Dominiece Clifton had reached her breaking point.
The 34-year-old was working three part-time jobs, raising two young girls with her entrepreneur husband, trying to be a dedicated wife and working to get her new Baltimore-based business off the ground.
Tired of spreading herself thin and wondering if she’d be able to make her next mortgage payment, Clifton was ready to quit her dreams and go back to working a traditional 9-5 job. Then she got the call that changed her life: She’d won a no-strings-attached grant for $2,000 a month for one year.
“I was spending a lot of time helping other people build their dreams,” Clifton said. “But the grant has made it so I can be present because the basics are covered, and it has allowed me to invest in things for the program. I haven’t felt this much peace in so long.”
Jamye Wooten, founder of CLLCTIVLY, a Baltimore-based institution that mobilizes resources for Black-led organizations and businesses, was approached by a local donor last June who wanted to provide $600 to a woman in need. The two worked together and came up with the idea to help a “changemaker” — or a woman entrepreneur making a difference — so the “We Got Your Back” campaign was born. Wooten launched a fundraiser to help raise the amount to be $2,000 a month.
The grant is particularly meaningful to Wooten because his sister, Sherri, was an entrepreneur who owned two pizza shops in West Baltimore, and his dad dropped out of school in eighth grade to provide for his family. Wooten lost his sister to cancer six years ago and his dad 20 years ago.
The most important part of the grant, Wooten said, is that there are no strings attached. Meaning if Clifton needs to use the money for her car payment or child care instead of her new business, she can do that.
“You’re investing in the whole person instead of just the business,” Wooten said. “I know what that grind can do to you. So to be able to know we are supporting folks means more than anything.”
Clifton launched in April 2020 as a health and wellness coach for women. As the coronavirus pandemic raged on, she noticed that everyone was seemingly stressed out and not equipped to handle it. She decided to pivot last August from health and wellness to stress management with the goal of making the tools accessible to everyone.
Since winning the grant in December, Clifton said she has been able to focus on growing Move and Still. The Baltimore resident said she was able to focus on getting her yoga certification and plans to start her meditation training next then breath work. The grant money also allowed her to buy enough equipment, like yoga mats, to serve about 30 people.
Although Clifton said her business is “still a work in progress,” she is already working with PIVOT, a non-profit that helps women who were 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, using practices dedicated to movement and stillness,” Clifton said.
Another perk of winning We Got Your Back was a yearlong membership, valued at $1,500, to The WELL, an organization created by Nakeia Drummond to support Black businesswomen and entrepreneurs.
Drummond, who’s known Clifton since last year when she joined the early entrepreneur program through The WELL, said she couldn’t think of anyone who was more deserving for the grant.
“Her work will benefit so many other people,” Drummond said. “She is authentically herself and a breath of fresh air.”
Clifton has big dreams for her business.
Within the next five to 10 years, Clifton says she wants to be a household name across the country with a team of wellness instructors in every state and major city.
But until then, she is going to sit back and take a deep breath, enjoying the ride of growing her business and being an example to her daughters.
“You start a business to provide a better life for your kids, but then you question everything because you feel like they deserve better,” she said. “But I want to show them that they can live a limitless life — whatever you do, you don’t have to be boxed in by society.”
This article is part of our Newsmaker series, which profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at email@example.com.