By Lajeune Hollis
It’s often said that there’s no love like a mother’s love. After Val McCray, owner of Heavenly Hair Growth Oil, underwent back surgery in 2019 and soon after suffered a heart attack, her mother was so worried about her daughter’s health that she began to suffer from hair loss. Eventually, she lost all of her hair until she was completely bald.
As soon as McCray recovered from her heart attack, she knew she needed to help her mother with her hair growth but didn’t know where to begin. She had always combed and styled her mother’s hair, and hated to see her in pain. So, she searched and found a local dermatologist who administered monthly scalp injections for her mother for three months. Sadly, the painful injections yielded no results.
"I truly want women to feel good about themselves. It makes me happy to see my product work."
Frustrated and heartbroken, McCray was determined to do some research to discover what could be done to help her mother’s hair grow back. She began experimenting on her mother’s scalp with organic herbs, oils and rice water, which contained the protein that was needed for her to strengthen her hair follicles. Her tender loving care paid off and her mother’s hair grew back, along with her confidence.
Since the mixture McCray created worked for her elderly mother, she thought it could work for other family members who suffered from hair loss. Each time she applied her mixture to their hair on a regular basis, it worked! She was onto something.
Her hair growth oil was, in her eyes, truly made with love.
Because McCray and her husband own McCray Realty in Bridgeport, her time is flexible enough for her to operate her online business, which she officially opened in 2020 on a full-time basis and began operating out of her living room, then dining room, then kitchen. When she ran out of room she took all of the products and created her own “laboratory” in their basement, where she now has plenty of privacy and room to work. She hopes to one day be able to operate her business out of a free-standing building so she can hire more employees and help quickly get her products into the hands of those who need it most.
McCray’s best friend, Sarah Brooks, was her “tester” because she too was losing hair on her temples from wearing her braids too tight. The Heavenly Hair Growth Oil worked so well for Brooks that she took a leap of faith and quit her job in customer service to partner with McCray.
She says she never went into the hair growth business to make money. She simply wanted to bring joy back into her mother’s life. And now, her primary focus is seeing her customers gain the results they want from her product line.
“I’m not looking to be a millionaire,” she explained. “I truly want women to feel good about themselves. It makes me happy to see my product work. I know it works, as it is helping women (and some men) grow their hair back.”
Heavenly Hair Growth Oil is ideal for women who are losing their hair due to advanced age, poor health, Alopecia or even long-term chronic illnesses like cancer. But, her product line also includes Heavenly Hair Beard Oil, which, according to McCray, brings together alma and vitamin E to create a glorious oil that lends a rich, voluminous look to beards.
Learn more about Heavenly Hair Products on their website, which includes descriptions and information on everything they offer:
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11/11/2021 0 Comments
JUST MAD VEGGIES: GROW WHAT YOU EAT
By Lajeune Hollis
“Grow what you eat, then you will be satisfied,” said Elijah Boles, owner and mastermind behind Just Mad Veggies, a gardening and apparel brand based in Oakville, Connecticut. “If you grow fruits and vegetables that you actually like to eat, chances are you won’t stop there.”
While still a child, Boles’ father inspired him to garden by sharing how to tend to a small garden his father and landlord took care of at their first apartment home. His father weeded the plants and then handed Boles the tomatoes and cucumbers. This simple act fostered a passion that would follow him throughout his life and eventually inspire him to start his business in December of 2020.
Boles started by growing organic and chemical-free vegetables, which led him down a health and wellness path as he and his workout buddy looked for better ways to fuel their bodies after track practice. While figuring out what to eat, they would often say “Let’s have grilled chicken and just mad veggies”—and the name stuck.
Now married, Boles is passing on the knowledge he learned from his dad two his two young daughters through gardening lessons. And it’s working–his three-year-old daughter can already distinguish between fruits and vegetables.
“If you grow fruits and vegetables that you actually like to eat, chances are you won’t stop there.”
Boles also encourages new gardeners to start off small—with just a tiny container on the window ledge—in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Through helpful tips, pictures and tutorials on the Just Mad Veggies website and social media, Boles brings a fun, modern approach to gardening. He shares advice on how to eat organic, healthy food without the expense, how to save and grow organic food, and how to grow urban gardens. He also shares how to change over gardens during season changes and highlights the therapeutic benefits of growing fruits and vegetables and even has a Gardener of the Month program.
