UIX: Della Marie brings Big Dreams to women in small business

Della Marie's Dream Big Sister Circle brings together a network of women in small business “who have big dreams to change the world." UIX Editor Matthew Russell reports on her growing community of support.
Della Marie Levi isn’t just a dedicated entrepreneur; she’s dedicated to others in small business, too. She says she loves “seeing others live their lives out loud and walk in purpose and passion,” and her work with the Dream Big Sister Circle is proof of that.
The Dream Big Sister Circle, which she founded in 2010, brings together a network of women in small business “who have big dreams to change the world,” Levi says. “The women and girls of color in this circle provide each other with resources, support, encouragement, inspiration and motivation. Each has a goal of sustaining, growing or starting a business, supporting an important cause or awareness campaign or participating in another type of positive endeavor.”
Along the way to creating the DBSC, Levi has founded and continues to operate Rock Candy Earrings By Della Marie and the Tresses Natural Hair Group. The mission of Tresses is to build self-esteem in women by promoting natural hair and encouraging self-love and acceptance. 

“Since the inception of Tresses, I have met several beautiful, bold, courageous and talented women and girls of color on a mission to change the world,” Levi says. “I decided to create a forum that would allow them exposure to the general public and provide resources and support for members at the same time. The Dream Big Sister Circle was born.”

Through Levi’s different endeavors, she has met several women who owned their own businesses but not the brick and mortar buildings to support those projects. The Dream Big Sister Circle’s quarterly networking opportunities and annual fair help showcase those campaigns and give entrepreneurs the assistance they need to grow.
“I have a small network of four women in the greater Grand Rapids area who became members of the collective shortly after its inception,” Levi says. “We motivate and encourage each other to continue the group as it provides valuable support to the small business owner and those passionate about positive causes.”
This small group within the DBSC helps small business owners with marketing, budgeting, finances and other essential skills. 
"It helps them learn to keep their businesses afloat, and keeps them motivated to stay in business," Levi says. "Sometimes when you’re bogged down with other day-to-day responsibilities, that’s the first thing that goes neglected."
Membership to the DBSC is free, as the organization seeks to eliminate barriers in the way of anyone interested in joining. Levi says anyone who supports the DBSC mission is welcome to be a part of the network and participate in events.
“All of the services we provide are free,” Levi says. “I believe in the cause and remain active because I want to help people live their best lives.
The DBSC barters services with vendors who in turn come and speak to the group about different topics relevant to small business. “Most of them come and do it free of charge because they have heart and a passion to see other people succeed as well,” Levi says.

Quarterly, the DBSC meets locally to discuss experiences and network. The Dream Big Fair is held in April each year at the Kentwood Activity Center and allows small business owners and those passionate about their causes to showcase their work. There is an entry fee for the fair, which helps offset the cost of producing it. 
“The Dream Big Fair is for the community to come see these businesses and causes, and we provide a directory of all of them,” Levi says. “Most of those businesses and awareness campaigns don’t have physical locations or they work from their homes. The directory allows members of the public to see what’s out there, who these businesses are, and how they can get in touch with them at a later time.”
Now in its fifth year, Levi says the DBSC and fair have experienced continued growth since their inception.
“We have become more recognized within the community as a valuable resource and membership has grown,” she says.
Levi has lived in Grand Rapids for most of her life. She attended Ottawa Hills High School and Grand Valley State University and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Family Life Education at Western Michigan University. Since graduating college, Levi has spent about 18 years in the social service field.

There are future plans to scale the DBSC and implant similar organizations in other communities that Levi has given thought to, but she says there is still work and growth to go through in Grand Rapids.
"Through social media a lot of people have become aware of the DBSC and have asked for an opportunity to branch out and start one in their own community," Levi says. "I have not yet done that. Being based in West Michigan, this is where my heart is."

For more information on the Dream Big Sister Circle, visit http://www.dreambigsistercircle.com/

Matthew Russell is the Project Editor for UIX Grand Rapids. Contact him at [email protected].
Photography by Steph Harding 
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