Before opening Vista Nutrition, owner Kayla Smith had always dreamed of owning her own business. After having two daughters within 11 months of each other, she started drinking teas and shakes to get healthy.
But Smith worked downtown, where she struggled to find options that were healthy and fast — "not only fast to get, but fast to consume."
"A lot of people nowadays don't have time to sit there and eat a meal, unfortunately," Smith said.
She said she wanted to fill the nutrition void with a shop that served quick and healthy beverages. However, being a mom with a stable job, she never thought she would see her dream materialize. It remained just that: a dream.
Then COVID-19 hit, and Smith was laid off from her job; she decided to put her dreams into action.
"I kind of just took a leap of faith," Smith said. "It's been the most rewarding thing I've ever done."
Smith opened Vista Nutrition on Jan. 2. The shop offers low-carb, low-sugar shakes ranging from 24 to 27 grams of protein and 200 to 250 calories. The loaded tea selections are sugar-free and 24 calories.
According to Smith, business was slow the first few days. She had no idea just how quickly things would pick up once students started returning for the semester.
Second-year accounting student Elle Warshawsky visited the store for the second time on a Wednesday with plans to return in the future. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she said she frequents similar shops at home and thought they were "more of a Northern thing."
"Honestly, I'm kind of surprised that they do have it now," Warshawsky said. "I just couldn't picture there being something like this down here."
The low-calorie beverages use two different protein powders with a combination of various flavors for the base of the shakes. While the menu includes roughly 100 drinks to choose from, including flavors such as brownie batter shake and gummi bear tea, Smith said they can try to put something together for any taste whether it's listed on the menu or not.
"I know it seems a little bit unreal," Smith said.
Part of the draw for students, according to employee Jacob Peterson, a fourth-year biology student, is the aesthetic of the beverages, which translates well to social media. The business is even offering a $1 discount to any customers who post a picture of their drink on their story. That's how students such as Warshawsky first learned about Vista Nutrition.
“People on social media, it’s all about what things look like,” Peterson said. “If it looks cool, and it's cheap, and people have the access to go experience it, they’re gonna do it.”
Although Smith's goal is to cater to anybody — teachers, business professionals and the general downtown population — students have nonetheless played a role in her business' development.
"When you leave home, it's hard because a lot of kids, the parents cooked healthy at home, and then they come to school and there's not a lot of healthy options," Smith said. "There are so many bars and that type of stuff in the Vista, but I wanted — there's a lot of people who don't participate in that, so I just wanted a positive, healthy environment."
Customers can stop by Vista Nutrition at 504 Gervais St. to shake up their routines.
Editor's note: The headline and social media posts for this story were rewritten after publication to avoid promoting diet culture and to better match the emphasis of the article.