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Pandemic Perseverance

Pandemic Perseverance

The following is an example of an entrepreneur involved with IFEL who is persevering in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The following is an example of an entrepreneur involved with IFEL who is persevering in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eder Charles

Evolve Therapy LLC


“I decided to push ahead, to keep preparing, and to wait for the right time. It was tough, but turned out to be the right decision,” stated Eder Charles, owner of Evolve Therapy LLC, Newark, NJ, a physical and occupational therapy practice. Charles had solid plans to open with a partner, but COVID-19 hit. Instead of rushing into another partnership - he wasn’t even sure he wanted a partner - he waited, remaining resolute while continuing to network. The patience paid off. Charles procured space in a fitness facility and saved the expense of equipment purchases, opening in May of this year. “I took the time to pause and to decide what I really wanted to do and why I was doing it. That extra time helped me to focus and to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people,”

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IyaSokoya Karade

Athletic Arts Academy


The world that IyaSokoya Karade knew was completely devastated when COVID-19 hit. An executive order from the government deemed her business, Athletic Arts Academy, Orange, NJ, as a non-essential business. While her existing licensed summer camp expedited the re-opening process, concerns about future shutdowns forced Karade to find additional ways to protect the academy while also helping families in her community.  “Even though building this business from the ground up has taken a toll on me, fighting my way back from COVID-19 has made me focus and become more determined,” she stated. 

Karade applied for and won a grant from the State of New Jersey, allowing her to procure an official childcare license and to upgrade her facility and programs to encourage more families with children to enroll. Programs at the academy also nurture children’s emotional and spiritual development and provide safe, affordable and dependable childcare for low-income working families in the community. “The past year has put a terrible strain on working families in surrounding, predominantly African-American, Latin, and immigrant  communities, where family members often work multiple jobs. Receiving this grant has enabled the academy to offer parents much-needed financial relief,” Karade stated. Child care enrollment is open for families by visiting,

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Darcel Dillard-Suite

Full Circle Health


For Darcel Dillard-Suite, M.S., co-founder of Full Circle Health along with her husband, Derek H. Suite, M.D., the pandemic provided an opportunity to expand an already successful Manhattan & Bronx-based company. The powerhouse couple decided to build an innovative virtual model for workplace wellness and performance, making a healthy and productive workforce top priority.

“COVID-19 was a real game-changer. Everyone has staff who are struggling now and remote personnel who are transitioning back to the office. Amidst all the political confusion and hysteria over resistance to vaccines, we must educate people to do what is best for themselves and for their own health,” stated Dillard-Suite. The Full Circle Workforce Wellness Platform is a highly individualized coaching and counseling resource that addresses five dimensions of wellness - physical, emotional, social, occupational and spiritual - with the goal of professional and personal peak performance. Clients have private access to coaches & counselors through the click of a button, through video chat or through text, whenever and wherever the client needs a consultation. While the platform is growing and evolving, Dillard-Suite has advice for entrepreneurs navigating their own journeys toward success. “In the quest for perfection, we miss a lot of opportunities. Something will always go wrong. Done is better than perfect,” she stated. 

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Meet One of IFEL's Entrepreneurs!

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Jocelyn Johnson

The J Agency Communications Group


Tell us about your business:

The J Agency Communications Group is a Philadelphia-based boutique public relations and marketing firm. We specialize in working with lifestyle, beauty, and education brands. Through our signature C.R.E.A.T.E.S method we ensure we keep our clients top of mind. Customers Results Experience Awareness Team Education Strategy.


How did you get started?

A former student, turned client encouraged me to start my the company. He was having a photography event and wanted to get some press and I said, "Oh I can do that for you."


My B.A is in Mass Communications and for almost two decades I have worked in some capacity of communications via journalist, publicist, or business consultant. After finishing college and moving back to Philadelphia, there were no jobs in the field so I began working as a substitute teacher and enjoyed it. Moving up the ranks I worked in many of the Philadelphia’s area schools through administrative roles. After interning for a few companies in the area, I realized I could do my own thing on the side and started working as an entertainment publicist and developing a name for myself within the city.

