Detroit Means Business

On May 6th, over 300 small business owners in Detroit bustled through the Cambria Hotel, eagerly participating in the third annual Detroit Means Business Summit (DMB). The summit was a day-long affair packed with numerous networking opportunities, insightful business resources, and robust panel discussions. Mayor Mike Duggan started the morning off with welcoming and opening remarks.

Attendees were treated to inspiring keynote speeches from Jacqueline Baker, a well-known entrepreneur, author, and expert in hosting and entertaining guests, and Johnnie and Alexa Turnage, the founders of Black Tech Saturdays (BTS). BTS is dedicated to fostering innovation and supporting the growth of Black tech in Detroit and beyond.

Baker, a Detroit native, possesses a remarkable gift of bringing people together. She exudes a contagious enthusiasm and is committed to inspiring and enabling others to make meaningful contributions to society, which she did during her keynote speech.

“The real work is when you commit and take action. I don’t stand here for fun; I stand here because I want to provide you with the resources to truly take action,” Baker said. “I want to challenge you to connect with each other consistently. Find a meaningful accountability partner, someone who can check you, whom you give permission to say, “Hey, you said you’re going to do that; have you done it?”

During the summit, many small businesses were awarded funding through grants, business assistance, and fellowships. Art Cartwright, known for his highly accomplished entrepreneurship, business mentoring, and coaching skills through Global Empowerment, had all attendees applauding and cheering as he received recognition and was awarded $2,500 from a raffle sponsored by Black Leaders Detroit. A total of $15,000 in small business grant cash grants were awarded to Detroit entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Larry Crockett, owner and CEO of Lorraine’s Premium BBQ Sauce, was looking forward to the summit, making connections, and supporting his business mentor, Cartwright of Global Empowerment, who he says everyone in the room received the award due to Cartwright’s impact.

“My experience today with the summit was amazing. I was able to connect with more resources and learn things that I didn’t know. It is a learning experience along this journey, and you get the dots connected, which just strengthens what you do as a business owner. You’re not alone; although you may feel like it as an entrepreneur, it’s all about keeping your head up, asking for help, and knowing where to go for help,” Crockett said.

Eric Greer, a business owner and wholesaler of government supplies and retail home goods products, came to support his business mentor Cartwright but left the summit with more than he expected.

“I came to support my mentor. We went to college together, so I’ve known him since I was about 18 or 19,” Greer said. “But the Detroit Means Business Summit also helped me considerably because they gave me the opportunity to run a commercial that I didn’t have the money for. That commercial alone will help take my sales through the roof.”

Dr. Marlo Rencher, President of Detroit Means Business, facilitated tech-related panels that discussed integrating helpful tech tools to support business owners. One panel, ‘Detroit’s Tech Ecosystem,’ included tech-innovating heavy hitters like Monica Wheat, Managing Director of Techstars Detroit and Executive Director and Co-Founder of Venture Catalysts.

“We are excited about what is going on here in the city of Detroit. We’re excited to help you navigate all the challenges and all the opportunities. We talked about how hard it is as a small business but also rewarding. There are also times like this when we’re just excited about what we’re doing. And understand if you don’t do what you need to do as a business, then other people can’t connect to what they need from you, so your business is needed,” Rencher said.

During the summit, DMB unveiled a groundbreaking technology called Buktu. This AI-powered app is designed to give small business owners easy access to resources and information, revolutionizing how entrepreneurs navigate the business’s complexities. With Buktu, small business owners can leverage innovative technology to streamline operations and drive growth.

There were in-person panels combined with live streaming, such as ‘Working on Your Business, Not in Your Business,’ which consisted of a powerful conversation between Racheal Allen, CEO of Operations School, and Jerome Brown of Detroit Soul, moderated by Myka Burley about prioritizing one’s business but not allowing it to consume your life and be able to live a full life.

Winona Thomas, co-founder of Lorraine Distribution Company, with her daughter as the founder, won one of the 20 $2,500 grants from Black Leaders Detroit. Today, Thomas works double the time running her business while she works her corporate job. She is looking forward to using the funding to expand and, down the road, retire from her corporate job to focus solely on her business.

“We are a product-driven business, and our focus product is mouthwash. We currently have it in neighborhood grocery stores. However, our goal is to branch out into big box stores like Meijer, Walmart, and Target. As a single mother, I wanted to leverage entrepreneurship to reach back and empower other single mothers. My daughter, being the founder, was my way of introducing her to the entrepreneurial space,” Thomas said. “I’m still in shock because more funding is something that we have been looking for. We want to scale our business, and this funding will help us do more digital marketing and build our customer base.”

‘Black Bottom Billions’ was also introduced during the summit. This revenue-based game is a tribute to the Historic Black Bottom business district of Detroit, celebrating its rich legacy of entrepreneurship and innovation. The game encourages friendly competition amongst entrepreneurs, fostering collaboration and innovation.

In between the panel presentations, attendees had the opportunity to connect with 32 local organizations, such as the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) and New Economy Initiative, to name a few, to help Black entrepreneurs connect with the resources needed to succeed. Attendees also focused on their health and wellness through chair meditation with Robyn Childress of Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness.

“The applications are open today. It’s not just about the money. There’s also the camaraderie, what you learn, and the mentorship with everything else that ties into your business,” Rencher said.

For more information on how to start your business, meet funders, business pitch opportunities, grant opportunities, and more, visit







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