‘I went full force’: Multi-business owner gives back to community
By Gabriela de Camargo Gonçalves
A little girl from Westin walked down Broad Street on her way to school; now, years later, her business stands on the same street.
It all started in Richmond where Dee Deans grew up. She eventually went to Strayer University for a business administration degree, but later on decided to drop out and become a full-time entrepreneur — it didn’t work out at the time, she said.
Deans eventually took up being a sales representative, which transitioned into opportunities in California and learning how the corporate world works; but, entrepreneurship still lived on, even as a “side hustle.”
Deans tried to be a full-time business owner many times throughout her life, but failed because it was hard to get the necessary information and resources, she said.
From California, to Houston, and then in the transition back to Virginia, her first business venture with business partner Barry Coleman was the nonprofit for financial literacy, We Are the Youth. It won Best of Richmond 2022, an annual award by the Richmond Award Program in the nonprofit category, according to its press release.
We Are the Youth provides life-affirming resources to young adults and courses for financial literacy to inner-city kids. Every year, they choose two to three schools to donate supplies, along with gifting special teachers with “appreciation for education.” On Thanksgiving, Deans and the children feed people experiencing homelessness. The nonprofit continues to do special projects throughout the year highlighting the need to give back to the community.
“Once that got incorporated, I still kind of felt the need to help others with business,” Deans said about how she co-founded Starter Teck Inc. in 2020, to help others incorporate their own businesses.
Deans taught herself about business, she said. “If it’s not there for me, then I know it’s gonna be harder for another kid or African American woman,” Deans said.
Two years later, Deans opened her third business with Coleman: RVA Corner Store. She said she didn’t see a lot of African American convenience stores, and now the store is on the same street she used to walk on as a child, according to Deans.
“You have to definitely be focused,” Deans said. “You want to make sure it’s your passion, because if you start a business, and it’s not doing well, what would drive you to keep on?”
Deans recalled the times of pandemic when the times were hard, but she had her passion, Deans said.
She now has multiple certificates under her belt, such as data analysis and business certificates, and five businesses she’s trying to “tap into,” like e-commerce for pet clothing.
Deans’ mom Bertha Young is her inspiration for giving back to the community, wanting to make her proud.
“I’ve been on this path for a while, and I really wanted to work for myself,” Deans said. “I wanted her to know I’m going to be okay, and I wanted to make my own life. I have always been unique. I always took the road less traveled.”
Well, her mom is very proud, Deans said.