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Deanna Singh

Social Entrepreneur & Community Leader

Why She’s Amazing

Deanna Singh doesn’t want to be a princess. She wants to be more.

Deanna considers herself an entrepreneur and continual builder. She has a passion for social change and has led numerous socially innovative initiatives, including founding the Bronx office of LIFT; starting a college preparatory middle school in Milwaukee’s most underserved community as a Building Excellent Schools Fellow and providing legal representation to indigent clients as a Legal Action of Wisconsin attorney. She works for those who are often forgotten, silenced or undervalued; and she helps them to find their voice and place. Deanna also teaches a graduate level Social Justice class at Marquette University.

Currently, Deanna is leading the Burke Foundation, an organization started by Dick Burke, the founder of Trek bikes. The Foundation’s focus on urban education and youth leadership is a perfect fit for Deanna, who believes that ALL children deserve the chance to reach their full potential.

Not surprisingly, Deanna has been recognized many times over for her accomplishments. Most recently, Deanna won the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award, the United Way’s Philanthropic Five Award, and the Department of Public Instruction’s “Hero” Award.

We had a chance to ask Deanna a few questions. Something tells us that she hasn’t even begun to leave her mark on the world.

“My job is to make the path easier to find, stronger and more direct so that those who will come after me can surpass me in the future.” – Deanna Singh

Q & A

Q: When you were a young girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?

A: I always thought that I might, one day, be President of the United States.

Q: What did people think when you told them that?

A: They, of course, thought it was “cute”. The people who knew me, knew that I was serious.

Q: Did people call you “princess” when you were a little girl and, if so, how did that make you feel?

A: When people told me I could be anything, I took them seriously. So, I was too busy with my own imagination to pay much attention to what other people called me. When I was a little girl, I remember pretending I was an acrobat, car saleswoman, teacher, astronaut, lawyer, doctor, toy storeowner, actress and candy maker – often all in just one afternoon.

Q: How did you become interested in “building” – whether it’s a non-profit, a start-up or another initiative?

A: The desire to build always comes from the same place – it starts when I see opportunity for more than the status quo. I see the potential for better all around me, and that is what I strive to build toward.

Q: What did you have to do to accomplish this?

A: You have to be willing to see the world not as it is, but as it should be. And then, you have to work like CRAZY and through a lot of challenges to make your reality everyone’s reality.

Q: Did you have a mentor or role model who inspired you?

A: I am deeply inspired by people everyday. You don’t have to look far to see ordinary people doing pretty extraordinary things. One of my greatest mentors was my grandmother. Though she was about 5’0″ and no more than 130 pounds, everyone called her Big Mama. She had nine birth children, but she raised many more than that. She had the ability to see and bring out the best in everyone she met. I saw her finesse smiles out of angry and sad people, diffuse situations with humor and find silver linings in a pile of garbage. She could walk into a room and change the whole vibe just by being herself.

Q: Did your family and friends support your aspirations?

A: You always have to have a support network because things don’t often go as you expect them to. When you fall down, and any entrepreneur or leader will, you have to have people who will come down and check on you, and who also will not let you stay down in your hole. The belief from my family and friends has been the greatest fuel in every adventure I have taken on.

Q: Did you think about being called a “trailblazer” for choosing this path?

A: No. I didn’t think about being called a trailblazer because I know that I walk a path that others started for me. My job is to make the path easier to find, stronger and more direct so that those who will come after me can surpass me in the future.

Q: What motivates you?

A: Watching children reach their full potential and find their purpose in life. There is no greater joy than to be a part of that process.

Q: When you’re struggling or feeling deflated, what helps you to turn that around?

A: Dancing. There is nothing in life that a good dance can’t help put into perspective.

Q: Of what are you most proud?

A: I am most proud of the family that my husband, Justin, and I are building together. I am proud that we have created a family system that allows us to love one another, not because of what we do, but because of who we are. At the end of each day, it is my family’s unconditional love that gives me the greatest strength.

Q: What would you like people to learn from you?

A: I would like people to know that my successes are not my own. I was sent with a purpose, and my job is to be a vessel to see that work being done.

Photo Gallery

Q: What three words would you like people to use to describe you?

A: Hopeful. Purposeful. Joyful.

Q: What do you want people to know about you outside of your accomplishments?

A: I have far more failures than success, and I wouldn’t give up any of those failures because the failures have been more valuable than the successes.

Q: Given the choice, would you do it all again?

A: Yes. A million times over!

Q: If you could eat lunch with one person, whom would it be?

A: Michele Obama

Q: Which woman would you choose to have on U.S. currency?

A: Maya Angelou

Q: What advice would you give to a girl who right now wants to be just like you?

A: Don’t be like me. Consider me a prototype and make something SO MUCH BETTER!

Fun Facts:

  • The last book Deanna read was Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
  • Her go-to karaoke song is all of them!
  • Deanna is both a morning person and a night owl.
  • Her favorite quote is “Be the change you want to see in the world” by Ghandi.
  • Deanna’s favorite season is summer.