Even when dreams seem out of reach for sincere, goal-oriented people, there’s still hope. Hard work, dedication and discipline really can pay off. Just ask Birmingham artist Yogi Dada. Her success, which she says is still in the making, has come, in part, by way of the hope she found through the Financial Stability Partnership at United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA).
She began painting at age 4 with her mother’s encouragement and evidently exhibited great talent. Ms. Dada said that her mother would tell her years later that she prayed her daughter could leave her more traditional job to pursue her art full-time. After her mother’s passing from breast cancer, which Ms. Dada said was the lowest point in her own life, she gathered the strength and determination to make a new start. She did, in fact, quit her job and began painting with renewed passion. Her wearable art – large, brightly colored earrings reflecting her African heritage – was very well received. But it wasn’t yet a “business.”
Driven to learn and succeed, Ms. Dada completed her first business plan (through the Small Business Administration) in 2012 and formed YOGI DADA LLC. “It was mentally exhausting, tedious and complex, but I did it!” she said. “And almost every year since then, I have revised and updated a business plan and taken various courses to increase my capacity to operate as a business owner.” Having a business plan in place gave her the tools to qualify for UWCA’s Individual Development Account (IDA), which is matching program for participants who prove they can successfully save for school, a house or a business, which will ultimately strengthen their financial stability and independence.
Ms. Dada said that a space in the IDA program opened up in the fall of 2018, and because she was already qualified, she entered the program immediately. “I was able to take full advantage of the savings program and gained $6,000 to put toward asset building for my business,” she said. “I purchased some tech equipment and quality art supplies. It was access to these supplies that expanded my business, my brand and my identity as an artist. With all the success of my wearable art, I still didn’t believe in my capacity to create great canvas art. These funds were an avenue to spark artistic freedom by providing financial access to much needed supplies. Since graduating the program, I have had multiple commissioned paintings and upgraded my website to reflect my canvas artwork as well as my wearable art.
“I started on canvas over 40 years ago and here I am returning again. I offer a sincere thanks to…the staff at United Way who brought this to pass.”