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Established Entrepreneurs

On Friday September 8th, Black Young Professionals of Detroit hosted a panel discussion on Black business. Five Detroit-based established entrepreneurs spoke about their experiences as proprietors in the city as well as being Black business owners.

Our panel included:

  • April Anderson of Good Cakes and Bakes
  • Rufus Bartell of Simply Casual and RBI Events
  • Floyd Jones of JJ & Associates
  • Bryan Davis of Team LBR Real Estate
  • Nefertiti of Textures by Nefertiti

This discussion was a joint effort between Black Young Professionals of Detroit and the Independent Business Association (IBA). The event was held at the Livernois Pop-up Shop in the Avenue of Fashion neighborhood. The conversation flowed organically and was packed with history, great business tips and seeds for further discussion. Each panelist had insightful sound bytes to share. The panelists were asked questions about how they were able to finance their businesses, what is it like to have a business in Detroit as opposed to any where else and also the common misconceptions of Black owned businesses, amongst many other questions.

Successful businesses are crucial to healthy community development, so naturally a bulk of the discussion centered on development. Gentrification has been a hot button topic in regards to the City of Detroit’s development and a few of the panelist shared their opinions on the “G” word. Overall, the general consensus was that development, whether it is Downtown, Midtown or on Clairmont, is good for the City. Panelist Rufus Bartell said, “Detroit belongs to anyone who is going to invest or shop in it.” He also spoke about tilling the soil and working to maintain a legacy rather than merely occupying space. We also touched on the topic of the fear of displacement by means of eminent domain or an over zealous investor/developer. The panel believes in strength in numbers and felt that if more people became civically engaged, the transgressions of the past should not repeat themselves.

 

The Black dollar, and the topic of the circulation of the dollar in the Black community were brought up. The question was, how do we as Black consumers promote Black businesses and keep the money flowing into our communities? One of the most insightful answers was that we should buy from our community and sell to the rest of the world. This answer led into deeper conversation of the tribal nature of our spending habits as humans. Other ethnic groups tend to support businesses that are within their community and that is what effectively “keeps the lights on” in their neighborhoods.

 

 

The panelists had a lot of great advice to share as well. Below is just some of the guidance they had to offer:

  • Know your customer and the market for your product.
  • Get into an association –strength in numbers. Multiple panel members reiterated that associations could help open doors that would take years for you to get through on your own.
  • Learn to negotiate.
  • Learn real estate. Those negotiating skills can come in handy in regards to real estate. Rufus Bartell spoke about negotiating for the option of “first right of refusal” in your lease. Should your landlord sell, you would be first in line for the opportunity to purchase. He also explained that owning your space and running your business may not be ideal in the beginning.
  • Thou shall have good credit.
  • Find investors. Investors will help lighten the load until you get on your feet. Also plan on shouldering most of the operational costs on your own.
  • Take advantage of government programs and grant opportunities for small businesses.
  • Know that the world is open to you. No matter what, follow your passion!

The excellent photography was done by Chauncia VanLowe. Follow her on Instagram @chaunciavii


The Buck Stops Here!

At approximately 82 percent, the City of Detroit is home to one of the largest populations of African Americans in the United States. While African Americans account for the majority of the City’s population, they have become a dwindling minority in business ownership. This disparity brings to mind this often quoted anecdotal account of dollar circulation in different communities, “The lifespan of a dollar in the Asian community is 28 days, in the Jewish community the lifespan of a dollar is 19 days, and shockingly, the lifespan in the African-American community is approximately 6 hours”. While the validity of these figures remains to be proven this scenario seems to be closer to the truth in Detroit; which begs the question, where does the African American community spend their money? Black Young Professionals of Detroit will explore this topic and more at our “Experienced Entrepreneur Panel” event on September 8, 2017.

 

For the past decade there have been major developments in the city, such as, the Little Cesar’s Arena, the Q-line, and various commercial and residential developments. While these attractions are sure to bring visitors and new comers to town, the city still lacks basic amenities, like grocery stores. Of the grocers that remain in the city, none are black owned and often times sell low quality products, leading Detroiters to travel to the outskirts of the city into the suburbs to grocery shop, some by car and many by bus. Imagine the inconvenience of grocery shopping miles outside of your city’s limits and having to haul your groceries on to a bus, also, imagine taking that same bus a little bit further to get to work. This is another reality some Detroiters face. According to Detroit Future City: 2012 Detroit Strategic Framework Plan, “…61 percent of employed Detroiters work outside the city, whereas only 39 percent of employed Detroiters work within the city.” Far too many young professionals have to travel beyond their reach to access employment and basic needs. Some of these issues may be the reality of logistics living in the Motorcity or simply a lack of purposeful development.

