Just past the check-in desk of Firehouse Gym Calhoun stands Jalen Hamilton, Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) graduate and owner of A1 Nutrition, who greets customers with a smile and a custom workout for the day.
“Our teas, shakes and smoothies are low in sugar and calories and high in protein to help the body recover after a workout,” said Hamilton. “I have the nutrition facts on the counter so people can see what is in their drinks.”
The Calhoun businessman launched his enterprise in May 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to impact small businesses. Hamilton said he researched nutrition related products and was ready to bring his meal replacement shakes, smoothies and teas to the market.
“I wasn’t going to let anything stop me,” he said. “I hit the ground running on my birthday, May 8.”
After working several events for local gyms, Hamilton partnered with Firehouse Gym Calhoun in November. Since occupying his space in the gym, the GNTC graduate has worked to build his customer base. In his downtime, he creates new recipes and updates the social media channels for his business.
Customers Linda and Al Welch, along with fellow gym member Theresa Ronig, make sure they stop by A1 Nutrition before leaving the gym. After consulting the menu on the wall, the trio all decide on a turtle cheesecake meal replacement shake they saw Hamilton post on A1’s Facebook page.
“Everything he posts looks so good,” Ronig said. “There are so many I want to try.”
Linda Welch said her favorite so far was a caramel macchiato milkshake, but is willing to give anything on the menu a chance. Welch said the shakes are so good she usually finishes hers and her husband Al’s in the car before they get home. As the three paid for their shakes and left, Hamilton handed them a flyer for a “lunch and learn” event he is hosting at the gym.
“Come learn about healthy living,” he said. “I’ll be buying lunch.”
Hamilton said he hopes to host these types of events once a month. “Health and wellness events allows me to have one-on-one time with new and established customers,” he said.
The entrepreneur said his next step is to open a brick and mortar location in Calhoun, while still operating his space in Firehouse Gym Calhoun. He wants to create a full-service nutrition shop with a similar smoothie and shake bar. He is considering a few different locations, but nothing is final yet.
Hamilton graduated from Georgia Northwestern Technical College in 2016 with a Technical Certificate of Credit in Entrepreneurship. During his time at GNTC, Hamilton was active in both SkillsUSA and Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), one of the largest and oldest student business organizations in the nation. He placed fourth in the Future Business Executive category at the PBL state competition and competed in the Prepared Speech category at the SkillsUSA state competition.
“The thing about Jalen is that he has a fearless entrepreneurial spirit,” said Mark Upton, GNTC instructor and program director of Marketing Management. “He was always engaged in class and would bounce business ideas off myself and other students.”
To Upton, it was no surprise to see Hamilton launch a business during a global pandemic. The GNTC instructor said his former student has always asked good questions and did his research when it came to business ideas. Upton says he encourages his students to build their businesses based on their passions.
“Jalen has always been into health and nutrition,” Upton said. “I am thrilled for him and look forward to watching him grow his business.”
Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 12,454 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,730 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 4,724 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at www.GNTC.edu. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.