COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - When it comes to the Saturday after Black Friday, "think local" is on everyone's mind. "Small businesses are the engine of our economy," Daniel Nordberg with U.S. Small Business Administration said. "Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for consumers to kick off the busy holiday season." Shoppers from all across the state made their way to Manitou Springs for Small Business Saturday, shopping throughout the town's dozens of shops and restaurants. "It's the healthy exchange," Gustavo Muniz, owner of BelaTerra Creations, said. "The community supports small businesses and the business provides the community with value."
"Remember the small people, because we're lots of fun and you can find lots of cool things," said Mary Ellen Connell with Mountain West Trading. According to SBA, for every dollar spent on supporting a family-owned business, 68 cents goes back to the community. 1.1 million small business employees call Colorado home, with nearly 99.5 percent of the state's businesses being locally owned. "Over 100 million Americans participated in Small Business Saturday and we're hoping this year we can match that and exceed that," Nordberg said.
Manitou Springs Mayor Ken Jaray, right, joins Bela Terra owners Erica Odom and Gustavo Muniz and their daughter, Gracie, at the 347 Manitou Ave. business on Wednesday, Nov. 21. It was the first stop on a tour of the area’s small businesses intended to draw attention to Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24. Officials including Dan Nordberg, regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, toured Bela Terra before going on to Mountain Man in Old Colorado City and businesses in Colorado Springs.
Photo by Rhonda Van Pelt
Story and photo by Rhonda Van Pelt
Here’s a familiar story: Gustavo Muniz and Erica Odom fell in love
with Manitou Springs while vacationing here. In their case, they’d traveled from Georgia with their daughter, Gracie, stayed a week and knew it was meant to be. “We were able to actually soak in
hot tubs as it was snowing. It was a magical experience,” Muniz said.
“We visited the downtown Manitou area, we met the people. We love the energy, the artistic people in this place. We decided, ‘You know what? Let’s make it happen; let’s move to Manitou.’” In November 2017, they were so eager to get here, they drove the 1,400 miles in two days. “At that time we were looking for a location. We came across a couple of possibilities on Ruxton, here and there. We noticed this place was
actually under construction,” Muniz said, speaking about their building, the former chainsawsculpture business across from the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce. Like many Manitou residents, they’re interested in having a healthful lifestyle and sharing their knowledge with others. In May, they officially opened Bela Terra, where they sell supplements, water-filtration systems and organic coffee. Muniz, a Sao Paolo native, writes about their journey to better health — and to Manitou — on their Bela Terra blog. At age 13, his good grasp of English helped him find work in Brazilian TV commercials. He soon realized that he was fascinated with the human body and enrolled in technical school. Muniz moved to the United States in 2001 and became a citizen in 2009; unfortunately, none of his certifications were accepted here, and he turned to construction work to support his family, which soon included Gracie. Having a child, of course, was a major turning point in their lives. “The whole reason we started any of these things was becoming parents and learning about what’s in our vaccinations, what’s in our water and our food,” Odom said. “It’s finding out these truths and doing the research on your own that just really opens your eyes to things. This is why we’re here and this is why we have these products, because we know.” Odom has sought more healthful ways to live ever since she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as a child. The second turning point: As Muniz writes on the blog: “About five years ago, I found myself overweight, stressed out and miserable working over 90 hours a week to provide for my family. “I would look at myself in the mirror and ask: ‘What am I doing wrong?’ I slowly realized that everything that I was doing was part of a world that wasn’t mine. I was living in it for everyone else and I was dying fast as a consequence of the psychological and physical stress I was under.” So he began to change his life, adding meditation and subtracting toxic foods and habits. The third turning point: Odom was diagnosed with basal-cell carcinoma on her upper back. She had taken Gracie along to her appointment with a dermatologist, not knowing what to expect. “After they said, ‘We’re going to have to biopsy this,’ it was like — it was an assembly line kind of thing. And they didn’t let you change your mind. They didn’t give me a second to change my mind,” Odom said. “They shot me seven or eight times in my back and then they took a chunk of me and said, ‘Oh yeah, this is definitely BCC.’” Completely traumatized and frantic, she called Muniz in tears. She was in too much pain to drive home. The couple decided they would treat her carcinoma with natural methods. At one point, her wound was so large, Muniz could fit his entire thumb into it. Today, she has a white scar on her back, but says all of the cancer is gone. “I was able to develop a reiki kind of therapy and help her manage her pain. So this is us, working together and overcoming the impossible obstacles. A small family just going through regular life shouldn’t have to go through this traumatizing situation,” Muniz said. Those turning points helped them find their mission in life. “As I was working on these industrial environments, manufacturing businesses and stuff like that, I noticed that the simple connection of just being kind to somebody would actually transform that person’s day. And then, slowly but surely recommending, ‘Hey, you know lifestyle changes … maybe you shouldn’t do that. It’s kind of hurting you.’” It can be as simple as advising someone to drink more water or take vitamin C, Odom explained. “People would really benefit from that. They’d thrive,” Muniz said. “They’d say, ‘Gustavo, you’re so good at this, thank you so much.’ I saw those results and I was like, 'Wow, this is really exciting.’” They both feel their lives have come full circle, and that everything they’ve endured and learned has brought them to this time and this place. Muniz used his construction skills to help their building’s owner complete the renovation, and they’ve got ideas for the space right behind the building and up the hillside. They hope to offer a meditation space and expand their product lines. Their goals for the next few years? “I would say a happier, healthier community,” Odom said. “The intent is healing for all. It truly is that pure intent of, ‘I want to help you feel better. Please let me know how we can do that,’” Muniz said.
Welcome Erica and Gracie Victoria Odom and Gustavo Muniz, business owners of the newly-opened Bela Terra, located at 347 Manitou Ave. Bela Terra is the only authorized dealer for Berkey Water Filtration Systems in the region. Bela Terra offers bioavailable botanical supplements, wholesale whole-bean coffee (roasted and unroasted), as well as high-quality essential oils. Check out their website, belaterra.us and stop in this weekend to say hello!