(Photo courtesy of Rysheema Dixon)
Rysheema Dixon’s passion in life is working with others in her community.
Luckily for Delaware, Dixon, 27, spends her days working on community projects and advocating for equitable access for all residents of Wilmington and her hometown of Bear.
In 2011, the University of Delaware graduate formed her own business — RD Innovative Planning — aimed at providing various services to community organizations. Currently, Dixon is working with multiple clients on issues that span healthcare, nutrition, education, crime and entrepreneurship.
She took a break a couple years ago for a one-year master’s program in Washington D.C. The program took her to India for a few months, where she worked with a women’s association. Dixon graduated in 2013.
When she returned stateside, she had a renewed focus and drive to revamp her business. Dixon hit the ground running, making connections with various local hospitals, health centers, youth and business organizations.
She also recently became a member of The Loft in Wilmington — her new home base when she’s not leading meetings, workshops or events at local organizations.
“The primary reason I go to Start It Up Delaware is to be around other entrepreneurs,” Dixon said. “It’s difficult to be around those who don’t understand the struggle and success of what goes into a business. The programs, events and things they bring to us expose us to more opportunities.”
Dixon’s first client was Wilmington HOPE Commission, after completing two terms with Public Allies Delaware, a program of the University of Delaware Center for Community Research and Service.
Public Allies, Dixon said, was a program started by Michelle Obama in the late 90s aimed at helping young people advance in underserved communities. High school graduates, and now adults, can take part in this 10-month internship, which provides them with new tools to succeed in the professional realm.
“When students leave, they can write their resumes, work with different personalities and work with a team,” Dixon said.
Dixon also acts as a personal business coach to Public Allies alumni looking to start their own business ventures or innovative projects.
She said she enjoys teaching youth about entrepreneurship and hopes young people will see it as a viable career option. In June, she held a speaking event at a local Goodwill called “How to start a business on a zero dollar budget.” Last year, she took part in a career fair at a local elementary school; she spoke to fourth- and fifth-grade students about entrepreneurship.
In the healthcare realm, Dixon works with Nemours, Christiana Care and the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington as a consultant.
Depending on the day and the client, she could be coordinating a health fair, presenting to elementary school students about healthy eating and nutrition, contacting a Zumba instructor to work with students, attending meetings or identifying grants, among other things.
At Nemours, she is currently working on a photography project with teenagers. During their first meeting, she told students to take photos that answer two questions: who are the people and places that help you succeed in your community; who are the people and places that are barriers or challenges in your community?
Dixon is also working on putting together 400 asthma kits for Nemours. Through her consulting work, she helped secure a grant for the hospital to provide asthma tips and tools to help those in need.
Dixon said she plans add more community clients in the future.