How the Pandemic Helped this Soul Food Cafe Owner in Atlanta “See a Better Picture”
At GOBankingRates, we want to help small businesses across our country get back on their feet after the COVID-19 pandemic. We do this by highlighting readers’ favorite small businesses across the country and highlighting what makes them special to their customers and their cities.
In this edition of our Small Business Spotlight series, we present D Cafe & Catering, a soul food restaurant located in Atlanta. Owner Devotis Lee, aka Ms. D, opened the cafe to form a community that brings people together around fresh, healthy food. Here, we chat with Lee about what the American Dream means to her, her dedication to making a positive impact on 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 achieve more of the American Dream: independence, freedom, wealth and a legacy.
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What did you take away from past experiences or jobs that you knew you wanted to be part of your new business?
Value, respect for others, integrity and transparency. Using my platform to help improve the lives of individuals, which improves the lives of families, which equates to better communities.
What has been the most rewarding part of owning a business?
Looking back to the past, when we were just a building that had a stove and a few tables, and looking at how we’ve grown in our building now, with style and substance – how far we’ve come. Understand my true worth – not wanting to come home anymore [in], while wanting to have an impact and a difference in this world. Look around and stop accepting people’s doubts.
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How has the pandemic affected your business?
The pandemic has hit us hard, as have many small businesses that struggle on a daily basis. Even though it was a black cloud hanging for a long time, the silver lining was that it forced you to take a look at your business. You might then see a better picture of what is working and what is not.
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How can people continue to support your business during this time?
People can continue to support us by using our catering services, dining on site, renting our event space, and using our pickup and delivery services. We have a new service that is really beneficial for customers: “Message with a meal. Send someone a meal, as if you were going to send flowers.
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What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
If you are thinking of opening a business, do so.
I didn’t know anything about running a business. I first went to work in the industry because I never had any 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 be successful in running a business.
Don’t get stuck on what everyone else is doing. Understand your business and where you really want it to go. Someone told me it had to be done. Be prepared 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 like you treat life!
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This interview has been edited for clarity.
Last updated: June 2, 2021