Behind the strong woman are three boys cheering her on…
BY OLIVIA CAMERON-As a mother of three boys and a co-owner of an eye-catching new café, Kerri Jacobs barely has enough time to stop and smell the coffee. However, her integrity has taken her further than she envisioned.
Kerri was born and raised right here in the heart of Southwest Florida. While living with her mother, stepfather and younger brother, Dan, Kerri felt inclined to venture.
“When I was a teenager, I took my first job at Publix. I think that’s everyone’s first job around here. I don’t think you can be a Floridian if it’s not,” said Kerri.
She attended Lemon Bay High School just in time for students to be learning from portables while the school was being expanded. Here she met her life partner, Michael, at age 16.
Said Kerri: “Michael and I had our first son when we were young. Everyone told us, ‘you’ll never amount to anything. This is it.’ And I remember looking at them and thinking, no it’s not.” She believed that with enough perseverance, she’d appeal to her own passion.
Kerri began to balance motherhood with making a living. Her family packed up and moved to Colorado, where Michael attended school for the time being. When Kerri had her second son, their family became aware of a heart condition passed on to the boys. At the time, they’d enjoyed living creekside, but they eventually returned to Florida for her second son’s crucial surgery.
When the family relocated back to Southwest Florida, Kerri had her third son. “All three of them have heart conditions. It’s been hard for the family, but we went through it when we had to and then let it go afterwards,” she said. She saw her two younger sons recover from their surgeries with resilience. “It was not something we let the kids dwell on. Now, they’re so healthy they run circles around me.”
“I worked in Boca Grande for a short time, but I went back to being a stay-at-home mom for the past five years while I volunteered with the PTA,” said Kerri. When she joined efforts in working events with her friend Kati, who was also a mother to three boys, “that’s when we started talking about doing something on our own as the risk-takers we are.”
While working in real estate, Michael got word of a new business location available in the middle of Boca Grande.
“Michael asked me how I felt and what I wanted to do,” said Kerri. “Having kids and a career, especially when your guy has a career for himself, is hard to manage. When this new opportunity came up, I couldn’t say no.”
Her adventurous spirit took her to her dream of having a food truck or a coffee spot. Kerri drew her inspiration from a coffee shop in Colorado where she could stop in for a muffin while her toddler played in the kids’ zone. Kerri envisioned her own place, like the Colorado coffee shop, being a miniature oasis.
Kerri hopped on the phone with her friends, Kati and Lauren, to discuss a possible future café.
“We would be up until 1 a.m. brainstorming about fresh foods,” Kerri said. “Our dream fell into our laps. The idea was manifested from all of us.”
Together, the three partnered to open Bella Vida Boca Grande, a coffee and smoothie all-day café that serves acai bowls and other treats.
With the help of Kerri’s sister-in-law Kristina, the four have pieced the business together from day to night.
Bella Vida successfully opened for the Fourth of July weekend.
“People are shocked to find out we opened three weeks ago,” Kerri said. “Two of us are moms of boys, so we’re used to having those masculine households. So this is our thing. We wanted our personality to be strong in our pursuit.”
Kerri continued. “This café has been something we all talked about doing but didn’t quite know how we were going to make that happen,” said Kerri. “Just six months ago I was a stay-at-home mom with kids who came home from school for spring break with no plans of ever going back. Now, I’m here and excited for this new chapter.”
The success of their café relies heavily on the quality products they create. Kerri described the recipes as consisting of whole foods, healthy alternatives and original ingredients.
“Blue spirulina is a blue-green algae nutrient in our smoothie and smoothie bowls that gives them a vibrant blue color,” she explained. “We wanted to create items that are quirky like us. Sometimes playing around with ingredient mixes doesn’t work out, but that’s how you learn.”
Kerri is glad to have partnered in a business that began in mid-summer, so the menu could be established to its full potential by the time the seasonal population brings the town to life.
“Now the boys like to come into the café and are excited to see their moms work on something. Maybe they’ll find their moms might be cool,” she laughed.
With the support of her sons, Kerri is able to carry out her dreams.
“I always wanted to figure out who I was,” she said. “When you raise kids, they become your life. So, when I lost myself I had to take a step back. As a mom, you need to be happy with yourself before you take care of someone else. At 30, I hit a major turning point. I realized I accomplished so much of what I needed to do in my 20s but nothing of what I wanted to do. So then I needed very quickly to become my own person.”
Kerri continues to run Bella Vida alongside her closest friends. In the future they plan to offer live music, inspired by Kerri’s travels to Nashville, and expand on their everlasting menu.
Kerri recalled the fast pace of the world prior to the COVID outbreak.
“All of a sudden, this virus made us slam on the brakes. Life stopped being about what can you have and became about what you’ve already got.”