by Lindsay Miller
You may have already heard the buzz (pun intended) about the new restaurant off Charlotte Avenue in West Nashville, but what do you know about Jennifer Masley, owner and creator of EiO & The Hive? On a cool, windy day, we sat down with Masley to find out more about the lifestyle and background of this busy bee.
After eating at EiO, it might surprise you that Masley’s career started in personal training, not the restaurant business. While always trying to live an active lifestyle, Masley prospered in high level triathlons. “People would just come up to me and say, ‘You look in shape. Will you train me?’ and from there it just became a business,” she recalls.
As a natural entrepreneur, Masley says she is an “idea person” and highly motivated to turn her ideas into reality. Controlling her own schedule so she could spend more time with her children eventually led her to become her own boss. “Being able to work from home, be with my kids, and run a business was a nice trifecta,” Masley happily explained.
After graduating with a BA of Science from the University of Maryland, Masley studied at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Spending time in both Michigan and South Florida before finding her way to Tennessee. Masley would take trips to see her daughter at Belmont University until her current business partners persuaded her to call Nashville her home for the last three years.
In 2008, Masley and her family took a hard hit during the financial crisis, her husband, at the time, being in real estate. “We lost a lot over night and it became a sink or swim situation. I started to think about all the things I could do and was currently doing, but how I could help my family. We were surrounded by this hurricane and while my husband was in shock, my reaction was to turn on go mode.”
Along with training, Masley was making a raw, organic energy she called Pure Jenergy. That same year, she took her idea to Facebook and was pleasantly surprised with the positive reaction. “People were asking me where to get them and placing orders. My kids were helping me make and package the bars to set out on our front porch. People would come by to pick them up and leave their checks taped to the front door.”
Seeing a little success gave Masley the motivation to do more. She started making detox juices and smoothies, but even then, Masley wanted to learn more about her new craft and took steps to further her education. “I came from research based thinking, so it was all about finding the right resources to teach myself from every direction. Not just what I believed but looking at all angles to see how people view health in all aspects. I needed to know both sides worked before I could make an informative opinion.”
By the fall of 2010, Masley was using social media as her main business platform. She had her energy bars, detox juices, smoothies, and was now teaching raw food classes. She had 300 customers rotating in and out of her 5-day detox schedule. She jokes, “I think at that point, I knew what it looked like, people coming to my front porch all the time, and I had to tell my neighbors, ‘I promise, I’m not selling drugs!’” During that same year, however, her husband [at the time] was diagnosed with leukemia. “I wanted to take a holistic approach, but they said we didn’t have time. He went to the doctor and was admitted [for treatment] that day. I’ve always been the type of person to take a ‘back to the basics’ approach, but there just wasn’t time. He immediately started chemotherapy.”
“So the situation very quickly turned into, ‘Ok. How can I help him?’. I collaborated with doctors on what he could eat and how, but I couldn’t give him anything that would counteract the chemo. I had to know how certain ingredients affected his treatments. Then we learned his cancer was incurable without stem treatment.”
Around this time, a woman named Julie Abraham came to Masley to discuss opening her own gym and wanted to integrate a juice bar. Masley reveals, “Julie knew what we were facing and that we were climbing out of a hole, but she was our angel for letting me lease the space for our juice business. After that we were able to open four juice bars in one year. We wanted to expand the juice business, but we all agreed juice needed food. This way we could expand in an all-around organic market.”
“The juice bar became the conceptional idea to EiO & The Hive. The idea was always there but in my head, I wanted a restaurant that exemplified real, true, health. I’m a huge proponent of local. If everyone ate and shopped within a ten mile radius, what a healthier world we would live in: Economically, nutritionally, relationship wise, the community. That is really where EiO evolved from.”
I’m personally hoping the Charlotte Avenue location is the first of many EiO restaurants. Masley’s plan is for each location to be designed to fit the surrounding community, delivering the same raw, organic food she’s surrounded her life around.
When Masley reflected on her experiences, she recalls, “It made me think a lot about community and how we connect with people. We don’t always realize how we are [making an impact]. Just listening to others and not rushing away because we are too busy makes for such a supportive environment. This is all a part of real health. It’s food, it’s friends, people, fitness, what we do with our time, and what we put our energy towards.”
Masley has taken her ideas and become an integrated part of Music City’s growing health and fitness community. She is humble, adventurous, and willing to put in the hard work. “I have always felt so blessed that what I was doing to help support my family actually helped to save my children’s’ father’s life. But I still feel like I am riding this wave. But when the tide shifts, I’ll shift with it.”