Changing Detroit one entrepreneur at a time!

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By Lawrence Wright
Photos by Alyce Henson/Rotary International

The tagline above was one of the early lines we in Rotary District 6400 used during our LaunchDetroit open house events when we were telling our story to prospective applicants. Later, I remember thinking about that line and wondering if it was too much of a cliché.

Fast forward to today and I have become a true believer. This program, which we started in 2013 to provide microloans, training, and mentoring to those trying to start local businesses, has had that transformational effect on several budding entrepreneurs in Detroit.

I think of Willie Brake and his small computer business. He started in year one of our program and, after two years, opened his own retail store offering computers and computer services to customers in his neighborhood. The neighborhood had been without any local computer stores, since most had either moved to the suburbs or been replaced by big-box stores that sold computers.

I’ve enjoyed visiting with Willie and hearing the good things he’s accomplished so far, such as hiring young local techies to work in his store while he moves out into the community to promote his business. Willie completed one loan cycle and returned for a second round of funding earlier this year. Remember: . . . ”one entrepreneur at a time.”

I also think of the Loves. Donnie (who is blind) and her husband, Alan, own Love’s Custard Pies. They too joined us during the first year of LaunchDetroit. They took advantage of the free small-business classes we offered our entrepreneurs through our strategic partner Baker College-Allen Park.

The Loves were struggling to find a registered kitchen where they could bake their pies, and also struggling to create outlets for distribution. This past summer, they moved into a state-of-the-art registered kitchen operated by a nonprofit at Detroit’s Eastern Market, the largest historic market in the country. In addition, each weekend, they sell their pies to the public at Eastern Market. During the last two summers, they were invited to be the exclusive dessert vendor at a local outdoor concert venue. I watched them develop a following of fans who now seek out Donnie’s uniquely blended pies, and confess that I’ve become one of their biggest fans.

LaunchDetroit serves an important role in this city. It brings valuable resources to entrepreneurs who are desperately seeking guidance. And to think that Rotary members are jumping in to make a difference. Wow!

So, it may be a cliché, but in this instance, it’s very true: We are changing Detroit, one entrepreneur at a time!

151029_larrywrightAbout the author: Lawrence Wright is a past governor of District 6400 and a member of the Rotary Club of Taylor, Michigan. He is president of LaunchDetroit.

4 thoughts on “Changing Detroit one entrepreneur at a time!

  1. Inspiring article Past Governor Lawrence Wright. If somehow you can show us how we can help people the same here in Indonesia. We have so much struggling new small home business here, it is interesting because more and more people turns to do their own business as working in the office is hard to find or no longer promising.

    Rotarian Gabrielle
    Club of Bogor


  2. I am excited about how you have changed lives with the micro credit. We are going for the same here in Uganda. The Rotary club of Kasangati, with its Rotaract club of the Nangabo Vocational center will be embarking on economic empowerment by teaching the community members skills that they can put to work to create a livelihood. some of the skills like baking cakes and bread. Preparing snacks, these fetch some good money for those who lack the money to go to the vocational institute and yet would love to learn the skills so they can be resourceful to their families.Through this intervention the community will be economically empowered.
    Posted by Rotarian Flavia Nampala


  3. Thanks for your mail.pp. Rtn Briggs kurotamunoye .l support  your vision & will continue  to contribute  toward vision of Rotary.God be our helper.Rcph.

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.


  4. Pingback: Changing Detroit one entrepreneur at a time! | The Rotary Club of Carteret

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