I remembered the day we arrived: struggling to locate everyone, running around the airport with our suitcases, and failing to find our Uber. Nervous and lost – I stared at the road sign of Detroit as we finally drove into the city.
Yet, now biking down Cass Avenue and paddling across different neighborhoods, I see a completely different side of Detroit. In the past two months, I have learned so much about this city and its people.
Detroit: the City
From the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, to Underground Railroad Exhibit, our cohort gained a better understanding of Detroit’s rich cultures and history. Through events such as Soup Pitch and Hatch Day, we witnessed firsthand Detroit’s dedication to supporting every Detroiter’s dream. Volunteering with Brilliant Detroit, we were touched by Detroiter’s drive to give back to their community. Harsh winter and striking crime rate – those past associations I have about Detroit have long been replaced. Now, I see Detroit as a vibrant city with rich cultures and tight-knitted communities.
The word ‘Entrepreneurship’ may first appear as something far from our daily life and something intimidating. Yet, Detroiters see it as an opportunity, and through it, they made their dream come true and better their communities. The process is by no means easy, of course. Throughout the summer, we interviewed a number of entrepreneurs who kindly shared with us their journeys, including all the ups and downs. Many entrepreneurs are immigrants, and they choose to start their own businesses as they faced language barriers, cultural shock, and prejudices during the employment process. Yet, first as the means to support themselves and their families, immigrant businesses have now become one of the important pillars in Detroit. They helped to revitalize the community as they bring in diverse cultures to the neighborhood. When the city they now called home was in difficult times, they went out of their way to uplift the community. Many immigrant entrepreneurs stood out for Detroit during COVID by sending food supplies and delivering their services to those in need. Detroiters have shown that entrepreneurship is not just a way to create economic value but a bridge that brings everyone together.
I have the honor to work with ProsperUs this summer, particularly with its wonderful team members. Everyone on the team is truly passionate about what they are doing, and they strive to support Detroiters in their professional and personal life. When we have an applicant who failed the application but showed her dedication to realizing her dream, our team member advocates for her in the committee while helping her to better her business plan. When we have entrepreneurs who experienced difficulty making their payments, our loan officers listened to their stories and tailored a step-by-step financial plan for them. ProsperUs team members always try to ensure the graduates know that ProsperUs is here to support them every step in their journey. ProsperUs is an exemplar of Detroit’s spirit: from the community, for the community.
I am very grateful for this opportunity to experience life in Detroit and to develop connections with all the amazing Detroiters. I am excited about future visits – next time I won’t be nervous or lost.