Once my student reached out to be a manager, I declined and said I could be your publicist and The J Agency Communications Group was born. I also have a Master's Degree in Education so I thought what could I do with my background that I would love and this was a unique union of the two.


What are some of your biggest business challenges?

I currently still work in a high school and when I first started success came very quickly and I was no where near ready. I had no systems in place and was not clear at all about who I wanted to work with. I really was operating with no plan in place. I really got serious about the direction I wanted to go and said I am giving myself 3 years to lay the foundation build and then run the agency full time. The biggest challenge was I was operating like a freelancer and not a CEO, I thought I needed to be a one woman army but realized how quickly burn out would set in. Also being consistent. Without having a clear direction for the company how could I hire and have employees? Where was I leading them to? Then consistency was a big thing. Some days I would be really excited about the business and other days I was so disengaged so I ignored the business altogether.

How has IFEL helped you?

Having IFEL has helped me to have a support system to tap into. It's hard when you don't have people in your circle who operate business to bounce ideas off of. I have completed the business plan, working on the marketing plan and just being able to connect with someone to hold me accountable has been invaluable.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love to travel and attend concerts and recently started a podcast. Yes I like to stay busy but in a productive way. Also, spending time with my children - one is away in college so when she's home we like to hang out. My youngest is 10 so when I can pull her away from electronics she's pretty crafty.

Connect with Joceyln
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Meet One of IFEL's Entrepreneurs!

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Tawayna Peeples

Project 850 Notary and Fingerprinting LLC


Tell us about your business:

I am a disabled veteran owned, woman minority-owned small business that provides high-quality Live Scan fingerprinting, ink card fingerprinting and notary services for individuals and businesses.


How did you get started?

I was a hairstylist, so I was one of the first professions laid off during quarantine. Before quarantine, I became a Notary Public and was going to have a side business doing that. May of this year, through my notary network, someone mentioned doing fingerprinting. I loved the concept of offering an essential service like fingerprinting. So basically COVID-19 prompted me to start my business.

What are some of your biggest business challenges?

Finding a office space I can afford. I'm currently attempting to use a virtual office through a specific company, but there are no openings in the Newark office. As a Newark native, I would love to have my own small office here in Newark.


How has IFEL helped you?

I first learned of IFEL about ten years ago when I was learning how to put together an business plan. I still use the templates from being in the business plan competition to this day.


What do you like to do for fun?

I love learning about herbalism.

Learn more about Tawayna's business:

Mykel Dicus

Flow and Flair

Mykel Dicus, creator of Flow and Flair, has literally persevered through movement, in more ways than one. With a background in dance, theater and fitness/kinesiology, his unique physical fitness program, Flow and Flair, extends physical mobility and inspires creativity and physical expression for senior and disabled populations.

The program has been in existence since 2011, but was impacted when lockdowns prevented in-person visitations at health care facilities. Dicus embodies the meaning of the phrase, ‘pandemic pivot,’ and adapted by developing online classes for Flow and Flair as well as forming a business which sells masks and bags,


Formerly of New York City, Dicus has moved twice since the pandemic struck. He is enrolled in school for certification as a full stack web developer. To maintain income flow after losing his living situation, Dicus became a hospitality manager for a home that hosted traveling nurses while continuing to grow his online sales. His mantra for staying resilient and for staying in motion is, “Freak out and fall forward.” 


Glen Locus

Coffee Express, CupAKona Coffee


Coffee entrepreneur Glen Locus, owner of Coffee Express in Newark, NJ, struggled with many tough breaks but remained steadfast in his vision to bring CupAKona coffee to the masses. “I didn’t really want to close at all during the pandemic, but 2020 was just so bad financially,” he noted. The Hawaiian brand of coffee he created in 2009 by mixing multiple blends and adding a secret ingredient is something that only he offers. Locus explained that a flood in 2019 destroyed one of his locations , and then COVID-19 hit and financially devastated his Newark location. He moved ahead despite the setbacks and will be re-opening his Newark location shortly. Additionally, he is planning a location in the Bronx and considering Los Angeles, Hawaii, Tokyo and London for expansion.  

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