Kelsey and Jody Vasileff are the owners of Southern Squeeze, a vegan cafe in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Chattanooga native Kelsey Vasileff had been a vegetarian since she was 12 years old and was passionate about unprocessed, natural, high-quality nutrient-dense foods and cold-pressed juices. As a yoga instructor, she wanted to share this passion with those she taught.
Kelsey had discovered that Chattanooga didn’t have the kind of vegan cafe that she was looking for—but it was something she wanted to see in her city, so she thought that other people wanted to see too.
In the summer of 2013, she did what any enterprising, passionate person would do: She decided to start her own.
“I wanted to start a juice bar because I had been looking to do something that went hand in hand with yoga, so that I could continue to do both,” Kelsey explained. “Chattanooga is my home and I was driven to start a business that will contribute to its continued growth. Healthy thriving individuals create a healthy thriving city!”
Kelsey was serious about her business and its success in the Chattanooga community. So she started digging around and doing research into business plans. That’s when a friend told her about the new CO.STARTERS Core program through The Company Lab.
The ten-week program was just kicking off, with a focus on creating an atmosphere where anyone feels like they could start a business and contribute to the community.
So Kelsey signed up for the program.
"CO.STARTERS Core introduced me to a diverse group of people with different mindsets and feedback, who brought a variety of things to the table as a sounding board."
Kelsey went through the very first CO.STARTERS Core program, facilitated by CO.STARTERS co-founders Enoch Elwell and Rebekah Marr, in the summer of 2013.
“CO.STARTERS Core introduced me to a diverse group of people with different mindsets and feedback, who brought a variety of things to the table as a sounding board,” Kelsey said.
During the program, Kelsey gained confidence in her business, created a sustainable business plan, and even invested in a high-quality, hydraulic press juicer. She believed in the products that she was selling, and she thought that the rest of the town would benefit from them too.
The following spring, Kelsey and her husband, Jody, opened Southern Squeeze, and it was a resounding success. The shop built a dedicated customer base, who looked to Southern Squeeze for nutritious, high-quality, and tasty juices, smoothies, and breakfasts.
Her CO.STARTERS cohort cheered her on, both in person and in their online group, throughout the process.
Since her experience in CO.STARTERS Core, Kelsey has expanded her menu, opened another location, weathered a pandemic, closed her secondary location, and kept pushing through and forward.
“There might be hiccups in your business,” Kelsey explained. “But the most important thing is to follow your gut and keep your eyes on your goal. It’s so easy to get lost in what other people think. But you have to be passionate about your business—it has to be something you feel soul-led to do, and you have to just keep doing it.”