Q: Where did you grow up? Why did you choose to live in Detroit?
I grew up in Traverse City in Northern Michigan. After attending college at Michigan State University, I moved back for a while but found out that there wasn’t enough job opportunities for early career folks. While trying to manage a job as a copyrighter and working as a server at the same time, I still could not afford to move out of my parents’ house and live in a comfortable way. So I decided to take a job in Lansing half year later, worked there for a year, and then moved to the suburbs of Detroit for a job at a marketing firm. However, I realized I did not really like branding or living in the suburbs. As I went to Detroit more frequently, I decided to live in the city and haven't left since then. I was getting my Masters in Library and Information Science at Wayne State, working at the Detroit Regional Chamber, and also working with Detroit SOUP, which later turned into a full-time job. So, there was no reason for me to leave.
Q: How has Detroit changed since the moment you got here until now?
A ton of things have changed, especially the downtown area. When you go out on a Friday night, there are just so many people and it’s so busy now. I remember, I was driving home through downtown with my mom and sister after my stepdaughter’s ballet performance. People were everywhere and my sister even asked whether there was any event going on -- this is just the new norm!
The neighborhoods have also changed a lot. Through my work with SOUP, ProsperUS, and TechTown, I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, especially business owners and community groups. As my career has moved along its path, so has the development of those businesses and organizations. It's been a privilege to watch and participate in. I do agree that positive development might not be fast enough, and the people living in the neighborhoods deserve more. Looking back, though, it's impressive and that's mostly been because it's through the hard work of those neighborhood businesses and organizations that any change has been seen.
Q: How do you picture Detroit in the future?
Well, I don't know. I am a very pragmatic and planning-oriented person, but I don't necessarily look at my environment in the same way. I have hope for the dreams of many of the urban farmers and the folks in the agricultural scene -- a green city that subsists on its own and would not need support from the outside. It’s a really important dream, but I don’t know if it’s gonna happen in the next 10 years, hopefully 50 years, though. I also imagine us, as a community, moving closer to legitimizing the work of urban farmers, creating sustainable systems in the city, and celebrating the small businesses that are building the city we all live in and enjoy.
Q: Fun question! What is your favorite thing to do in Detroit?
Haha. This has changed dramatically based on changes in my life situation. I would say, for now, my answer would be going to Belle Isle with my family and paddleboarding in the Detroit River.
Q: What is a hurdle you have overcome?
When I started at ProsperUS, we had a director of the program for 4-5 months and then she left, so that position remained vacant for 6 months. At that time, adding on to my daily work as a program manager, I also needed to share the duties of the director and co-direct the program until they hired someone for the position. It was a tough time -- I worked long and stressful hours. It was important to me because our work reached an audience that many entrepreneurship programs weren't able to and the work felt urgent.
Q: How would you describe social entrepreneurship and how do you believe TechTown is fostering it?
It can be a lot of different things, and, for me, one might be the act of folks starting businesses in the neighborhoods of Detroit. Neighborhood businesses are the way to provide services and goods for Detroiters that need and deserve them. At TechTown, there are tons of ways we take this into account. For broad strokes context, the neighborhood programs, like SWOT City, can help businesses achieve milestones and stabilize. Retail Boot Camp helps place emerging retailers and retail services in the neighborhoods, while the tech programs provide an open and comfortable setting to validate people’s ideas. All of our programs also offer a space to start with an abundance of resources.
Q: What would you want to share with people who do not know much about Detroit?
I have done a decent traveling throughout US -- Detroit is one of the friendliest places I have ever been. It gets a reputation that it does not deserve because the people here are so nice and welcoming, and neighbors are also so kind and generous. If you smile at someone on the street, they will most likely smile back. Detroiters are definitely some of the nicest people!