Ashley “Elbi” Elm loved living and being inspired by her surroundings in Savannah, Georgia. After connecting the local creatives in her city, Elm launched The Culturist Union back in 2019 to serve as a creative hub for the city’s talent. Now, she’s taking her venture one step further by opening a coffee shop.

Elm says she originally got the idea after seeing a lack of co-working space options for Black creatives and entrepreneurs to network with each other.

“It was birthed out of the problem here in Savannah, that creators who are people of color didn’t have a place to gather, commune, or come together. I wanted to fill that void by creating a safe space for us,” Elm said in an interview with the Savannah Morning News.

She says she got the idea to grow the co-working space to a coffeehouse after entering a business competition to raise funds for her company. “I decided to pivot from a co-working space to a coffeehouse after winning BizPitch Savannah in 2019 and realizing how much capital it would be to actualize that concept,” she adds.

Elm was able to move forward with her goal after winning a business grant through American Express that allowed her to open her long-awaited coffee shop, sharing the news on her Instagram page. “After receiving a $25,000 grant from @americanexpress 100 for 100 program, @elbi_elm has the capital to bring her vision for the @theculturistunion to life,” wrote the company in the caption. “Standing at the corner of 35th and Bull Street, Elm is in negotiations to open The Culturist Union coffee shop that would be a place for Black creators and entrepreneurs to commune.”