Be'Anka Ashaolu '08 Opens San Jose's First Black Women Owned Coffee Shop

Sisters Be’Anka Ashaolu ’08 and Jeronica Macey knew they wanted to contribute to the social fabric of their hometown San Jose. They wanted to do something that would be meaningful to the community. With its bright and inviting environment, collection of local artwork, and footprint within a growing downtown region, the longtime dream turned into a reality this year when they opened Nirvana Soul, the first Black women-owned coffee shop in downtown San Jose.

“It means everything to do something in your hometown,” Be’Anka said. “Everyone kind of now feels like they have a piece of this place. With tech [companies] and everything, you feel like you’re pushed out a little bit. This was a good reminder that we’re still here, we can still do our things and San Jose still has this heart and soul.”

“We’re so happy to contribute to that.”

Jeronica has been in the coffee business for 17 years and knew early on she wanted to have her own company. Be’Anka works in marketing and, for a long time, was with a retail tech company and learned how these businesses marketed their products, built their companies. It gave Be’Anka the skills to act as the marketing arm of Nirvana Soul.

“The two of us were in the right place at the right time,” Be’Anka said. “Where we were like, let’s do something big together so we don’t have any regrets like why didn’t we start Nirvana Soul earlier in life.”

The idea of Nirvana Soul is around 15 years old but it really started to take form two years ago, shortly after Jeronica moved back to San Jose.

“We got to talking about it probably three or four months after she got home,” Be’Anka said. “We had a vision party with some friends of ours at the end of 2018 and that’s when we put on our vision boards we’re going to open Nirvana Soul.”

It was not always in the plans to be in the downtown area. Jeronica was focused on opening her dream business; location was not going to stop her. Be’Anka had bigger plans.

“I like doing things big so I said if we’re going to do this in expensive San Jose already, let’s do it where we actually want to be, where there are people, where we love, in downtown, and let’s just shoot for the stars.”

They secured the location in March, just in time for the pandemic. However, because they needed to do some remodeling, by the time coffee shop finally opened a few months later, people were itching to get outside and do something.

“Over time, especially over the last 10 years, it has grown and transformed,” Be’Anka said of downtown San Jose. “We knew we wanted to contribute to having something more to do here and I think everyone is feeling that energy that was paused by the pandemic.”

Giving back to the community is something that has stuck with Be’Anka since she was at Saint Mary’s. 

“I think about Saint Mary’s pretty often and the reason I think about it is because of ‘Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve,’” she said. “That motto and that saying has stayed with me literally my entire career. Volunteering and giving back was already part of my DNA [when I graduated].”

Nirvana Soul is located at 315 S 1st Street in San Jose.