BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: MEET DONISS HICKS OF LIVING 4 LIFE WELLNESS, LLC
“For me health and wellness is living,” says Doniss Hicks. Hicks is a registered dietitian and the owner of the Detroit, Michigan based Living 4 Life Wellness, LLC— a biblically based health and wellness company that provides meal preparation and planning, as well as dietary consultation, geared towards meeting the needs of the African American community.
Food has always been associated with the Black community overall; though, eating healthy has not. Foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium have been notoriously connected with Black cultural. With that, Blacks also have a long history of coming in first (or last rather) with regards to many diseases, that could be easily controlled with healthy living. According to the American Diabetes Association, 13.2-percent of all African Americans age 20 and over have been diagnosed with diabetes. Meanwhile, 40-percent of all African Americans have high blood pressure, as reported by the American Heart Association.
As a registered dietitian, those numbers do not sit well with Hicks. However, as a foodie, he fully appreciates the importance of taste and flavor. “Blacks are last in everything–diabetes, hypertension, etc.– but it doesn’t have to be that way. 100-percent of diseases that we suffer from is from what we eat,” he opines. Though he believes that everyone should focus on healthy eating and healthy food choices; he doesn’t think that means food has to be bland or tasteless. He adds, “It is learned–cultural, environmental and psychological. It’s sad, but we still have great opportunity to turn it around.” In fact, he has spent his entire life and career showing others how to prepare meals that are both good and good for them. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that he decided to give it a go as small business owner, when he began preparing meals for those in his network and showing them how to do it themselves. Hicks officially established Living 4 Life Wellness, LLC in 2014, when he realized that he was onto something, by providing a service that was wanted and moreover needed.
As a Black male registered dietitian, Hicks is part of a rare breed. Only 4-percent of the profession is comprised of men–with very few Black males included in that number. According to Hicks, he is one of just three in his home state of Michigan. With over 18 years experience, he discovered early on that by becoming a dietitian he could combine his love for cooking tasty meals with his passion for teaching people to eat in a way that is both holistic and healthy.
While in high school, Hicks volunteered for a diabetics support group. It was there that he met two dietitians–neither of whom were male or Black–who both noticed that he had a knack for cooking healthy. Thus he pursued a career as a dietitian. Though he is still employed by his corporate job and able to proudly say that he has never been unemployed, Hicks realizes that there are drawbacks to his provocation. “The corporate structure definitely has a glass ceiling,” he shares. As well, Hicks believes that with the absence of healthy eating options in most Black communities, his skills are definitely needed in the community.
Hicks has his own unique cooking style, co-mingling traditional African American recipes–with healthier preparation alternatives, such as grilling instead of frying–and ethnic spices such as turmeric, cardamom and curry. He gladly admits that much of what he knows about holistic and healthy living is attributed to what his mother and grandmother taught him. “My mother really laid the foundation for me, her and my grandmother, and I’ve incorporated that into my own cooking style,” he shares. As well, his biblical teachings play a big role in his business: “The basis for me really is the Bible. It is the origin of how we should live, eat and treat one another.”
It’s no secret that running a successful business can be a difficult challenge. Relatively new to the entrepreneurial game, at this point in his venture, Hicks is thankful to have just made it out the starting gates. Of course, it has been the culmination of his hard work and tenacity, but he also credits his wife Tasha for believing in him and encouraging him to create his own destiny. “Just doing what I’m doing now– just getting started; coming up with the concept–my wife was an inspiration for that,” he proudly states.
Though the venture is based on his skills and his passion, the two have seemed to have found a great balance in the business. While the business is his passion, helping him to succeed has been hers. From introducing him to influential people in her network, to assisting him with social media posts, she has been there to help him realize his destiny.
When it comes to Minding Your Black Business Hicks says it’s all about what you’re willing to invest. “There is a factor of trust, but I’ve met so many who are reaching out. So “crabs in a barrel” is a mentality that we have if you don’t promote or network,” he shares of his experience so far. Black business owners, regardless of industry or business type, share many of the same woes. With this in mind, it would seem that that alone would motivate more people to be more communal in their networking efforts. However, as Hicks points out, “We weren’t taught how to run a business in high school; we were taught to be consumers– learn how to do something and to go get a job.” Therein lies the problem. To be successful in business, you must be taught the importance and tenets of entrepreneurship from an early age. If not, do everything humanly possible to learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can–and continue to seek more knowledge.
He also shares his own testimony of not giving up. Earlier this year, Hicks suffered a mini-stroke. At the time, his business was just starting to gain momentum. “It would have been easy to give up right then and there,” he declares. Thankfully he didn’t. With the help of family and friends, he says that he has gained more strength and belief in his faith. “You don’t have to be unhealthy to go through something,” shares an otherwise fit Hicks. As he advises, regardless of what you are going through, have the faith and courage to persevere. “Know that there is something greater through your struggle.”
Learn more about Doniss Hicks and how to live better by visiting Living 4 Life Wellness, LLC.