Prepping vegetables

Once I sit down, or rather, stand up with owner Amina Cordano, it becomes apparent that she is the center of that energetic company culture.

Amina Cordano WHJC

Whole Hearted Juice is one in a handful of juiceries that have popped up in Sacramento over the last couple of years. Most recently, they’ve landed a spot in the coveted MARRS building here in Midtown Sacramento, a block that’s become a hot bed for Sacramento retailers, restaurants, and even creative companies. Aside from being in the right place at the right time, Whole Hearted has a lot going for it. Not coincidentally, much of it seems to be based on heart, with no shortage of soul. The company places an emphasis on honesty, sharing, and its core values. Read on to learn about Cordano’s intriguing, new age approach to business.

Juice display

The Whole Story Behind Whole Hearted

“In 2011 I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. My heart was functioning at 19%. I really started looking at what I could do instead of being on five different medications. I was going to a heart failure clinic and I was the youngest person, fit and active. I started looking at alternatives and juicing. Juicing is where I found out about vitamins, minerals and enzymes. So I started juicing and eating really well. I always ate well but I wasn’t as conscious as I should have been. So I started eating really healthy, 100% organic, a lot of raw food and juicing. And that just shifted everything. My numbers were getting better. So I bought a miniature cold press machine. It would take me 6 hours to get 3 gallons of juice. I would spread all the produce from the farmers’ market on my counter. And it was this whole process to get just 3 gallons of juice. And then my neighbors and family started catching on and they would come over and be like, ‘so you’re making juice today, huh?’ [Laughs] At the end of the day, it would be gone. So I thought ‘Hm, I’m doing this three times a week, and people are loving it…’ So then I decided to get the big machine over there and find a commercial kitchen and start making juice! That’s how it kind of evolved. It was crazy. That was 18 months ago. So then fast forward from 2011 to now. About ten months ago, I went and had my EKG and my echo, and the whole thing and… my heart failure is completely in remission. It’s amazing. I’m on no medication whatsoever, I have no elevated blood pressure. I’ve never felt better.”

Prepared vegetables

What Sets Them Apart in a City Full of Juice

“Our ingredients, what sets us apart from everyone else is again, we’re 100% organic, and we’re in glass bottles. There are a couple companies in Sacramento that are using glass, which is amazing because they’re BPA-free. But what we do is – our blends are very high in vegetables and low in fruit and sugar. Sugars feed disease, feed cancers, feed colds. And [creating juices with health in mind] is the whole purpose behind what we do and what sets us apart from everyone else. We try to create a really good balance, like alchemy in a bottle. So that’s really important to us.”

Empty juice bottles

“Clear” Company Culture

“Another thing that sets us apart from everyone else is that every morning, before we start our day, we set an intention in the kitchen and we keep the energy level really really high. So we always have these little cards and we’re complimenting each other, and if someone’s in a bad mood, we encourage them to shift it and leave it at the door. Or, if there’s any kind of thing where a coworker upsets you, we’ll do a “clearing” and it’s so amazing. Everyone sits down and says, ‘Okay, I’m clear with you, I’m clear with you’, and we even use Whole Hearted as a chair. So you go around until you make sure you’re clear with everyone. You have about eight minutes to make sure you’re clear with someone and it shifts everything. It’s super powerful. You learn so much. Like maybe you were kind of moody today because you’re so passionate about how this turns out or about how that goes. It’s this amazing kind of family feel.”

Whiteboard reminders

Paddling Toward a Passionate, Co-Operative Company

“We also paddle board in the mornings on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The entire team is invited to come out and start sunrise with paddle boarding. So that’s something different. People working in the kitchen are encouraged to create juices and contribute ideas. In 2016, my goal is to make it an employee-owned and -operated company, so that if you work here, you actually have ownership, kind of like the Co-op does. That’s really important to me. That’s kind of why I started Whole Hearted, was to create that. I have attorneys involved, in setting up the whole dynamics of it and figuring it all out. It’s really important to me because I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it for the passion. It’s exciting, to every day wake up and be like ‘Omigosh, I’m going to come in and create this juice because people are going to drink this juice and their lives are going to be changed.’ It’s more than just juice.”