 

African American’s purchasing power is at a high of $1.2 trillion. Imagine the change $1.2 trillion would make in our communities. With $1.2 trillion that Ma and Pa shop down the street wouldn’t have to just be Ma and Pa, they could hire their whole family and the neighborhood. They could pay their employees decent wages with benefits; their employees could comfortably take care of their families, buy homes in the area and pay taxes. The increased tax base would support community upkeep such as: fixing the roads, cutting city grass, eliminating blight, public safety and education. Ma and Pa can open up more stores, building wealth and equity into the community. When the day comes for Ma and Pa to retire, they can rest easy because they will not have to depend on social security. The employees were given opportunities to learn and have grown into leadership roles within the business, so they successfully continue the cycle.

 

This is what black business could look like. While many are successful, a significant amount of black businesses fail to launch for many reasons, including, access to capital and clientele. Although loan redlining has been deemed illegal since the 60’s, its effects still linger to an extent in black and other minority communities; leading black business owners to depend on their own personal finances to begin their business ventures. Even if a minority is approved for a loan they most often owe higher rates of interest than their white counterparts. Once these new entrepreneurs overcome this obstacle and open their doors, they are still met with yet another challenge— finding customers. One could say that the clientele issue is something any new business would face; why is this unique to the black business owner experience? These owners are under tougher scrutiny because of misconceptions and generalizations of how black businesses operate. In order to attract clientele, black businesses, depending on their industry, must overcome marketing challenges that are unlike other entrepreneurs. Some of these challenges are: being “too” black to reach a broader audience, being labeled as a “selling out” or not being black enough; and finally, fighting the perception of having an inferior product or service.

 

What if we all— black and white— patronized black businesses at the rate that we patronize other businesses? How would our communities look? Think of it this way, Americans buy lower priced goods everyday overseas because of convenience, if those purchases were made in America the benefit would be job creation and increased quality of life for American citizens. Why should buying black be any more radical than buying American? Our communities are a microcosm of the state of our country. If all communities aren’t adequately supported— we all fail. There needs to be more effort from us as the consumer to be conscience of where we are spending our dollars. While shopping at big box stores is convenient, try challenging yourself to seek out opportunities to spend that $1.2 trillion power at establishments where you can make an impact on a community, rather than just deepening a corporation’s pockets.

For more information on the event, please click here.

For further reading, please take a look at these insightful articles:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/black-hispanic-entrepreneurs-discriminated-against-when-seeking-small-business-loans/2014/06/03/70059184-ea86-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html?utm_term=.dc9cebd2e7a1

http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/blackbizmatters-spending-1-2-trillion-black-buying-power-with-black-businesses/

https://michronicleonline.com/2016/12/19/so-many-black-businesses-so-little-clout-in-a-majority-black-city-detroit-black-business-still-lags/


Handlebars for the Homeless 2017

This past weekend, Black Young Professionals of Detroit supported the Neighborhood Service Organization ‘s (NSO) annual “Handle Bars for the Homeless” event. Last weekend we enjoyed beautiful weather as riders came from all over Southeast Michigan to support NSO’s mission to provide critical services and empower the community’s most vulnerable. We had an amazing turnout, with 50+ volunteers for set-up on August 5th and for the main event on August 6th. BYP’s presence was known throughout the Woodrow Wilson/Rosa Parks area and the Bell Building property; the parking lot was filled with a sea of blue t-shirts ready to answer the call to service. Nearly 300 riders participated in this year’s event. These bikers were greeted and cheered on by our volunteers from start to finish.

 

We cannot say enough about our volunteers, without them, this event would not have run as smoothly as it did. One thing is for certain; no biker went thirsty or hungry on our watch. Each volunteer carried ice cold water, offering bottles to any biker in sight. A crowd of this magnitude can be intimidating or daunting to navigate, our volunteers minimized the space for confusion; at every turn there was someone positioned to guide bikers into the right direction. The organization and leadership shown throughout the weekend was definitely a source of pride.

 

After we broke down all of the tables, tents and cleaned-up; we broke bread! BYP provided a catered volunteer appreciation feast. The positivity of the day continued to flow as volunteers bonded over this awesome experience and got to know one another.

We will continue to provide more opportunities to volunteer. Stay tuned to our website, LIKE our Facebook page, and be sure to become a member if you haven’t already!

To learn more about the Neighborhood Service Organization, visit their website at, https://www.nso-mi.org