Danette Wicker inherited her entrepreneurial spirit from her father. In the 1960s, McDonald’s did not allow people of color to own franchises. “A white man partnered with my dad and four other African Americans, and we got our first McDonald’s store.” Her father told her that she could either be ““a worker bee or a queen bee, but you can’t be both.” A business leader was born.
Danette’s Urban Oasis, started in 2003, is located in South Main Village. Wicker is a licensed massage therapist and nail technician, but she calls herself a body worker. Her passion for helping others through body work was born out of her mother’s battle against breast cancer. Before her mother’s death at 47, aromatherapy, massage therapy, reflexology and other alternative treatments helped alleviate her pain.
Because of their socio-economic position, Wicker’s family had not been exposed to these alternate therapies. She felt the call to not only become a body worker but to offer her services at affordable rates, making these therapies accessible to everyone. She charges $35 an hour for massages, and the price hasn’t changed in 17 years. Located near the hospital district, Wicker is able to serve a wide array of clients. “I have immunodeficient clients and wheelchair clients that need to be cared for.”
Wicker feels that Fort Worth needs to do more to support Black-owned businesses. She has tried to get the attention of publishers and other media outlets to no avail. “I feel being a Black–owned business in Fort Worth is a tale of not being seen. Representation matters. I always ask, ‘Can you see me? Can you see Danette’s Urban Oasis? I am here!’” She built her business through her own hard work, word of mouth marketing, and personal networking.
Then COVID-19 hit.
“COVID-19 shut us down in one day. I had to contact 80 clients to tell them we are closed and I have no idea when we will reopen. It plunged us into debt and uncertainty.” Wicker’s business further decreased because some of her clients were furloughed or are extremely ill and don’t have the funds to afford her work. After the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, her business suffered further because she had to close her doors early to comply with the citywide curfew.
These civic upheavals, coupled with the fact that live events she planned to attend to showcase her product lines were cancelled, meant that Wicker is sitting on a stockpile of inventory with no sales outlet. Ever resourceful, she changed her business model, almost overnight. E-commerce now provides most of her income.
Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” In other words, the things we think are blocking our path are not blocking our path; they are our path. Wicker has openly, and with hope in her heart, embraced these words. All small businesses who strive to overcome this upside–down, post-COVID world in which we find ourselves, must do the same if they wish to survive.
“I am not fearful that the world is going to implode. I hate the term pivot because it’s almost like it’s this nice little easy little thing you’re doing. It’s like being a marionette. It is up and down and chaotic. It’s not easy and it’s not smooth.”
Wicker took what was a largely in-person business with limited online sales and flipped it on its head. It takes an immense amount of courage and fortitude to accomplish such a feat, especially quickly as she has done it. One of Danette’s Urban Oasis’s greatest strengths, though, are quality product lines that easily compete with any other local boutiques or department store. She can sell these lines at incredibly competitive prices because she doesn’t carry the overhead of the big box stores. She is also able to offer free shipping. In fact, during Fort Worth’s shutdown, she offered front porch delivery just to make sure she kept her customers.
Happily, Danette’s Urban Oasis is open again. “We have added enhanced COVID–19 protocols to protect myself and my clients. We added an extensive line of face masks, sanitizers, and unique protective gear.” In the midst of her own personal business struggles, Wicker is still able to find ways to help in our community. She is donating 10% of sales of certain gift line sales to Hope Farm in July and Young Men’s Leadership Academy in August. “We wanted to help young people in our community.”