On our class trip to Detroit on Friday, March 24, Jeanette Pierce, our tour guide from the Detroit Experience Factory, told us people often ask her: Why Detroit? Instead of telling you her reasons, I am going to tell you my “why.” Why my love for the companies started there and the reasons March 24, 2017 gave me a new perspective into the business community in the city.
“Detroiters hustle,” said Gwen Jimmere, the founder of Naturalicious, an all-natural cosmetics company where the products are safe enough that you could eat them. She used this phrase when describing her passion for growing and keeping her business in Detroit. And I noticed
this throughout the day. Entrepreneurs are scrappy, hard-working and extremely dedicated – we know that. But what’s different is that those founders we talked to in Detroit had this passion for the city and keeping their companies in it. It is true that they hustle and are proud of that hustle.
At Ponyride, a startup incubator in Detroit, we were told, “Don’t fight your struggles, they are there for a reason.” We heard phrases like this many times throughout the day, speaking with people who put their entire retirement, life savings, dignity and job security on the line when creating companies they were not only passionate about, but realized were best brought up in Detroit.
Jimmere also had a personal story that I know touched many of my classmates and me. She spoke of the reasons behind starting her company and her first response being, “I just didn’t want to work for anyone else again” made some of the students around me nod their heads in understanding. Her next response evoked a whole different response altogether.
She said that she wanted her son to be proud of her and that she didn’t want him to see her struggle. As a very successful business owner, Jimmere accomplished this goal, but it made me think of a bigger picture than just her situation alone. She wanted her son to be proud of her, much like many entrepreneurs want the city of Detroit to be proud of them and their company.
For some, the city has provided home, for others it has created a blanket of security for creativity and exploration. Whatever Detroit has provided for these startups, its diverse and vibrant community has wrapped up their businesses in success and delivered their products to consumers (with a lot of hard work and grit by the entrepreneurs of course).
The theme of persistence wasn’t in short supply as Tamara Kamara spoke about her college experience as a new mom and both the challenges and rewards that came out of her unique experience. She would often have to find large classes she could take her son to, but she pushed through and garnered success on her own terms. When she wanted to obtain a job with the City of Detroit, she didn’t rest until she was in the position that she wanted.
My point to this post is that these Detroit entrepreneurs’ companies and careers are amazing, but what really stood out to me last Friday is their heart, perseverance and passion for creating success in this city.