Detroit, Mich. (September 10, 2018) – A group of five Detroit area entrepreneurs are working together to help each other grow their businesses.

Called Trailblazers Global and sponsored by the Rotary Club of Detroit, the entrepreneurs are members of a group lending partnership that provides free small business training, micro-loans of up to $2,500 each, business mentoring by local Rotarians and networking opportunities.

It is a pilot program spearheaded by LaunchDETROIT, a similar program initiated five years ago by Rotary volunteers from Rotary District 6400. The Rotary Club of Detroit is one of three local clubs participating in the pilot.

Gathering at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting in Detroit are Trailblazer Global entrepreneurs, clockwise from left, Tammy Tocco, Julian Bates, David Valdez with infant son, Verra Bond, and Angela Colombo with Rotarian Margaret Williamson, chair of LaunchDETROIT.Following completion of five small business training classes provided by International Strategic Management at Wayne State University, five area entrepreneurs talk or meet weekly as a group and with Rotary mentors to discuss their business needs.

Participating entrepreneurs include Verra Bond, National Housing Connection, LLC; Julian Bates, Vizier Tech L.C.; Angela Colombo, The Blue Sparrow; Tammy Tocco, Abiding Helper; and David Valdez, a new arrival to Detroit with plans to open a coffee shop in southwest Detroit.

Bernadette Durkin, a Detroit Rotarian and retired clinical psychotherapist, volunteers as a mentor to the group. Similar to two of the entrepreneurs, she is also new to Detroit, having moved from Washington, D.C. in 2016 to be near her son.

“The diverse backgrounds and businesses in our group make it especially interesting,” said Durkin, who credited business organization classes with helping her manage a large psychotherapy practice.

Entrepreneur Colombo recently purchased an art consignment shop on Kercheval in Grosse Pointe, which she renamed The Blue Sparrow. Colombo, a jewelry designer, is excited to be part of the rebirth of Detroit—having moved to Michigan in May 2017 from New York City.

“When I first joined the Rotary pilot, I had another business idea in mind. Then I learned this shop was available,” said Colombo. “We feature a variety of Detroit artists which has helped me become engaged very quickly in the community.”

Colombo is also the first person in the group to request and qualify for a micro-loan which must be agreed to by the group of entrepreneurs, who are responsible for ensuring timely loan repayments are made. Colombo plans to use the funds for advertising, signage and additional wholesale inventory.

Working fulltime as an experienced property manager, Detroit native Verra Bond joined the group to help launch National Housing Connection, LLC, a transitional housing initiative.

“My goal is to provide quality temporary housing for low to moderate income families and individuals,” said Bond, who is in the process of rehabbing a five bedroom house she purchased in Detroit. “I appreciate the networking, referrals and other opportunities our group provides.”

Entrepreneur Tammy Tocco is owner of Abiding Helper, a company she established to help families enjoy more quality time together by organizing and managing their household needs. Since joining the group, she discovered that she needs help hiring trusted people with the necessary skills to handle a variety of tasks.

“Working directly with families is what I enjoy most,” said Tocco, who is seeking to hire an administrative assistant, to help grow her business.

Inventor Julian Bates, a mechanical engineer, joined the group with three business concepts. At present, he is actively working on his engineering technology startup, Vizier Tech L.C.  In 2017, Bates was awarded a patent from the U.S. Patent Office for a clutch he designed and is busy meeting with different industry applications groups.

Entrepreneur David Valdez recently introduced the group to one of his reasons for delaying his plans to open a coffee shop in southwest Detroit. He brought his infant son, Savi, who has refocused his priorities.

“Having a newborn made me more risk averse,” said Valdez, who is working with and shadowing a friend who has a new coffee shop. “I’m taking the time to learn and become more informed about what I need to do about financing and legal issues. Being part of a group like this helps.”

For more information about the Trailblazers Global, email Margaret Williamson at