Every week, we are introducing you to real-life Supergirls across the Lowcountry. This week’s Supergirl is Deona Smith, the founder of Sister Summit, who empowers women around her every day.
A Lowcountry woman traded corporate for community, and now is the force behind an empowerment movement for women. Deona Smith is a Supergirl. For Deona, it’s all about uplifting others. Born and raised in the Lowcountry, she’s an Awendaw girl who left home for college in Washington, D.C. She remained there for more than twenty years. Deona worked in corporate America as an executive for a major beer manufacturer, but she moved back home with a vision. “I was publishing a local African American magazine and I would attend meetings and I realized there was a lack of diversity and the meetings and conferences,”says Smith, “So I started Sister Summit so other women of color, people who look like me can get the same kind of information that I was getting when I attended different things.”
Deona founded Sister Summit, an expo to empower women, five years ago in Charleston. “Gives you a little bit of fun with a lot of empowering information, so women come in and they experience seminars led by experts in their field, everything from financial literacy, to health and wellness, and of course we have the girly stuff as well, says Deona. “You can come in and you can line do dancing and yoga, you can take a painting class. It’s a day where you get great information. You get to try new things, and we have a whole lot of fun. It is for all women. We have women from all ethnicities. We have men who come in and enjoy the day. It really is something that everyone can enjoy, that sisterhood, that bond is something that we stress. We get to learn from each other, and make great connections from folks in the local area and those who travel from afar to be there.”
Two Sister Summit expo have been held in the Lowcountry. Then the expo moved to Columbia, and over the summer Raleigh, North Carolina. They have had smaller events in Augusta, Georgia and several other locations. Two-thousand women attended the last expo, where entrepreneurship is always encouraged. Deona says, “We encourage it because it’s so important to be able to create and build wealth within communities, and so we teach classes in entrepreneurship. We have vendors where they can exhibit their businesses. The local community can see who is out there, who they can shop with, and where they can spend their dollars. We’ve had vendors who started with us who have gone on to not just vend, but to open brick and mortar stores. It’s a good experience, and we’re hoping we can continue doing it in Charleston and beyond for many years to come.”
Deona is a mother of one son, Joseph, and she’s also a caregiver for her elderly parents. The organization also honors members of the community with the Sister Summit Legacy Awards, which recognizes the hard work, unselfish acts, and unwavering commitment of women to the community. “I do think I’m making a difference,” says Smith. “I don’t think I would want to do it if it wasn’t making a difference. I think it’s very important for everyone to have a purpose in their life. Sister Summit certainly is my purpose. Five years from now, I would like for us to be to start becoming more of a national organization. We have plans to go to Baltimore, Maryland; Houston, Texas; other cities on the map. We’d like to take it international and do something in West Africa. I just want to see it become fruitful to continue to inspire and educate people, and I’m going to let God do the rest. We’re all Supergirls, we all have it in us to be great and it’s just a matter of tapping into that.”
Deona also started a group called Soul Camp for young girls, and they have a teen summit at the expo as well.
Another Sister Summit Is planned for Charleston in February.
For more information on Sister Summit click here: