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