Young Black student balances business, college

DeKALB – For a lot of students at NIU, their focus is on school and getting to the next step in life; but Jada Samuels, a junior majoring in business, is doing both at the same time. 

Samuels runs a small business called Jada Juice. Jada Juice sells healthy vegan smoothies that are made with hand cut fruit and no preservatives.

Jada Juice had a chance to compete at a business competition called University Pitch Madness held at DePaul University in July 2023. Samuels was the first NIU student to participate in the competition in the six years it has been held. She was also the only African American student participating. 

University Pitch Madness is a competition for Midwest college students where different colleges send a student to pitch their business to judges. The judges decide whether they want to invest money into the student’s business to help them grow or not depending on how well the student has prepared and presented their business. 

“It was a great opportunity to just test my strengths and weaknesses with pitching,” Samuels said. “To my surprise, I won first place and audience favorite for a total of $7,000 to invest in my smoothie company, so that is definitely at the top of my list for one of my best accomplishments.” 

Samuels said she is hoping to use the money she won to invest more in the packaging of her smoothies.

“The food industry is very strict when it comes to packaging and labeling of the product, and so that can get very expensive,” Samuels said. “So this competition did a great job and provided me with the funds to be able to start that process and start making prototypes so that I can pitch my products to grocery stores such as Mariano’s and Whole Foods.”

Jada Juice is starting to expand from just her online shop to smoothie bars and stores. 

“I’ve actually established a partnership with CloudBar Chicago, it’s located inside of the John Hancock Building, downtown Chicago,” Samuels said. “It’s a bar that’s thousands of feet in the air, and it’s on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building, and I actually have my products at the bar where their visitors are able to come and grab the smoothies and enjoy the view of the magnificent downtown.” 

Samuels said each smoothie she releases has a reason for being created.

“Each smoothie I made specifically to combat against specific health issues and target specific health benefits,” Samuels said. “And I actually also started it so that I could begin educating my community on the importance of health.” 

Samuels said her mother’s struggle with high blood pressure growing up was what started her interest in healthy recipes. 

“I started to do research on home remedies that I can use to actually try and help her out,” Samuels said. “And I came across the benefits of fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and berries that are high in potassium that helps with high blood pressure. So I decided to make it into a smoothie, and it actually dramatically helped her high blood pressure.”

Latasha Harris is Samuels’ mom and a big part of the company. Harris said that Jada Juice was not originally a for-profit idea and was just something Samuels wanted to do to help her community. 

“We initially had a conversation about how the homeless received their nutrition during COVID because obviously they didn’t have the same access that we had,” Harris said. “And so we thought that would be a great idea to boost their immune system up and things like that.”

Jada Juice has come a long way, and there are many hopes for the future, Samuels said. 

“My goal is to actually have the Jada Juice smoothie bar on the campus of NIU so that the NIU students, along with myself, are able to have a healthy diet on their way to class or coming from class,” Samuels said. “I think it’s important that our students have healthy options because it’s been shown that a healthier diet also helps with your academic performance.”

Samuels said Jada Juice is for anyone, but she hopes young people and people in the Black community try Jada Juice because they often struggle to afford a healthy diet. 

“I do want to pour into the black community as much as I am able to because they are the ones I feel need to be most aware of the benefits of a healthy diet, because typically, the minority communities don’t have easy access, and can’t often afford to have a healthy diet,” Samuels said.

There are multiple flavors available now to order and try including the Slim Thick which has spinach, pineapple, mango and orange in it along with acai and chia seeds. 

Harris said that Slim Thick is her favorite flavor. 

“It’s very refreshing,” Harris said. “It instantly puts a smile on your face from the first sip, and it’s literally a common reaction to a lot of people.” 

Samuels describes Jada Juice as a “burst of happiness in the body.”

“You just feel happy, and it’s also a guilt-free way to just enjoy a snack or a healthy beverage. And a lot of people often have a stigma towards vegetable smoothies that they’re just going to be nasty,” Samuels said. “And that’s why I specifically made sure that my vegetable smoothies have a good balance of the nutrition and flavor and not one overpowering other because when individuals drink my smoothies, I want them to enjoy being healthy.” 

Samuels’ products are available for purchase on Jada Juice’s website. Smoothies range from $7 to $9, not including tax or shipping. Orders will be shipped to customers or to a drop-off location.

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