Imani Murray (right) co-owns Ital Vital Living with her sister Latisha Taylor Burrell (left) and mother Deborah Taylor. Photo provided by Imani Murray.

Imani Murray started making juices out of her home in North Omaha in 2019 to educate people about healthy eating. That passion grew into Ital Vital Living, a juice and smoothie business she runs with her mom and sister at 2323 N. 24th St.

Juneteenth marked the two year anniversary for the drive-thru brick-and-mortar shop on North 24th Street. The Reader met with Murray to learn how she’s grown the business and brand, and what she’s looking forward to next for Ital Vital Living.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

The Reader: When we first chatted (in June 2021), the store’s paint job was new, you were just opening, and cars were lined up around the drive-through. How has the support from the community evolved?

Imani Murray: The community has always supported us so much. It’s just crazy having this business, and every day there’s five new customers that’ve never been here before and it’s their first time coming in. That always hits me — like, wow, people are still finding out about us and learning about us and we’re still getting the word out there about us, too.

TR: How did your business model change once you got your own storefront? What steps did you take that were different from your first two years selling juices out of your house?

Imani Murray: In the beginning, we were just doing pop ups and a lot of deliveries. We kind of toned down on deliveries and we have adjusted hours over the years. Now, we’re open from 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and then we do the farmers market [in Aksarben] on Sunday.

Trying things out has been the biggest thing. When we first opened we had a really huge menu and we found out that that didn’t work. That really wasn’t sustainable, you know, for having the everyday operations, because you’ve got to buy everything for the week and then we were running out of things quick. So we reduced our menu.

TR: How did you decide on the afternoon hours?

Imani Murray: I felt like the rush would come during lunch and then people would come after work. And we’re still like small staff, you know? It’s a family owned business with my sister and my mom, so it’s just what works best for us and the customers, too.

TR: What have you learned about building a brand and promoting your juices and your products?

IM: It’s funny, the start of Ital Vital was never to have a brick-and-mortar. That wasn’t on my mind — it was just to promote a healthy lifestyle. I started off just doing recipes [on a YouTube channel]. So I’ve always had the mindset of OK, I’m gonna promote my brand Ital Vital and then teach people how to make these smoothies or juices because not everybody has those tools, and juicing is still kind of new to people. So that’s how it started.

I feel like over time, [the brand has] just gotten stronger. Our partnerships have been huge. We’ve done a lot of collaborations when it comes to events and doing special smoothies for people. We’ve worked with Frozen [at the Orpheum] and Opera Omaha. We just did a high school poetry competition night. So the more collaborations we do, I feel like the more people reach out. That really helps both brands — myself and whoever I’m collaborating with — build each other up.

TR: That’s so cool. So the educational piece that’s always been a center point of your Ital journey is still a through-line in your business. What’s a collaboration you’ve enjoyed most?

IM: Project Intentional [a nonprofit providing resources for women in Omaha] paid for smoothies for expecting mothers. The first year, they bought over a thousand smoothies or juices, and offered them to new or expecting mothers. It was a really good turnout. That’s been my favorite collaboration.

The Bob Marley — layered with mango, raspberries and green spirulina — is Ital Vital Living’s most popular smoothie. Photo provided by Imani Murray.

TR: What do you look forward to for Ital Vital Living in the next two years?

IM: We want to stay on 24th Street just because this has been home for so long. We want to expand into a sit-down restaurant, or health hub, to have healthy vegan food, other healthy things and vitamins, like a health store.

TR: What have you learned as a business owner in the past two years of having a brick-and-mortar?

IM: The biggest thing I feel like I learned is just to pivot and go with the seasons of business. There’s always ups and downs and slow seasons. Just being able to survive through that, I think, is the biggest thing for all businesses. You’ve got to go through the waves to survive and think of new ideas. We do a lot of new smoothies and new juices. I feel like that helps us. Our innovation really sets us apart and helps us stay afloat.

TR: What do you think young entrepreneurs need from the city?

IM: Being a young entrepreneur, you don’t always see a lot of other young people doing it. So I feel like that can make people intimidated by it. I just feel like Omaha needs to be more welcoming, and just have more community for more young professionals to do things. And seeing more representation is really huge.

TR: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs starting out?

IM: Just do your best to put your brand out there. Really put yourself out there doing pop-ups, going to meetings, networking. I think that’s really huge just to start — be very consistent and don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a while to see a vision really happen. I’ve been doing this for four years. I’m just now seeing a little bit of the fruits of my labor. So it takes time, you know?

TR: What has surprised you most about your journey of creating Ital Vital?

IM: It’s funny, I’m very shy and not very outgoing. But then when it came to something I was passionate about, I was just knocking on doors and emailing everybody because I was really passionate about getting the story of Ital Vital out there. So I feel like the growth within myself has surprised me a lot with my business.

Imani Murray, owner of Ital Vital Living, celebrates the brick-and-mortar shop’s two-year anniversary on North 24th Street. Photo provided by Imani Murray.

TR: What has been your most popular item over time?

Imani Murray: Our Bob Marley — that’s been most popular from day one. It’s a smoothie that has mango, raspberries and green spirulina all layered, and people really liked that one. That one is never going anywhere.

Ital Vital Living’s storefront at 2323 N. 24th St. is open from 1 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday. Find Ital Vital juice products at the Aksarben Farmers Market on Sundays.

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Bridget Fogarty is a Report for America Corps member reporting with The Reader and its billingual (Spanish/English) sister publication El Perico.

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