On Thursday morning, Michigan Chronicle and co-moderators Dennis Archer Jr. and Vickie Thomas hosted the Digital Edition of Pancakes and Politics Forum V.
The theme of Forum V was, “All Roads Lead to Detroit: Detroit as the next Entrepreneurial Hotspot for Black Business. The keynote speaker was John Hope Bryant – founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE, Inc. The panelist included: Eric E. Whitaker, founder & Chief Executive Officer, Zing Health, Inc., Mark Wilson – president and CEO of Chime Solutions, Tracy Reese – American Designer and founder of Hope for Flowers and Candice Matthew Brackeen, General Partner Lightship Capital.
Archer kicked off the discussion by asking Reese why she came back home, to Detroit to continue building her fashion brand.
“I’m a native Detroiter and I love my city. Why not Detroit?” she said. “There were so many exciting things happening here, but I was disappointed to see not enough equity for black Detroiter’s in all of this growth.”
I wanted to be a part of creating opportunities for my people at home, she said.
“I want to encourage the entire fashion industries here in the U.S. to consider Detroit as a production possibility. I want to be a part of manufacturing clothing here in Detroit,” Reese explained. “I want to be a part of offering real opportunities for well-paying jobs, train people in all the skills needed in my industry, and I want to be able to give back and be able to offer art education for youth.”
Thomas navigated into the chat and asked the panelist, “How do we best prepare our children with the skills and education needed for these opportunities.”
“It’s all about dreaming,” said Brackeen. “I have two young boys and the younger one keeps a messy room. Sometimes it’s discouraging, but sometimes when I go in there, I’ll notice that he is taking apart a pair of headphones and is discovering what’s inside of it. There are times that I want to go in there, and I want to get mad at the scenario that is happening, but he is in there dreaming and he’s exploring the world. Children do these same things in school, but then they get in trouble and are seen as that ‘troublemaker child’.”
These children aren’t troubled, she said.
“They just aren’t being allowed to explore, think big, and think in new and different ways. So, if there is anything that should be said… are schools need to align themselves with our children and not the opposite direction.”
During the conversation, Thomas asked, “Why is Detroit a better economic decision for your business when you can go when you can go to any other city?”
“Detroit it the city of makers. We have it in out DNA,” said Reese. “There are multiple reasons why Detroit is uniquely positioned to lead in the sector, and I want to be a part of making that happen here.”
Thomas then asked a question from an audience member and said, “How are you all identifying and gaining access to talent here and what barriers have you faced.”
“We haven’t got started yet,” said Wilson. “We are still doing research, but we are very excited to get started soon.”
Towards the end of the chat, Thomas asked, “Does it matter who will be occupying the White House in terms to what you’re up to?”
All three-panelist said yes, it does matter who is occupying the White House when it comes to their business and projects.
“Joe Biden proposed lowering Medicare age from 65 to 60 and for my personal business that would mean, 21-million customers potentially and that would help me get to my billion dollars plus value much quicker,” Whitaker said.
Thomas ended the virtual chat by asking, “What does it take to be successful?”
It does take hard work, said Reese.
“I’m trying to learn work-life balance, because that has not been something that I have been great at throughout the course of my career,” she said. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, but I also learned that you can’t do it in a vacuum. I also learned that you cannot do it without bringing others along with you. I find my joy in my work, but I find even greater joy to share what I do and teach what I do and share what I’ve learned.”
The Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics highlights pressing business, civic, and economic topics, bringing together a diverse group of policy and decision-makers, influencers, and business and community leaders. Created in 2006, Pancakes & Politics consistently generates dialogue that drives transparency and progress in the region. In years past, Pancakes and Politics panels have featured well-known CEOs, political powerhouses, university presidents, community advocates, union leaders, healthcare leaders, the well-known and not so well known; inspiring many headlines and news stories along the way.
To watch Pancakes & Politics Forum V in its entirety, please visit the Michigan Chronicle’s Facebook page.