Sometimes God helps the stupid.
Denitia Blount’s business is more than a local Waco juice store. It’s a ministry.
Oh My Juice (OMJ) was birthed out of a car crash, pain and sickness. Following a back-fusion surgery, a minor accident threw Blount into pain every day for five years.
“I never experienced that kind of pain in my life,” Blount said. “I was totally dependent on pain meds to even make it through a day. I wasn’t addicted to them, I was just dependent upon them to function on a day-to-day basis.”
Held together by titanium rods in her spine, the soft tissue tore and so did her spirits. She ran on one or two hours of sleep for a year and a half.
She couldn’t walk. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t ski.
Eight years ago, her friend Meg pointed her to the “power of food.” She gave it a shot. And seven weeks later she woke up pain-free.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a fluke and I probably took pain meds last night,’” Blount said. “And the next night I woke up and slept all night pain-free. I kind of stand up on the soapbox most days and try and talk to other people about it because if it can change me, it can change other people.”
While it’s not a catch-all cure, Blount has a friend with M.S. who is no longer in a wheelchair because of a diet change. She tells young people to start now.
“Somebody your age,” She said gesturing to me, “you change your diet and you eat healthy for the rest of your life and you don’t have to develop arthritis. You don’t have to develop diabetes. You don’t have to develop heart disease. All those things that we associate with getting older.”
After Blount graduated from Baylor in 1988 with a non-food-related degree (education and English), she moved 24 times before landing in Waco with her husband. She admitted Pennsylvania and Georgia have Waco beat in scenery and friendliness, respectively.
But it was Waco where Blount met Tierra Barber, also a Baylor grad, who would be her business venture co-pilot. With her help, Blount was hesitant but ready to leave 17 years of teaching and an enjoyable semi-retirement behind her.
“Tierra just kind of gave me security and some confidence that this is something we could do,” Blount said. “It’s been fun, it’s been discouraging, it’s been challenging, it’s been all those things that help you grow into a better human being.”
Before they met, Blount didn’t even know what acai was. And now it’s OMJ’s best seller. While Barber is now in Ohio as the manager of Yoga on High, Blount is thankful for her partnership.
“She helped create a lot of the recipes here,” Blount said. “She taught me how to prepare it and how delicious it was. She has a lot to do with the foundations of Oh My Juice because of her knowledge and just things that she brought to the table.”
In 2014, OMJ spread its roots at the Waco Farmer’s Market. Quickly, Blount’s once-a-week commitment turned into a call from Barber to come look at a storefront space downtown.
“I kept telling myself I’m not doing that because I don’t want to work 15 hours a day. I don’t want to start a business,” Blount said. “Tierra was encouraging. She was a great cheerleader and just a good friend.”
At least at first, Blount said goodbye to a personal life. Even with a cheerleading squad made up of her husband, kids and business partner, Blount said the scariest part of starting her brick-and-mortar business was turning it from an expensive hobby into something viable.
“I was just really throwing darts at the wall kind of blindfolded,” Blount said. “You go, ‘Does this work does this work does this work does this work,’ and it’s scary particularly when you have people who work for you and they’re depending on a paycheck. It can be frightening and worrisome and you spend a lot of nights lying awake trying to figure it out.”
Even though she laughs at earning a “B” on a paper for comma splices, Blount credits Baylor for teaching her how to learn.
“There’s no way that I could ever have done, even open, OMJ without just having a solid work ethic,” Blount said. “The reality is if you set the expectations high then people will meet your expectations and that’s what we do at OMJ. I’m not sure I saw that as a student but definitely have as a graduate.”
Blount views herself as a missionary of sorts as she sees God transforming people’s lives – whether it’s customers or her “tremendous workforce.”
“You get to interact with people day in and day out through struggles in their own life and you get to share hope and joy and peace that passes all understanding,” Blount said. “When you see God at work in their life and see their lives transformed, it’s like, ‘Wow I had a tiny part in that because they worked here.’ I know I’m not the one transforming them. It’s a joy to be a part of that and to see it.”
OMJ has been open five years. And Blount can count on one hand the number of times one of her Baylor student employees called in sick or showed up late.
“My kids come and they stay,” Blount said. “They’re resilient, they persevere, they take constructive criticism, they meet expectations, they’re trustworthy. I mean there’s all these wonderful attributes about Baylor students and I know it’s a generalization but I think that’s the expectation that Baylor sets.”
The future for OMJ is like eating an elephant. You can only do it one bite at a time. At least to Blount as she looks forward.
“Sometimes we want it easier,” Blount said. “I wish it wasn’t so hard, but you know God builds our character at the same time. The struggles, the joys, whatever it might be, it all benefits us in some way. It shapes us into who God wants us to be in that sanctification process. To be more like him, to be more like Christ.”