Young entrepreneur Rachel Cuba is combining her dreams of becoming a business owner with her desire to encourage patrons to live a healthier lifestyle by incorporating juice into their diets.
But not any ol’ juice.
Cuba is currently vying to be one of three prospective business owners selected from a pool of local entrepreneurs to share a combined value of $95,000 in goods, services and start-up capital to launch a business on Main Street. The Launch Gloucester program is part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia Community Business Launch initiative and is locally overseen by Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust and Gloucester Main Street Association.
If awarded the funds, Cuba plans to open “Gloucester Juice Bar,” where freshly squeezed juices and blended smoothies made from organic, local and seasonal fruits and veggies will be served.
Born and raised in Gloucester, Va., Cuba has always held a special place for her hometown.
“When I was little, I remember my mom taking us to Main Street and I would see the bigger cities in the newspapers and I always envisioned Gloucester being like that big city,” said Cuba. “Once I got older, I saw it wasn’t exactly a big time city, but I have just always loved Main Street and have good memories here. It would truly be an honor to open my business here on Main Street.”
Cuba graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. While attending college in Richmond, Va., Cuba juiced on and off for the five years she lived there. She frequented a natural foods market, Ellwood Thompson’s in Carytown, which also served juice bar juices. She began acquiring information on different recipes, juicers and juicing techniques.
However, all of her dreams were put on hold when she experienced four deaths within a year and half and found herself 80 pounds heavier. “I held onto all of the pain and trauma and didn’t really deal with it,” said Cuba.
She moved back to Gloucester in 2014 to be with her family and started a detailed health and fitness plan. She began juicing daily and taking advantage of the running trails that Gloucester and surrounding areas had to offer.
It was then that Cuba began researching the benefits of juicing. “Juicing is the extraction of vegetables and fruits into liquid form,” said Cuba. “I feel strongly about incorporating juicing because you are getting the maximum benefits of the nutrients from inside the vegetable or fruit. My goal is to make vegetables taste really, really good.”
After searching for a juice bar within the county and turning up no results, Cuba decided that she could be the one to open one up. And when she saw an opportunity for the Community Business Launch, she did just that.
“Being offered a spot has literally changed my world,” said Cuba. “I will never forget that night and I am so grateful to Jenny Crittenden for believing in me and seeing something inside of me that I really wanted to learn more about business.”
Cuba envisions the juice bar as a place for everyone. She will offer juices, infused water, smoothies, fruit cups, vegetable cups and made from scratch protein bars. Eventually she would like to add in sandwiches, salads and wraps.
In an effort to keep her juice as fresh as possible, she plans to partner with local farms, plantations and Indian reservations in West Point to bring local, fresh produce to her bar. “The more local, the better,” Cuba said.
Incorporating the roots of Gloucester County is among her top priorities. She has already developed a juice named the “Walter Reed.” “Gloucester has so much history and I’m fascinated by it because growing up I took it for granted,” said Cuba. “Moving back has really enlightened my intelligence about its history.”
Cuba also plans to incorporate running meet-ups and biking meet-ups in her efforts to inspire people to be fit.
“This is an amazing opportunity the community has offered to us and I want to take full advantage of the possibilities that might be offered to me,” Cuba said.