JOHNSON: Faith to launch a small business during the pandemic

One common mindset that many people have now regarding living through COVID-19 is that they must adjust to “pivoting” — being able to fine-tune their lives to personal and professional challenges that continue to arise while the pandemic persists. For many during this time, that “pivot” has turned into a quest to pursue greater fulfillment through entrepreneurship, especially for women. 

According to the Census Bureau, in January 2021, half a million new businesses were launched. The What to Become website, which specializes in career advice, estimates that female entrepreneurs comprised 17% of all 2021 startups. The women included in this percentage were definitely taking a leap of faith since female businesses owners were drastically impacted by the effects of COVID, particularly those in the hospitality and retail industries. Yet, despite the difficult obstacles of the pandemic, the number of women who decide to work for themselves continues to increase. One young entrepreneur in Athens, Georgia, who has decided to “pivot” with the goal of being her own boss one day is Deidra Scott-Ivery, owner of DSI Photography, LLC.

Deidra hails from Hartwell, Georgia, a small town in the northeastern region of the state with a population of less than 5,000. She comes from humble beginnings, having been raised by her mother and grandmother in a one-bedroom house with five siblings and three cousins during her early childhood. Her family attended Flat Rock Christian Methodist Church, and like many people who have grown up in the South, Deidra fondly recalls the joy of her youthful summers spent chasing butterflies and picking plums and blackberries. 

Living in a full house, she also learned the value of hard work and discipline. Deidra’s grandmother was a laundress, and Deidra and her female cousins were given chores that included sweeping their grandmother’s front porch and floors. The task that was probably most tedious was carrying well water in buckets for washing clothes and dishes and bathing. Although Deidra was born in 1980, her grandmother did not have running water in her home. Having to heat water on a wooded stove in her grandmother’s living room left an indelible impression. 

Deidra has approached every job she has had with the special type of grit and determination she learned from her grandmother. Her career trajectory mirrors a similar path of many in her generation. She did not go to college immediately after graduating from high school. She did some human resources work and got an associate degree in business administration before obtaining a B.S. in health care administration from Kaplan University in 2016. 

Deidra is currently a financial counselor for Piedmont Corporate Solutions Center and has worked in the Piedmont Healthcare system for two and a half years. She made the decision to register for an LLC in Georgia last July and recently had the ribbon-cutting ceremony for her studio at the beginning of January. Unlike many other women who have started businesses in the midst of COVID, Deidra’s decision did not stem from necessity due to a job loss but rather a yearning to do something she is really passionate about. She had been taking pictures for her Flat Rock congregation during her spare time for several years, so she figured she’d make a profitable venture out of it. 

“I basically sat down one day and asked myself, how am I in my 40s but still searching for what I really want in a career?” Deidra said. “I prayed about it and realized God had it in front of me all along with the pictures I was taking at church, but I just never acted on it. Some doubt did try to creep in due to COVID, but I am blessed to have the support of my husband Randall and my family. I truly believe this is what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do.”

Deidra has been making what young folk call “boss moves” since she opened the doors of her studio. She is the photographer for the Boys and Girls Club corporate office in Madison, Georgia, and she has joined the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, becoming the official photographer for their events. 

Deidra is being prudent in not leaving her current job yet, as she carefully budgets and schedules her photo shootings so that she can cover her operating expenses. She is aware of the risks that come with entrepreneurship, knowing that half of new businesses fail within their first five years. However, being fueled by her faith, she is not “casting her net too widely” in her initial steps. She’s pivoting with a plan.

Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University’s Lima campus.