Dominece Clifton had reached her breaking point.
The 34-year-old worked three part-time jobs, raised two young girls with her entrepreneur husband, tried to be a dedicated wife, and worked to get her new business off the ground in Baltimore.
Tired of stretching thin and wondering if she could make her next mortgage payment, Clifton was ready to give up her dreams and return to a traditional 9-5 job. Then she got the call that changed her life: she had won a no-obligation scholarship of $2,000 a month for a year.
“I’ve spent a lot of time helping other people achieve their dreams,” Clifton said. “But the scholarship has allowed me to be present because the bases are covered and it has allowed me to invest in things for the program. I haven’t felt so much peace for a long time.”
Jamye Wooten, founder of CLCTIVLY, a Baltimore-based organization that mobilizes resources for Black-owned organizations and businesses, was approached by a local donor last June about wanting to donate $600 to a woman in need. The two worked together and came up with the idea of helping a “changemaker” – or entrepreneur making a difference – and so the We Got Your Back campaign was born. Wooten started a fundraiser to raise the amount to $2,000 a month.
The scholarship is especially important to Wooten because his sister, Sherri, was an entrepreneur who owned two pizza places in West Baltimore, and his father dropped out of school in the eighth grade to provide for his family. Wooten lost his sister to cancer six years ago and his father 20 years ago.
The most important part of the grant, Wooten said, is that there are no strings attached. That means if Clifton needs to use the money for her car payment or childcare instead of her new business, she can do so.
“You invest in the whole person and not just the business,” Wooten said. “I know what this grind can do to you. So knowing we support people means more than anything.”
Clifton was founded in April 2020 as a women’s health and wellness coach. As the coronavirus pandemic raged on, she noted that everyone seemed stressed and unequipped. She decided last August to switch from health and wellness to stress management, with the goal of making the tools accessible to everyone.
Since receiving the scholarship in December, Clifton said she has been able to focus on growing Move and Still. The Baltimore resident said she can focus on getting her yoga certification and plans to start her meditation practice next and then breathwork. The grant also enabled her to purchase enough equipment, such as yoga mats, to feed about 30 people.
Though Clifton said her business is “still a work in progress,” she is already working with PIVOT, a nonprofit that helps women previously incarcerated, and the Baltimore Design School to host sessions for students and families.
“We curate mobile wellness spaces dedicated to stress management and trauma recovery and use practices focused on movement and stillness,” Clifton said.
Another benefit of winning We Got Your Back was a $1,500 year-long membership to The WELL, an organization founded by Nakeia Drummond to support black businesswomen and entrepreneurs.
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Drummond, who has known Clifton since last year when she entered the early entrepreneurs program through The WELL, said she couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of the scholarship.
“Your work will benefit so many other people,” Drummond said. “She’s authentically herself and a breath of fresh air.”
Clifton has big dreams for her business.
Within the next five to ten years, Clifton hopes to become a household name nationwide with a team of wellness teachers in every state and major city.
But until then, she’ll sit back and take a deep breath, enjoy the ride, grow her business, and be a role model for her daughters.
“You start a business to give your kids a better life, but then you question everything because you feel like they deserve better,” she said. “But I want to show them that they can live life without limits – whatever you do, you don’t have to be hemmed in by society.”
This article is part of our Newsmaker series, which features remarkable people in the Baltimore area who are making a difference in our diverse communities. If you would like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a brief description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at firstname.lastname@example.org.