written answers to various questions related to how they are fulfilling their mission as well as take part in a panel interview.

“It made us really think and analyze our business. We took a step back to define what we were doing more in depth and articulate it more clearly. The process was gratifying because in the end, we could see that we really are doing what we are saying,” said Eddie.

While the number of awards speaks to how the business is doing, so does the fact that at just two years old they are opening a second location in Grandville with an anticipated grand opening of October 1.

And that’s not the only grand event the Eddies have scheduled for October – they will also be welcoming their third child! While the juggling act of being a full-time entrepreneur, business owner, wife, mother of two boys and expecting a third child is no doubt challenging, Eddie says that the best advice she ever received gets her through each day.

“You create the business to serve your life, you don’t create your life to serve your business. That was very freeing for me – especially in the beginning when it felt like the business was taking over every element of our life, she says.“This business isn’t the factor that tells you what your limits are for life, you tell the business how much it can take, and how much it can have. It really freed me to look at it in a different way.

Eddie’s favorite juice conveniently mirrors her personality and overall outlook on life and success – bright and refreshing. It's a delicious combination of kale, cucumbers, celery, and green apple.

As for her woman who rocks? Priscilla Shirer.

“[S]he has always inspired me in my faith and as an example in my roles as wife, mother and career woman. As a bonus, she has also affirmed for me the beauty of natural black hair," says Eddie. "She is for sure a woman who rocks!

Anissa Eddie, on behalf of ZONTA, thank you for everything you do – you are our woman who rocks!

By Marisa McStravick, Zonta Club Member

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