Naijean Bernard has used her business, Jeany’s Ginger Elixir, to unite her community.
By Anastasia Vastakis, Photo courtesy of Naijean Bernard
Everyone has a specific memory that defines them. For Naijean Bernard, it’s watching her grandmother cook in Grenada when she visited her as a child with her family. These memories, combined with the weekly potlucks she would attend in Austin, led her to create her Caribbean-inspired food and beverage company, Jeany’s Ginger Elixir.
Bernard says her grandmother “didn’t have an education, but what she did have was more worthwhile: her herbal knowledge.” Bernard uses the knowledge passed down through the generations for her juices. “I learned from my grandma, my mom and my own garden,” she says. “I use herbal remedies for myself, my friends, people I come in contact with.”
When Bernard first moved to Austin, she was desperate for a strong sense of community and belonging, so she started attending potlucks with her friends. She would bring casseroles and the like. Then she started bringing her homemade juices. “They were based on my grandmother’s recipes from when I was younger,” Bernard reflects. “She never wrote down anything, like grandmothers do. So based on what I remember from my grandmother, I recreated those recipes. I was sharing them with friends, and they really liked them.”
During this time, she worked in corporate America while raising her son, so she wasn’t able to fully commit to the juice business. While this year has been detrimental for many businesses, 2020 gave her the opportunity to commit to Jeany’s Ginger Elixir. In February, her supervisor told her that her position was being eliminated. She could either switch to another position or take a severance package. Bernard took the severance package. “I used that to revamp the website,” she says. “Invest in some photography and utilize a social media company. I kind of took a leap of faith. As of March 17, the elixir business has been my full-time income. Since then, I have added additional farmers markets. We are up to three farmers markets per weekend.”
In fact, Jeany’s Ginger Elixir has become so lucrative, they have to expand their team. “I have a friend who is on our board of advisors, so to speak,” she says. “He has a history of incarceration. He is going to help find people with a history of incarceration, both men and women, to come and work, learn job and social skills, and how to interact with other people.”
For the Community
Bernard doesn’t only run Jeany’s Ginger Elixir. She also runs a company called the Austin Red Tent Experience, a women’s wellness retreat. “Since it is a smaller big city, sometimes when you’re new to Austin you feel disconnected,” she says. “You’re trying to find your circle of real friends, and it can be really challenging. Especially for women of color.” The primary emphasis is comfortability. “I wanted to make a space that is friendly enough where if you have a different body type or you believe things differently, you can still feel comfortable doing yoga or a different health wellness package you are interested in. We would do a talk on physical health, financial health and mental health. I believe that all of those are interconnected.”
She also has a friend who is a medical doctor that came and spoke about the connection between these three ideas. The women, knowing this truly was a safe space, all began to open up about their personal experiences with fibroids, miscarriages, hysterectomies and other health issues that aren’t always talked about. “It was a powerful experience.”
All of Naijean Bernard’s business ventures started with searching for a sense of community. Her grandmother’s community, and the way she was raised, influenced Bernard and was the basis for Jeany’s Ginger Elixir. Her own need for community brought a sense of unity and wellness for women of color in Austin.