We here at GOBankingRates want to help get our nation’s small businesses back on their feet after the COVID-19 pandemic. To do that, we’re highlighting readers’ favorite small businesses around the country, and shining a spotlight on what makes them special to their customers and their towns.
In this edition of our Small Business Spotlight series, we’re featuring D Cafe & Catering, a soul food restaurant located in Atlanta. Owner Devotis Lee, aka Mrs. D, opened the cafe to form a community that brings people together with fresh, healthy food. Here, we chat with Lee about what the American dream means to her, her dedication to positively impacting others and the silver lining of being a business owner during the pandemic.
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Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired you to start your business?
Yes, I started my business after [being exposed] over and over to how I could reach for more of the American dream: independence, freedom, wealth and a legacy.
What did you take from past experiences or jobs that you knew you wanted to be a part of your new business?
Value, respect of others, integrity and transparency. To use my platform to help improve the lives of individuals, which improves the lives of families, which equals better communities.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?
Looking at the past, when we were just a building that had one stove in it and a few tables, and looking at how we have grown in our building now, with style and substance — how far we have come. Understanding my real worth — no longer wanting to fit [in], yet wanting to make an impact and difference in this world. Looking around and no longer accepting people’s doubt.
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How has the pandemic affected your business?
The pandemic kicked us hard, as it did many small businesses that struggle day-to-day. Even though it was a black cloud hanging over for a long time, the silver lining was it forced you to take a look at your business. You could then see a better picture of what works and what doesn’t.
How can people continue to support your business during this time?
People can continue to support us by using our catering services, dining in, renting our event space, and using our pick-up and delivery services. We have a new service that is really beneficial to customers: “A Message With a Meal.” Send a meal to someone, just as if you were going to send flowers.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
If you are thinking about opening a business, do it.
I knew nothing about running a business. I went to work in the industry first because I never had experience [working in the restaurant industry] before. Then, I went to learn how to run a business, then how to survive running a business, then how to succeed in running a business.
Don’t get stuck on what everybody else is doing. Understand your business and where you really want it to go. Someone said to me that you’ve got to just do it. Be willing to listen and learn — know nothing and everything can be improved.
Do it, go for it. You only have one life — embrace it! Life treats you the way you treat life!
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This interview has been edited for clarity.
Last updated: June 2, 2021