Happy to be downtown: Entrepreneur brings tax business to Dover

TAX-E owner Priscilla Rainey looks over donated toys during the official opening in downtown Dover on Friday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Opening a new business in downtown Dover during the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t seem to shake Priscilla Rainey, who graduated from the University of South Florida and also gained knowledge and valuable contacts by attending NCALL’s Launcher Program for aspiring entrepreneurs in 2018.

So when Ms. Rainey cut the ribbon to officially open her Tax-E business at 31 W. Loockerman St. on Friday afternoon, along with members of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce and local dignitaries, she made it known that she plans to be around for a while.

“Actually, to be honest, COVID presented for me an opportunity to excel,” Ms. Rainey said, “because I’m an essential business. And with all the different PPP’s (Paycheck Protection Programs) and different tax credits and things that are going on with people’s unemployment and all of these newly introduced ways of getting revenue, it’s going to be so confusing for most people.

“There’s going to be a lot of people who need help, so it’s actually worked out for me.”

The personable Ms. Rainey has lived in Florida the past 18 years, but she is no stranger to Dover, having regularly visited her mother — who lives in the state capital — over that time frame.

When she discovered her mother had breast cancer recently, she decided to move to Dover to be beside her as she fights her battle.

“I started off with a small office above Governor’s Café and I saw the need for the demand, so I figured I’d expand and bring on more agents,” said Ms. Rainey.

Hence, her dream of opening an office downtown was born.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen took part in Friday’s ribbon-cutting and said the entrepreneur should serve as an inspiration to all during the pandemic.

“The greater thing about it is it’s a minority- and female-owned business,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I think that’s a great signal to the rest of the community that in the middle of a pandemic people are actually willing to take the chance on downtown Dover. In spite of what people might say, we’re alive, well and kicking in downtown Dover.”

Ms. Rainey said that she couldn’t have done it without the support of Will Grimes, who oversees the NCALL’s Launcher Program and is the neighborhood revitalization coordinator of the organization’s Restoring Central Dover initiative, and Janaid Kareem, owner of Janaid’s Salon for Men on West Loockerman Street, who teaches the entrepreneurs in the program.

“With the Launcher Program it introduced me to a lot of other entrepreneurs and also introduced me to a lot of resources in the city of Dover,” Ms. Rainey said. “What it did for me was it helped me gain the confidence. Before, I worked from home and then I opened up a small office, and with the Launcher program and being in constant communication with Janaid (Kareem), it helped me to really feel comfortable and know that I could be successful.

“He’s the teacher of the program, but he’s more than just a teacher, he’s like a mentor for everybody. He definitely goes over above and beyond to make sure that everyone not only gets their business off the ground, but that it’s successful. He will hold your hand all the way through and years later down the line he’ll see something and call you up and say, ‘Hey, you need to do A, B, or C.’ He’s like a piece of glue who connects people.”

Mr. Grimes has been overseeing NCALL’s Launcher Program since the fall of 2017. He said Ms. Rainey is one of several success stories that have sprouted from the program.

“We’ve got a few (Launcher Program graduates) that have opened up businesses down here,” Mr. Grimes said, of downtown Dover.

“The program is outstanding and just to see the fruit from that 12 weeks of labor in the class, to see it come to fruition like this, is just wonderful. It’s good for the program, it’s good for downtown Dover and it’s good for the city of Dover.

“Janaid (Kareem) is the fuel in the program that makes it go. He’s a dynamic facilitator and he has really taken our program a long way. We just graduated our fifth class last month, and we’ll be starting up another class in January. There is one difference, we’ve had to make a shift to virtual classes due to the pandemic.”

Ms. Rainey, who grew up in Philadelphia, feels right at home in her office in the middle of the downtown Dover corridor.
“I feel like this is good for a tax office because we get foot traffic and with this kind of business you want foot traffic,” she said. “Word of mouth is good, but with me being new to Dover — I didn’t grow up here and I don’t know anyone — so foot traffic is what I need.”

One thing Ms. Rainey is sure of is that she and her staff have at least one thing that makes them stand apart.

“We care about getting people the most (money) that they can get and the best benefit that’s allotted to them,” she said. “We want to make sure everybody is not paying unnecessary taxes and that they’re actually getting the maximum (benefit) that they can possibly get.

“We want to make sure that people are not being victims to tax fraud and we want to make sure that people are protected and safe and aware of what’s available to them. We care. I teach my agents myself. I train them to look for everything that is available to every single person’s individual situation. That’s what makes us different.”

Another thing that makes them different is their commitment to the local community.

Ms. Rainey has expanded her annual Toy Drive for the holidays this year and invites the public to drop new toy donations off to her new location on West Loockerman Street.

“Not only do we do an annual Toy Drive, but this year with the new office I just figured we’ll do it bigger and this is just a great way to give back to the community and give a good introduction to the community that we’re here and we give back,” said Ms. Rainey. “There’s so many families in need right now, so if we have the means to help, I want to help in every way.”