TheZe DealZ founder reflects on receiving a GWDI Cultural Capital microloan

October 25, 2022

By Meghann Naveau

Caseworker turned entrepreneur Zontaye Richardson is the founder of TheZe DealZ, a thrift store and gathering place in Dayton. In the five years of owning her business, Zontaye has navigated through the pandemic and a shift to online shopping by building strong connections with her shoppers and guests. 

Zontaye is one of the first recipients of Cultural Capital, a micro-lending program offered by the Greater Dayton West Incubator in partnership with Citywide Development and Flyer Consulting. Below, she shares how community connections have been — and continue to be — a contributor to her success. 

Zontaye’s thoughts:

“Several years ago, I got really convicted that we’re each able to make change happen where we are; we don’t have to wait for someone else.

I didn’t see any quality thrift stores in my community, and I believed there could be a space where people could not only buy beautiful clothing, but also get to know one another and build relationships. It wasn’t just about the store; the store was the avenue to the bigger picture of gathering people and making things happen. TheZe Dealz was born!

Since those early days in 2017, I’ve connected with so many people. Shoppers have become friends (and even vacation buddies!), and it’s been really amazing to also connect with other people and organizations making change happen in Dayton.

One of those groups is the School of Business at the University of Dayton. A student group did some consulting with me, making helpful suggestions about different outreach efforts I could try or different ways to make my existing efforts more efficient. They had great ideas, but it was hard for me to implement a lot of the suggestions on top of all the work I was already doing.

I also got connected with the Greater West Dayton Incubator, and as my network from UD and GWDI grew, I discovered the Cultural Capital program. I applied and was able to secure funding to pay for a TheZe Dealz staff person to implement some of the suggestions the student consultants had made.

It’s been so helpful to have the extra support to bring some of those ideas to life, and the connections we’ve been able make as a result of the additional support for me continue to help our business grow and thrive.

Yes, we sell clothes. But we also create meaningful connections by remembering people’s names, their stories, and details of their life that matter most. Clothing is making compassionate connections possible in Dayton.”

More about the GWDI Cultural Capital program: 

Guided by the University of Dayton’s Marianist values and community needs, the GWDI’s Cultural Capital micro-lending fund is committed to mitigating historical power imbalances. Through Flyer Consulting, a student-run organization, the micro-lending program provides capital development, loan application assistance, and support services through Flyer Consulting’s organizational verticals for development and business consulting.

This is implemented through a holistic set of criteria, processes, and products that emphasize impact contributions on under-resourced entrepreneurs, innovators, and creatives. In the spirit of the Catholic Social Teaching, the program utilizes additional services and considerations for low-income residents, main street and lifestyle businesses, and social ventures that advance the common good by operating in geographical disinvested areas in Greater West Dayton.