“We all have dreams. We achieve them, but we shouldn’t feel bound by them.”
After speaking with Cassandre Davilmar a proverb comes to mind. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Davilmar, owner of Lakou Café, has joined forces with fellow restaurant, Grandchamps, in Brooklyn to provide meals to those most deeply impacted by the global pandemic. If it wasn't enough to be enamored by Cassandre’s willingness to serve, her reasoning for why community is part of her self care - “Because doing it alone won’t make us stronger, it’ll only make us tired and stressed out” - was enough for us to want to learn more about the owner.
We are all learning how to navigate the waters of loss during what is proving to be a difficult 2020. The restaurateur, unfortunately, experienced another deep shift from center when she lost her father at a young age. Davilmar was then abruptly uprooted from New York City to Miami, as a result of his passing. In spite of the crushing loss of a parent, Cassandre found comfort in the extended arms of family in the sunshine state. Her once nuclear image of family expanded to now include cousins and friends who were raised like siblings. Davilmar shares, “My extended family helped raise me. I think my more open view of community has followed me through life.” Which helps contextualize her springing into action during our present circumstances - she was following the example of stepping up in the face of hardship.
“…doing it alone won’t make us stronger, it’ll only make us tired and stressed out”
That community also helped shape her self image. It was continuously affirmed that Cassandre was beautiful, strong, and smart. However, that was just one of the many messages she would receive about black womanhood - and not all of them were positive. “We are raised to KNOW we are valuable, so when we hear otherwise it makes a lot of us fight even harder to prove those individuals wrong.” And Davilmar proved them wrong, indeed - going on to graduate law school before working at a top-ten law firm, top-ten investment bank, and eventually taking a stab at entrepreneurship. The business woman is pretty accustomed to staying on her pivot foot. It’s been a helpful quality so far. “We all have dreams. We achieve them, but we shouldn’t feel bound by them. I’m proud that I have the courage to follow my dreams even if they change.” Cassandre admits from a young age wanting to bring people together. One day she stepped away from law in search of something more connecting. A woman unafraid to march to the beat of her own drum is a woman to be admired.
It should come as no surprise that when asked how she’s been navigating her newest journey she credits the community she’s found in other black businesswomen as a bastion of joy and comfort. When it comes to more daily practices, Davilmar likes to unwind like any person would, joyfully. Be it listening to her favorite business podcast, doing a skin routine, or meditating it’s more important than ever to balance self-care with the work done to support others. One of her greatest self-care tips that we can all learn from, industry aside, is simply, planning ahead. “This will help us execute better and alleviate stress in the long run.”
Entrepreneurship comes with its many highs and lows and Cassandre is all too familiar with the many facets of self-employment. Even though Davilmar admits she is a fighter and goes after what she believes in, there is self-awareness around what can be improved. “I personally believe while we are on earth what we need to develop is our character...ultimately my business relies on me being my best self.” That introspection to purpose seems to put the battery pack in Davilmar’s back every morning. That alongside great advice from a mentor to “follow her smile”. That’s definitely great advice if we’ve ever heard some. And her advice to the younger generation is similar, “You have a unique perspective that is NEEDED in this super vanilla world. A lot of people might act like they know a ton, but really that’s all they are doing … acting. Don’t let that keep you from contributing impactfully to this world.”
“My extended family helped raise me. I think my more open view of community has followed me through life.”
When we work from the space of contribution - understanding that what we are doing is truly making a difference, that conviction shapes lives. That conviction is a reminder of what’s possible when we are committed. That conviction is providing a visceral reminder to the recipients of a donated meal that somebody cares about your well-being.
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