In May 2021, Just Mad Veggies branched out to offer apparel, including baseball caps, t-shirts, tank tops and stickers. Boles will eventually offer seasonal apparel and plans to have Just Mad Veggies booths as festivals, markets and events throughout Hartford so he can interact in person with novice and veteran gardeners.
When asked what’s in his garden, Bole shared, “Last summer I grew three varieties of tomatoes, six [kinds of] peppers, three varieties of garlic, zucchini squash and yellow squash. From these vegetables I will make homemade salsa, bread and butter pickles and homemade pasta sauce. I have found that canning [food] not only helps to preserve your crops but also allows you to chill [foods] so you can use them later on in the year—I do not believe in waste.”
Eventually, Boles would like to grow sweet potatoes in his garden so he can make sweet potato pie and surprise his mother on a not-too-distant Thanksgiving Day.
Learn more about Just Mad Veggies or browse their online shop on their website, or follow Just Mad Veggies on Facebook or Instagram.
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By Lajeune Hollis
Debra Fountain has been in the fitness industry for over 25 years. Previously a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and fitness coach, she now owns LIFER Fitness Studio in West Hartford, Connecticut, where she offers cardio, strength training and yoga classes.
But, she wasn’t always so laser-focused on fitness. In fact, she once held a corporate job in New Jersey before leaving to become a stay-at-home mom 26 years ago. It was during those early days of parenthood when she felt that she needed to get back to her “old self” and improve her fitness.
After one day popping in a workout VHS tape that guaranteed results in 10 days or less, she started on her journey to her new identity, with fitness at the forefront. She started working in her home basement as a full-time personal trainer for what eventually led to helping a group of 60 middle-aged female clients reach their fitness goals. She loved her new career path, because she could stay in shape, raise her four children, and help her clients. She even managed to enter and place in two body-building competitions!
Fountain was inspired to create a lifestyle that empowered women. “If you feel strong on the outside, you'll start to feel strong on the inside,” she shared.
Her business name, LIFER, was inspired from the group of her 60 clients in Washington, D.C., who coveted her 6:00am personal training appointment. “Clients would come for their goals and they did not want to give up that spot,” she shared. “They called themselves ‘Lifers’.”
Today, LIFER Fitness Studio employs six fitness instructors who “love what they do and care about their clients,” according to Fountain. She selected each one of them because, as she says, she “worked long and hard enough in the corporate world to know how important it is to nurture and care for the people who work with you and for you.”
Fountain credits God for being the impetus behind opening her business seven years ago. She was content at the time, working in the fitness industry and not having small children to look after. She shared that it was a good life, and she was comfortable. But, “God would not have it,” she shared, and she felt compelled to do things a little differently and start her own business, even if it was tough. “Growing may be painful and there may be suffering,” she said.
She faithfully obeyed and opened her own studio during a milestone birthday year.
“Fitness will give you the best quality of life you can have.”
Fountain prays before each class. “It sets an intention for what I want my class to get,” she explained. Some people have likened her classes to church, from what they describe as intense feelings while working out.
Life – or should we say LIFER – was good, business was humming along and then the pandemic of 2020 hit.
Attendance slowed for her in-person classes, so Fountain started offering Facebook Live classes from March to June 2020. Then she took the classes outside where she could safely offer kickboxing, barre and cycling. After Thanksgiving, LIFER was forced to go completely virtual, so Fountain took the time to invest in virtual equipment to make her clients’ experience better. In April of 2021, LIFER resumed in-person classes, keeping safety measures in mind, like masking and air flow in the studio.
For Fountain, the silver lining of the pandemic was that it allowed her plenty of time to slow down and think about her “why” behind the business.
“I needed to check back into myself,” she explained.
She’s remaining focused on helping people live their best lives and to make fitness a lifestyle.
“Keep trying to find something – running, cycling, walking, swimming. You may not love it the first time but keep trying to live the best possible life on this planet,” she urged. “Fitness will give you the best quality of life you can have.”
LIFER Fitness Studio is located at 20 Jefferson Ave, Suite 6 in West Hartford, Connecticut. The studio offers Unlimited Monthly Memberships for a flat fee of $175/month, which includes unlimited classes from any of their five fitness areas, LIFER Class Packs, consisting of 10-class passes for $165 or 5-class passes for $85, drop-in classes for $17.50, and LIFER Virtual Workout Library, which offers virtual classes for a nominal fee.
Learn more about LIFER Fitness Studio on their website, on Facebook or Instagram.
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