By Crystal Lynn, Gary Crusader
Parallel to the history of African Americans in this country, it is by no surprise that the success of a minority business can have more challenges than their white business counterparts. The access to certain resources, the restrictions and roadblocks faced, or the lack of valuable generational knowledge lost over time, the list of reasons can go on and on.
But at some point, the focus cannot be on what has happened but what could happen and what we want to happen. As Gary’s very own Michael Jackson sang, “starting with the man in the mirror,” it starts with us wanting to change our ways: the way we do business, the way we support local small minority businesses and the standards we set and expect.
So how do we change our mentality? What is the blueprint for a successful minority business? Where do we start? An exuberating energy comes from Vibrations, a juice bar and health shop on Lake Street in the Miller section of Gary. From the ambience, to the sound of the owner’s laugh, the great chemistry and zeal is the type of business concept you want to duplicate. The owner of Vibrations, Rebecca Raspberry, is the beacon of success that all local minority businesses should model.
The idea of the juice bar was not something she came up with one day, but a lifestyle she grew up learning and adapting. Her father, Marque Raspberry, owned the first health store in Hyde Park, “House of Gandhi,” from 1971-1984 and was well beyond his years with his business concept.
Today the health craze has shifted the way consumers buy. Fortunately, it is not only a current popular demand but a message for something deeper—- how to change the climate of a community.
House of Gandhi was not the first successful business her father owned. Previously owning liquor and grocery stores, he became conscious of the power his business brought to his community in Hyde Park.
The principles and knowledge passed on to Raspberry are the same values she has passed on to her sons, “You need to be that much better” and not “make excuses.”
Raspberry experienced both ends of the business spectrum. Leaving corporate America after 14 years, she was what is now called a triple threat: an African American, woman, over 40 sitting in a room with majority white men. When asked how she approached the issues she faced in corporate America and then as a minority business owner she replied the challenges were “not a struggle, but an exercise.”
Vibrations just celebrated its One Year Anniversary in December 2016, and continues to thrive.
How do aspiring business owners adopt the mindset of Raspberry? By paying attention to what has contributed to her success. When asked what’s the most important aspect, Raspberry gives all credit to her customers. With a very open approach to management, Raspberry has carefully observed the vibes and feedback of the people who’ve supported her throughout the year.
Secondly, it has been her product selection which is again based on what her customers demand. Originally the direction of Vibrations was to be a juice bar while expanding on the health store, but the initial demand for healthy groceries has not been as strong. Instead of pushing products that she personally enjoys, she increased the products that bring the highest profits. Vibrations still carries several health items outside of the juice bar and smoothies including teas, organic snacks, and even local honey.
Lastly Raspberry feels the success of her business is because of her flexibility. Raspberry is great about giving suggestions and making creations on the spot. Having sinus issues? She has a natural cure. Needing energy before a workout? She has the perfect health mix.
Raspberry has done well to continue the legacy of her father as well as demonstrating the passion businesses should have—living by the motto of Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”