Nakesha White is getting it done — for herself, her family and her community.
The former nurse turned entrepreneur is opening her third business with the intent of giving neighbors in Charlottesville’s Fifeville neighborhood and across the city a place to celebrate, meet and teach.
White is putting the finishing touches on the Royalty Event Center in the Cherry Avenue Shopping Center to serve as a for-hire community space at a reasonable price.
“There’s really nothing out there that’s affordable for normal people to have a big event,” White said. “If you just want to have 20 people over to celebrate a birthday or a neighborhood event, there’s nothing out there. There are a lot of people who want to do things but don’t have a platform or a location to do it.”
The event center is located in the spot that once served as a karate studio and tax preparation center. It includes front space, a raised floor and separate rooms suitable for classroom or office space.
The location is being remodeled but is open for use now. It has hosted a community open house and some charity events, and White said several groups have made future bookings of the facility.
The idea of an event center struck White smack in her entrepreneurial spirit after talking with friends and acquaintances about the challengers of finding a venue and the cost of renting hotel space or private rooms.
“We have a lot of people reaching out to us already wanting to talk about the center,” White said. “I know a lot of people who want to plan baby showers, wedding showers and other events but finding a venue to hold them costs so much money, they just can’t do it. I think it’s important that anyone who wants to have an event can find a way to do so without breaking the bank.”
The center is something of a spinoff business for White, who turned her love of things baked into Royalty Gourmet Cupcakery Catering and her love of cooking into the Royalty Eats soul food restaurant. Both are in the Cherry Avenue Shopping Center.
Her catering clients include four private schools between Culpeper and Staunton and many special events around the region. The restaurant is open between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., serving lunch, dinner and dessert items.
For White, being in, of and for the community is important. She has supported backpack and school supply drives, spoke at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail to inmates about entrepreneurship and worked with numerous local groups to lend a helping hand.
Royalty Eats even caters warm meals at Friendship Court every Tuesday and Thursday for residents of the subsidized apartment complex.
Her catering business started out of her love of cooking and baking when she gave up nursing and moved to Georgia to take care of her mother.
“I starting using my baking skills and cooking, and people would start placing orders with me for things they wanted or needed, and when we’d come back home from Georgia, the car would be packed full,” she recalled. “When we decided to move back to Virginia, we also decided to launch the bakery.”
The bakery and catering service opened in February 2017. The restaurant opened this past May, the idea hitting White while attending a cooking boot camp led by Antwon Brinson, of Culinary Concepts.
“I had a lot of people reach out to me from the catering business asking about lunch and asking when I was going to open a restaurant,” she said. “While I was in [Brinson’s] program, I told him I planned on opening a restaurant and he said that it was a good goal.”
White laughed, recalling how Brinson had misconstrued her statement.
“I said, ‘you don’t understand what I’m saying. I’m opening a restaurant next month.’ When I decided I’m going to do something, that’s what I’m going to do,” she laughed. “When I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it!”
That’s how the event center came along, as well.
“I kept hearing people talk about not having a place to go and there was this vacant place right next door and I took a leap of faith and said, ‘this is what I’m doing,’” White said, noting that her husband and family have supported her efforts. “You only live once, and if you don’t live your dream when you can, you aren’t going to see it come true.”