Dionna Dorsey Calloway on inspiring action with District of Clothing

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Describe your business in a few words?

District of Clothing is a lifestyle brand encouraging progression, inspiring action and supporting self-love.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

Initially, I was laid off in 2008 during the Great Recession. That’s what led to my first company, Dionna Dorsey Design. District of Clothing arrived in 2014 as a result of my prime client going on a spending freeze. I knew then that I would need to create a side hustle to assist with making ends meet.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Fashion Design.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes! I can remember playing that I was a ‘shop owner’ as young as 8 years old.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

At the time, in 2014, I was working from a woman-owned office space solely filled with women-owned businesses–many of whom were early Instagram adopters and influencers. I gifted items from the brand which eventually, and very organically, started appearing in their posts and shares.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Honestly, just continuing through it all. That’s it. The fact that I’ve continued to continue. #keepgoing

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

By mid-March 2020, I started to notice a decrease in client requests for Dionna Dorsey Design projects. I was incredibly anxious about work and fearful about the pandemic, but I realized that if I am encouraging others to take action then I should probably take my own advice. Also, I truly needed to find some peace in the midst of the chaos, so I pivoted toward productivity with District of Clothing.

I changed our social media strategy, adjusted the marketing plan, and worked on the website. We launched the Common Purpose (CP) collection in April–one that I designed in 2019 but was too afraid to launch–because it was clear we would need to have a common purpose to successfully get through the pandemic. We also noted that a portion of the CP collection sales would support COVID relief via World Central Kitchen. I sent an incredibly honest and vulnerable email to our community, and business exploded. 

As 2020 continued, many of our collections, i.e. Do Not Touch The Artwork, Dreamer Doer, and Trust Black Women, resonated and were fully aligned with what was happening in our country. Community members wore their items while working from home, homeschooling and during social zooms, while protesting, and even to vote.  

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Artists collaborations, brand partnerships, and a wider apparel option! (yes, this means more joggers and shorts)

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

My faith kept me. Also, I strictly followed Dr. Fauci and Andy Slavitt’s advice, kept up with other’s accounts of their pandemic experience–especially those that were different from mine, and thank goodness for my family zooms and my Love and my rock, my husband.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Absolutely not. It’s impossible, and for me, not healthy. I prefer to give my full attention to whatever the priority is at that time. For me, it’s important to put myself on my daily list, yes, but I also put myself at the top, and the bottom, of my daily list. This way, I actively choose to start the day practicing self-care and end the day by replenishing myself–my mind, body and soul.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Give yourself grace, take naps, and don’t answer every call/text.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

For me, being an Entreprenista means operating in my purpose with intention daily so that I can create the most impact and share truth through my art. 

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