Last Friday, my Michigan State media entrepreneurship class visited Detroit to tour the city and spoke with entrepreneurs based in Detroit. Fun fact: It was actually my first trip to Detroit for a reason other than going to the airport, so I was looking forward to seeing more of Michigan and learning from some go-getters in the Motor City along the way.
Our first stop was to Bamboo Detroit, Detroit’s first co-working space where small businesses or individuals can go to get some work done in a communal atmosphere. It’s a concept I hadn’t heard of and I was intrigued by it — especially since we heard from Bamboo’s CEO, Amanda Lewan. She stressed thinking about what makes you unique from your competition (for Bamboo it’s the sense of community) and leveraging that to your advantage.
While at Bamboo, we also heard from Eric S. Thompson, who is a Senior Parter at Saga MKTG. Eric writes on LinkedIn, which isn’t a place people generally think to blog, but I admired how he was able to recognize that the audience he was trying to reach was on LinkedIn. Going against the tide and utilizing a site that’s meant for professional connections to comment on issues that he’s passionate about is gutsy on Eric’s end, because he opens himself up to get heat from the people within his professional network. Not everyone is able to do that and I know that’s way out of my own comfort zone.
We also spoke with Shanley Pearl, who founded and built Hungry in Detroit then leveraged that success into her business. Shanley was also extremely open with us about how she’s able to maintain her success and spoke about her unconventional path to where she is now, which was awesome to hear more about. She encouraged our group to pursue career opportunities that are fulfilling, not just jobs that pay well.
We also spoke with one of Shanley’s clients, Detroit restauranteur and Detroit Optimist Society founder, Dave Kwiatkowski, at his cocktail bar The Sugar House in Corktown. I was consistently surprised and impressed by how connected each and every person we spoke with felt to Detroit. I’ve noticed Michiganders are proud of being from Michigan, but I didn’t realize how important being in Detroit was for natives and people who planted their roots here.
This passion for the Detroit was further exemplified by Tamara Kamara, who works for City of Detroit as the Web Team Supervisor. Tamara is a vibrant and expressive speaker who shared a lot of advice on project management and how to succeed even when we find ourselves in overwhelming situations.
I enjoyed listening to her break things down and talk about how to find little wins when it comes to larger projects, it’s helpful advice as a lot of us will be entering the work force soon. All in all, it was a jam-packed day filled with unique perspectives on entrepreneurship, what it means to be an entrepreneur and how to find success in unconventional ways.