Mom Next Door: Feleceia Benton / Actor, author and founder of Zoe Communications Agency
Two years ago, Dallas mom Feleceia Benton wrote and published her first book.
“I did it on a whim,” she says. “I just wanted to see if I could.”
It’s a move perfectly characteristic of Benton, who brings a can-do attitude to nearly everything she does.
The 34-year-old mom launched her own Dallas-based company, Zoe Communications Agency (named for her 7-year-old daughter), five years ago. She has a laundry list of side gigs — a quarterly magazine, a weekly podcast and a second book in the works — and is a working thespian.
All this, and she’s a hands-on single mom. Zoe, who has Down syndrome and was born without fingers on her right hand, is thriving in her own right, starting first grade this fall.
“She’s fantastic,” says the Dallas mom. “She’s the funniest person I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
Though Zoe’s father is currently in the picture, he was absent for her first five years. Benton says it was an “oops pregnancy.” A model daughter from a deeply religious family, she was “traumatized” when she learned she’d become pregnant out of wedlock.
“I was the really good kid in my family,” she says. At the time of the pregnancy, she was working for her parents as the director of operations at the school they’d founded, Turning Point Christian Academy. “I found out I was pregnant at 4–5 weeks and didn’t tell them for another month.”
When she finally revealed her secret, her family rallied around her in support, which became invaluable months later when Zoe was born, and Benton found herself navigating life as a parent to a child with special needs.
Benton didn’t know anything about Down syndrome before Zoe. In fact, when doctors told her they suspected the infant had the disorder, she couldn’t muster a reaction.
“I didn’t know what it meant.”
She credits her sister, who works with children with special needs in prosthetics, with helping her navigate those early days.
After five days in the neonatal intensive care unit, Benton and Zoe went home and started their life together.
Packed with therapies and doctors’ appointment, it was far from the freewheeling way of life Benton was accustomed to, but she shined as a parent — and as a businesswoman.
In early 2012, with a toddler at home, Benton felt an entrepreneurial itch and decided the time was right to create something of her own. She took a leap and founded Zoe Communications Agency, specializing in branding, brand management, graphic design and marketing.
Though her foremost love is musical theater, her father urged her to study “something more practical.” So she double majored in musical theater and advertising/ public relations at Texas Christian University.
Her instinct was on point. Benton launched the company as a small communications agency, and it’s since grown to service communities and city governments.
For Benton, it’s the perfect intersection of life and work. “My job is my hobby and my hobby is my job,” she says.
As if she weren’t busy enough, she’s working toward a master’s degree in public leadership from University of North Texas at Dallas.
On the rare day off, she enjoys brunching with Zoe or stopping by one of their favorite spots around town: Dallas Farmers Market or Malai Kitchen in West Village. She has a boyfriend, whom she’s been in a relationship with for two years. And she’s a fierce advocate for the special needs community.
Each year on World Down Syndrome Day, she hosts an event called “Think Out, Be Light,” which gives local children the opportunity to walk a runway wearing clothes from local designers.
It’s a full plate, but Benton still makes time to keep the creative juices flowing. She writes often and hosts a weekly podcast on LifeChat Radio. Then there’s her favorite pastime: theater.
A self-proclaimed “theater geek,” Benton was bitten by the acting bug her sophomore year of high school, when she landed a role in Godspell. Her love for performance art never waned, and to this day she makes it a point to act in at least one production a year.
And she’s good.
Google her name and a slew of credits and reviews come up. Over the past couple of years, she’s played lead roles in Les Misérables and Aida on local stages including Uptown Players in Dallas, Dallas City Performance Hall, Dallas Theater Center and Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.
Her schedule is hectic at times, but Benton manages it all with the help of a “small circle of support.”
To stay grounded, she works out twice a week. She’s a firm believer in maintaining some semblance of calm at home for Zoe, regardless of what’s going on in her own life.
“I know that she feeds off of my energy,” she says. “So I believe in keeping our house as stress-free as possible. I choose to not be stressed out about things.”
The mom strives to maintain perspective and to stay focused on her faith.
“It’s funny how hardship makes faith come alive,” she says. “Zoe has taught me the reality of a lot of things: faith in action, purpose and requiring wisdom in order to navigate life.”
Benton is optimistic about the future — both for herself and for Zoe. She’s focused on growing the agency, which she views as her legacy for Zoe and any children that may follow.
“I believe firmly that to those whom much is given, much is required. I want to leave my kids with something when I’m not here anymore. I’m passionate about that and that pushes me. Sometimes, you’ve got to be willing to do a little extra.”