By Kiri Lanice
Walton, Staff Writer
Young woman escapes abuse, finds passion to help others
Alecia Venkataraman is not even 24 years old, and she has helped her
father open a digital production business, is working on her MBA at
Belmont University and helping people make their lives beautiful.
On June 5, she opened the doors of her own non-profit organization, Make
It Beautiful, in Cool Springs after four months of planning.
However, only two years ago, this ambitious woman with so much promise
had no hope and did not want to continue living. She spent two years in
an abusive marriage and when she finally left, her self-esteem had been
plummeted and she was not sure if there was anything left for which to
With the support of her family and friends, Venkataraman was able to put
one foot in front of the other and move forward and there is no slowing
her down now.
The organization's mission is simple, but powerful: help individuals
gain access to resources that may be out of reach or too costly in order
to make their lives beautiful.
When people come to Make It Beautiful, which is essentially a resource
center, they learn to answer two questions: Where are you? Where do you
want to be?
Then they, along with Make It Beautiful coordinators, develop an action
plan to reach their destination. Venkataraman said the action plan is
very similar to a business plan.
The organization will also offer programs such as, "Just Be Kids" -
assisting terminally ill children and their families; "Single &
Strong" - empowering single parents and their children; "Second Chances"
- encouraging individuals starting over in new life circumstances; and
"Create" - an art expression program for individuals to express
emotions, build relationships and receive hope.
"I guess it all started four years ago. I married the man of my dreams.
We dated for three years and it just seemed like a good fit for us,"
It was on her honeymoon, she said, that she found out about his "second
life." She discovered that he was abusive, an alcoholic and had
relationships with other women.
"It was really, really devastating to me especially to find all of this
out just a couple days after I vowed my life," Venkataraman said.
However, she decided to stay in the marriage to make it work because of
an inner tenacity. She had graduated high school at 16 and from Belmont
University at 19 and had always followed through on anything she began,
and she wanted to see her marriage work.
"I'm a very committed person. I really loved this man, and I wanted to
do everything I could to try and make it work. I tried to get him some
help," Venkataraman said, but then she began to realize there was no
hope for the marriage.
Things continued on a downward spiral and got to the point that
Venkataraman would hide in her car or the closet and she feared for her
"It's important for anybody that feels like they may be with someone who
has abusive tendencies or is an alcoholic that they first of all
realize who they are and that nobody deserves that," Venkataraman said.
She finally realized that she had a choice to continue to stay in the
abusive relationship or to attempt to make a change and get out.
"To be completely honest, I just had no self esteem. I had no self
worth. I didn't think it was worth fighting for, I just thought it would
be too hard."
She said a simple prayer, "God if you have anything better for me in
this life then just get me out of here."
She contacted friends and family and left with $50 in her pocket. She
moved to Nashville and began rebuilding her life, her self worth and a
road for others to do the same.
She had to determine her passions and how she wanted the rest of her
life to be. Her friends and family called her every day to remind her to
just put one foot in front of the other and take it day by day.
She began to realize that she wanted to own a home, go back to school
and earn her MBA and to pursue a business career.
June 5 was not just the grand opening of Make It Beautiful, but it was
the two-year anniversary of when she left the abuse behind.
"And in these two years, God has really made my life beautiful. I own a
home. I launched this nonprofit. I have another business I started with
my family and I'm getting my MBA at Belmont."
She said she has great relationships with both her family and friends
and has learned to trust people once again, and is more confident in who
"In walking this journey over the past two years, I've developed this
passion because there are thousands of women in their closets tonight.
There are thousands of women and men grieving, going through a divorce,
maybe they've lost someone they love."
"There's a lot of people that feel that hopelessness that I felt."
To offer people a support group and network, Make It Beautiful
facilitates Empowerment Group of about 12 people with similar
circumstances who meet for an hour each week for eight weeks. They work
through curriculum that staff at Make It Beautiful have written and "we
ask them to dream," Venkataraman said.
She said it offers a network and a sense of family for the group
members. The first group began meeting on June 23 and another will be
Venkataraman said she wants to walk into the lives of these people and
"empower them to take the steps necessary to make their lives beautiful
so that they can look back, two, three, four, five years from now and
say, 'Wow, my life truly is beautiful.'"
It was February when Venkataraman began asking people around her for
help, to volunteer to help others realize their own goals. Four months
later, it is a fully operating resource center.
"The community has been absolutely phenomenal," she said. When people
have not been able to give funding, they gave of their time, resources
"I just want to thank everybody in the community. We've had so much
support, so many volunteers. I honestly mean that we could not open
without support from the community."
For those who want to help support Make It Beautiful, there is the Latté
Program, which for the price of one latté per month, supporters can
donate funds to the organization.
Also for those wishing to become involved in other ways or to seek
services from Make It Beautiful, visit their Web site at
There are 12 staff members, three of whom are paid and the others
volunteer their time.
Her vision for Make It Beautiful is to have a second location open by
next year and to eventually have a chapter in every major city.
"I feel that every one can benefit from an organization like this,"