Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Joanna Brooks, owner of Embody Yoga, uses Jrue Holiday grant to expand mission

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- CBS 58 introduced you to Joanna Brooks, owner of Embody Yoga, last summer. She had just received a $25,000 grant from the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund.

The Milwaukee Bucks star and his gold medalist wife donated a million dollars to Black-owned businesses and non-profits. We checked in with Brooks to see how she's using the money to expand her business, and her mission.

"Embody Yoga is here," said Joanna Brooks, pointing out the yoga studio space on a blueprint of her new wellness center, simply called Embody.

The plans are all drawn up for Embody, which has found a new home at 4650 N. Port Washington Rd. in Glendale.

"Embody has been a dream of mine that I've been holding close to my heart for a few years now," Brooks said.

That dream is quickly becoming a reality. Brooks is already teaching yoga classes at the new location, with much more to come.

"We'll have massage, therapy services, we'll even have mental health," said Brooks, who has a background in counseling.

Artist renderings show her vision for what the two yoga studios will look like. One will be jungle-themed and filled with plants.

"Our jungle studio will literally be a jungle-- overrun with plants. Plants from the ceiling, plants in the windows," she said with excitement.

The other studio will have a desert theme for hot yoga.

"We'll be playing R&B, hip hop, neo-soul," Brooks said of the vibe, which will also included lighting that can change colors.

CBS 58 first met Brooks at her studio space in Milwaukee's Sherman Phoenix, soon after she was named a JLH Fund recipient.

"That fund has been so instrumental and so helpful for me in so many ways," she said.

Brooks has gotten business coaching and has raised more than $75,000 through a crowdfunding effort.

"In 25 hours, we hit our first milestone, $25,000," she said, noting how surprised she was by the speed in which the money started being donated.

She's been touched by how many clients and supporters have pitched in to help her raise the money in just a month.

"I knew my city would support me, because they always have," she said. "That's how we've made it six years in business and survived a pandemic. But $75,000 just seemed like a really big goal."

Her mission has always been to share yoga with people of color. Brooks said her clients are impressed with the new space.

"Already, some of our students are like, oh, the space looks so good and we're so excited," Brooks said. "They are a part of it. You know, it's for them."

She's also committed to training new teachers.

"There are so many new yoga teachers who are serving under-represented communities, just like Embody Yoga, right? And they need a beautiful space to practice in," she said.

Embody will also provide new business opportunities for other wellness practitioners, who will be able to do business there.

"We'll be also supporting wellness practitioners, small business owners focused on wellness, by offering them really competitive and really reduced commercial leasing rates," Brooks explained.

Her passion for yoga started when she was a kid. She'd wake up and practice with Priscilla Patrick on PBS. Years of hard work have led to this 5,000-square foot space.

"So walls will go up, flooring will go down," she said, pointing out where construction will be starting this month.

She hopes to have Embody open early next year.

"What it's done for me is left me in awe of how life works and how it guides us down a path," she said.

To find out more about Embody, visit https://www.embodyyogamke.com/.

And to donate to the crowdfunding effort, visit https://www.fundblackfounders.com/embodyyogamke.

To nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.

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