Storefront display board

On Bringing on a Partner for Balance

“I started as a sole proprietor, but I have someone who’s sort of coming on board – a nutritionist, Scott Estrada. He owns a small portion of it. He’s going to make sure there’s a good balance to what I’m doing, because I’m not a nutritionist. I’m self-taught with what I’ve learned.”

Roots in Farmers’ Markets

“We started at the Folsom farmers’ market, then we did Carmichael. Then now we just got a permanent [brick-and-mortar] home into Midtown. And we’re in Walnut Creek, which is one of our biggest [markets]. And we just launched at Heart of the City [Farmers’ Market] in San Francisco.”

A Window into Their Unique Retail Model

“We also have our model, the “juice windows” at MARRS at 20th and K and we just opened at Granite Bay Wellness Sanctuary and we are launching back into Zuda Yoga. We rent a space and create a juice window there. Zuda is a family, just like Whole Hearted. We just fit. And our next one will be Fitness Rangers.”

Storefront Walkway

Community-Focused Marketing

“We do a lot of community events. The farmers market is where we educate people, bring them in and let them sample. Maybe once a month or so, we do a workshop. And we partner with a lot of people to spread the information. Facebook is a big one. I’m just kind of learning how to target on Facebook. I just got off the phone with Yelp and it’s all new to me! A lot of our sales are coming from word of mouth.”

#bewholehearted

Pros and Cons of Owning a Small Business

“I love it, there’s so much! This morning I was lying in bed, and I was so excited to come into work. I love the employees and how we’re like a family. The most challenging part is to find consistency with employment and keeping people.”

Why Owning a Small Business in Sacramento Rocks

“Okay, so Sacramento loves the mom and pop. They don’t love the franchises. They’re so supportive in wanting small businesses to succeed that you couldn’t be in a better place. I just visited Seattle and Portland and L.A. and San Diego, and [Sacramento has] an amazing energy of people wanting you to succeed. It’s unreal.”

On Sharing and Transparency

“We deal with some juice companies that are so secretive, and I’m like, ‘Look, our recipes are printed.’ You can go home and make this yourself. See that label? Try it, it’s no secret. What I would like to see moving forward, is all the juice companies moving forward [together]. I want a lobbyist to get involved. I want a whole movement like the tattoo artists of just really moving to legalizing raw, unpasteurized juice in Sacramento so we can spread the love everywhere and create that movement.”

Competition – It’s Healthy!

“[As far as the competition goes], we kind of stay in our own hoola hoop. We just met with Molly and Tatiana of Sun & Soil. [I] love Lisa from Metro Juice. I’ve talked to Jeff from Liquidology before. It’s interesting. I would love to have an open juice forum. Competition is good.”

Juice refrigerator case

Why Jamba Juice Doesn’t Actually Suck

“I have a friend who was like, ‘Oh Jamba Juice, they suck.’ And I was like, ‘No, they don’t suck. They’re introducing people to juicing.’ And if it weren’t for Jamba Juice, they wouldn’t come to Whole Hearted. Without Sun & Soil educating… you know. There’s so much love to spread around. Competition is good. I so appreciate all of them for doing what we do.”

More Than Juice

“We are so much more than juice. We’re a lifestyle, we’re getting into food…There’s yoga, the paddle boarding we do, there’s so much more that goes into it instead of just being a bottle of juice.”

Her Advice for Future Small Business Owners

“Don’t give up. When a door closes, there’s like five more that open. And just [be a person] of integrity and clear, and things will happen. There have been days that have been tough, and now I’m so thankful that I’ve persevered.”

Plans for the Future

“We’re working with a few developers that are looking to create a juice lab for us downtown with big glass walls so people can come and see how it’s all made.”

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