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A young Tammira Lucas’ family was puzzled by what the landlord of their home in Baltimore’s Penn North neighborhood told them.
The landlord had entered the family’s name into an adopt-a-family program that the local church organized around Christmas. It turned out that a renowned pro athlete would be “adopting” the Lucas family: Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap.
Seeing the excitement on her family members’ faces as Heap visited and showered them with holiday gifts resonated with Lucas, inspiring her to do whatever she could to provide that same happiness.
“I remember that bringing joy to my siblings, so I decided that any opportunity I get as an adult to give back or do more to help provide opportunities for others, I’m going to do that,” she told Technical.ly. “So that’s what I’ve committed myself to doing,”
Lucas lived in Baltimore neighborhoods like Penn North, Park Heights, and the Gilmor Homes throughout her childhood. Poverty was a throughline for each of these areas, but the communities were so close-knit that Lucas was unaware of their conditions until she grew older.
“I didn’t realize we were living in poverty because we were such a family,” she said. “I recognized, as I got older, that poverty did exist and people weren’t living the status quo. I knew that was something I didn’t want to do, so that was my motivation to get to where I am today.”
First, second and third steps
Lucas’ first venture into entrepreneurship came during her senior year at Coppin State University (CSU) in 2008. A friend was looking to start a mobile kids spa and wanted Lucas involved in the project.
The business performed well initially, but the two cofounders struggled to establish a solid enough foundation to properly grow it. Plus, the other founder’s responsibilities as a mother ate into the time she had available to run the business, Lucas recalled.
The following year, they dissolved the business and Lucas graduated. But that small taste of success was enough to convince her she could achieve her mission of giving back and setting an example through entrepreneurial pursuits.
“Stepping out and becoming a full-time entrepreneur wasn’t something that people, especially in my community, were really thinking about at that time,” Lucas said. “I saw how my mother struggled and knew that education was my key to the path of being successful. I wanted my family to see the possibilities of what was not in front of them.”
Lucas’ venture with her friend made her realize that there was a huge gap in Maryland’s robust business ecosystem. Entrepreneurs who were also mothers had no blueprint for how to juggle their work with their parental responsibilities.
That’s why, in 2016, she cofounded the National Association of Mom Entrepreneurs, an eight-session program that provides entrepreneurship training for mothers. And now, the program is working on creating a fund for investing in mother-owned businesses
That same year, Lucas and her sister TaKesha Jamison cofounded The Cube, a coworking space that provides a staffed play area so entrepreneurs can bring their children and still get work done. Keeping the business in the family not only allows them to prosper together, but also provides up-and-coming minority founders a historically grounded example of how to build wealth within one’s community.
“When you look at the history of Black-owned businesses in Baltimore, families put their resources together to create something of their own,” Lucas said. “That’s the most exciting thing for me. I’m taking what our culture does and bringing it to light in today’s world. It’s not my business. It’s our business.”
“I want to change that narrative so bad”
Dr. Ron Williams, an assistant professor at CSU who taught Lucas and eventually became her mentor, recognized early on that she would excel at community empowerment.
“Tammira, just from a very human place, believes in people,” Williams said. “She believes in the people that she grew up around. She knows their greatness. She knows their underrepresentation is not from a lack of ability, so that’s what she’s fighting for. She’s seen what it’s done for her and knows what it can do for those around her.”
Lucas is a licensed realtor and real estate investor as well. In the long term, she looks to acquire residential properties in Baltimore that she can turn into resources for the neighboring communities.
“My life has been dedicated to helping people access opportunity to live the life they desire,” Lucas said. “I grew up in poverty and watched my mother struggle. I watched people around us struggle, especially as single mothers. The mindset in our communities is so thick in terms of what we can’t do and I want to change that narrative so bad that it’s kind of obsessive.”
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