Photo Credit: Midori Star Media Group
Adversity has the tendency to discourage people, but for entrepreneur Raquel M.R. Thomas, facing ill fortunes have fueled her drive. At 35, she owns five businesses. Her empire includes a nonprofit organization called the Dream Catchers Foundation, R3 Enterprises, which is a publishing company, retail store DMR Fashions and two daycare facilities. By looking at her success today, one may assume that she had an exceptional upbringing, but Thomas’ success was inspired by the dysfunction and abuse she went through on a daily basis during her childhood.
She grew up being emotionally abused by her mother, who battled an addiction to drugs and alcohol. The verbal lashings by her mother and meager lifestyle didn’t keep her from dreaming of a better life.
“I have always been a big dreamer,” the Columbia, SC native said. “I was inspired by my circumstances. What I didn’t have inspired me.”
Before her dreams became a reality, Thomas went through hell on earth. One day when Thomas was in high school, instead of attacking the then 14-year-old with her words, her mother picked up a two by four and beat Thomas bloody. That same day she became a ward of the state and was soon placed in foster care. Even though she was placed in an “excellent” home as she described it, the high schooler hit an all-time low and even contemplated suicide.
“I had so many different emotions going on. It was more of [me asking] why? Why was I there? I felt abandoned and not loved. It was overwhelming.”
Thomas was in dire need of emotional support and psychotherapy, but since seeking psychotherapy is stigmatized in the black community, it was never offered. She would try to confide in the adults around her but she would be dismissed by comments like “You’ll be fine” or “Nothing is wrong with you.”
“During this time I couldn’t relate to anyone, so I didn’t know I was depressed. As I got older I did more research and took a lot of psychology classes in college. I realized that I was depressed at that time.”
After being in foster care for a year and a half with her father, he released Thomas into her mother’s custody after she was released from prison and completed a few rehabilitation programs. Though their relationship never recovered, Thomas persevered and proved to be quite resilient.
She left home at 18 and went on to achieve her bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing from Virginia State University and then her master’s in business administration from the University of Maryland. She called Los Angeles home for awhile as she worked in the corporate world before she decided that it was time to be her own boss.
While running her roster of businesses, the busy mother-of-two wrote and self-published her first novel through her publishing company, What Becomes of A Broken Soul, where she uses her real life trials and tribulations to tell a story of triumph.
“I really wrote it for those who need to be inspired” she told me over the phone. “For those who are coming from abusive relationships [or] don’t have parents. It’ll show them that there is someone out there just like you.”
Despite the painful memories that her hometown of Columbia, SC holds, Thomas stationed her nonprofit in the city to help the at-risk youth.
“We educate them and expose them to life experiences through people who look like them and come from the exact same places as them.”
In between running her five businesses, Thomas raises her two children, a four-year-old son and eight-month-old daughter. She rises at 6am everyday and does not shut down completely until almost midnight.
There have been setbacks in her career though, like when a former business partner stole $100,000 from her, but she continued to thrive as she always has when hit with a hardship.
“The things that people view as bad have inspired me to do better. I wanted to break the cycle. I knew that if I had children I wanted their story to be different from mine.”
Instead of letting her burdens discourage her, Thomas used them for motivation. She proves that you can actually reap the benefits of a struggle.