Southeast Business Plan winner sets sights on holistic neighborhood fitness center
Sammi Blaque doesn’t hide the fact that she’s a unicorn. Instead, the 32-year-old wears it on her sleeve … or rather, on her head.
Blaque, a yoga instructor, certified hypnotherapist and this year’s winner of the Southeast Business Plan Competition, is a fixture in Southeast Colorado Springs. Rarely is there a networking, business or community-engagement event that goes unattended by the vibrant woman with the broad smile, contagious enthusiasm and ever-present unicorn headband.
And wherever she goes, a wave of positivity seems to follow.
It’s all part of Blaque’s entrepreneurial vision of bringing whole-body health and wellness to the neighborhood.
“I want people to live deliberately. I want people to love deliberately,” she said. “I want people to feel differently.”
Blaque is the founder of The Venus Collective, a holistic health and wellness concept that includes yoga, hypnotherapy, mindfulness, essential oils instruction and sales and life-skills coaching. She currently teaches yoga classes at The Social on the city’s Northeast side, and offers the other services online and on a by-appointment basis. But after claiming the title in the Southeast business competition, she has her sights set on premises – specifically the redeveloping Mission Trace Shopping Center.
“I want people to know that the Southeast is a really cool place,” she said. “The natural beauty, the (wonderful) people. This is a great place to reawaken, reconnect and grow or transform.”
** Related content: From idea to execution **
The Southeast Business Plan Competition, an offering of the Southeast Express and its sister paper the Colorado Springs Business Journal, aims to grow the area’s economy by planting the seeds of entrepreneurship. More than 30 would-be business owners submitted plans to either launch or grow a company in the 80910 and 80916 ZIP codes.
From that field, four finalists were selected to make 3- to 5-minute pitches April 25 before a packed house of more than 100 community leaders, investors and residents at the Hotel Elegante. At stake was roughly $20,000 worth of consultation, services and cash from partner sponsors to help move the business forward.
“I want people to know that the Southeast is a really cool place. The natural beauty, the (wonderful) people. This is a great place to reawaken, reconnect and grow or transform.”
Blaque is no stranger to business development. Her earliest brush with entrepreneurship, as she recalls, came when she was 5.
The story goes that she took a stack of plain paper and a green marker, and scribbled a series of incomprehensible marks all over the paper.
“I went outside and started yelling, ‘Extra! Extra!’” Blaque said, waving one hand above her head. “I went door-to-door and I made my neighbors give me a nickel or a quarter and I sold them the paper.”
She’s learned a bit since then.
A native of San Bernardino, Calif., Blaque studied fashion design and merchandising. After struggling to find paid employment in the industry, she changed careers. Blaque spent eight years at Wells Fargo Bank, working her way from teller to junior underwriter.
And although she described the banking giant as “a really phenomenal place to work,” Blaque’s heart wasn’t there.
“I lost myself a bit,” she said.
Her husband La-Mont joined the Army, and the couple was stationed at Fort Carson. They bought their home in Southeast Colorado Springs and enrolled their daughter Brielle at Soaring Eagles Elementary School.
And yet, it took time for Blaque to find her place in the community.
That followed a car crash and the awakening of her interest in hypnotherapy, yoga and holistic personal care. The therapy, exercise and personal redevelopment helped heal her mind, body and heart, she said, in what became a “life-changing” revelation.
“I feel like this great gift has been given to me and I’m the guardian of it,” she said.
She opened her own business, but things really started to evolve when she got to know her current mentor, entrepreneurial instructor Taj Stokes of the Thrive Network. She is slated to graduate from the eight-month program June 25, and from there, well, Blaque doesn’t think small.
“I knew I had to share it with people,” she said. “I really do hope my brand can evolve to this global platform where people do feel supported to live a holistic lifestyle.”
Check it out
Who: Sammi Blaque
What: Trap & Yoga class
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, June 6
Where: The Social, 3506 N. Academy Blvd.
Meet the finalists
From a field of 32 applicants, four budding entrepreneurs presented their business plans April 25 at the Hotel Elegante Conference & Event Center. The finalists were:
• Alisha Arnold with the expansion of Cupcakes and Sweets LLC, her cottage bakery that offers unique, customized and memory-making pastries. The proposal included a social-enterprise model that would donate a portion of revenues to a local nonprofit. (Facebook.com/cupcakesandsweetsllc/)
• Sammi Blaque with The Venus Collective, a holistic health center offering yoga, hypnotherapy, essential oils, life coaching and other wellness programming, as well as space for partner practitioners and instructors. (www.JointheV.co)
• Aubrey “Bo” Bowale of Greenbox and Southeast F.R.E.S.H., a social enterprise that would deliver affordable, healthful and plant-based cuisine to employees, residents and students throughout Southeast.
• Mattie Gullixson for Joy Ride, a low-cost van line service that would help alleviate the so-called “first mile/last mile problem” in a transit-strapped area. The proposal, modeled on proven projects in larger cities, would help clients get from transit hubs to their final destinations, or vice versa.