Written by Amanda Hicks
“Give a voice to those dealing with mental illness and give refuge for people to explore their mental health,” is the for goal Uzima, the new smoothie shop on the corner of Fifth ave and Chesterfield that advocates for mental health according to Mayan Marshal. Right across from Carlow University, Mayan and Sheronica Marshall, owners of Uzima, deliver customers a wide variety of smoothies, açaí bowls, health shots, and more with a personal connection.
You might have been to Uzima before, but under a different name called ‘Salud Juicery Oakland.’ Uzima is the product of the rebranded Salud. The new name behind the business, which came to be in August of 2021, is part of a whole phrase, “Mti Wa Uzima”, a Swahilian saying meaning “Tree of Life”. The business name simply means Life. The rebrand of the font and logo came from their time in Angola, Africa. “The colors of the leaves represent the diversity of our society and our need for healing,” said Mayan.
As their company’s saying states, ‘defeating depression one smoothie at a time,’ Mayan and Sheronica want their customers, particular college students, to know that there is a place in Oakland where they can be safe and judgement free to discuss their mental well-being. Both owners do not want their customers to simply feel as if they are a business transaction, but a human with emotions. An idea prompted by Sheronica, as their employees share kindness with customers, they hope their customers return that kindness back to their employees. “That is the way every human interaction should go,” Mayan says.
Uzima’s business is full of stories of mental illness from the pop art of celebrities who have gone public with their own journey, to their product names like “Hope” and “Believe”. These names, created by Sheronica and their oldest daughter, were made to inspire their customers as they are strong believers behind words having power to build up or tear down others. Growing from this idea, Sheronica found her own inspiration by pulling the names from the Bible.
If you are not sure what to order, Sheronica and Mayan can help. Mayan’s personal favorite is the Grace smoothie. “It is light but not too filling,” according to him. He also states that due to its vanilla taste, customers can add an extra ingredient to it, making close to a dozen different adaptations to the smoothie which they call “Gracettes”. Sheronica is a fan of the “Love” smoothie. A mixture of strawberry and mango, she mentions how guests love “Love”! So, no matter if you stop by for “Grace” or “Love”, Sheronica and Mayan believe their ingredients can help people open up and have conversations about mental illness.