DETROIT, Mich., May 22, 2024 – In 2012, Rotarians from Rotary clubs in Rotary District 6400, that includes southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario, raised funds to start LaunchDETROIT. The program was designed to help entrepreneurs in under-resourced areas of Detroit with business education training, mentoring, and networking along with micro-loans up to $2,500 for those who qualified.

“To date, we’ve helped nearly 100 entrepreneurs, and we have more currently enrolled and ready to begin their business education training,” said Detroit Rotarian Margaret Williamson, chair of LaunchDETROIT.

To help Rotarians and others throughout the region understand the impact this program has made, three LaunchDETROIT graduates were invited to share their experiences at the annual Rotary District 6400 conference on May 3, 2024.

Stephen Ahles, a Southgate Rotarian and member of the LaunchDETROIT committee, led a panel discussion of entrepreneurs, including Linda Kay Pruitt, founder and owner of Mrs. Pruitt’s Gourmet CHA CHA; Phillip Caldwell, founder and executive director of Ponchartrain Development, CDC; and Tara McFarland, founder of PPR Elite Training.

Pruitt shared how the business education training in finance, accounting, marketing, social media and branding helped kick-start her business to a new level. She said, “It was only a year or so more after I completed the program that I was contacted by Meijer’s.”

“Now my product (Mrs. Pruitts Gourmet CHA CHA) is on the shelves of all Meijer’s stores in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky,” added Pruitt, who received loud applause from conference attendees. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Detroit and currently serves on the LaunchDETROIT committee.

Panelist Caldwell, a native Detroiter whose family has long been involved in real estate and received a master’s degree in community development from the University of Detroit Mercy, shared how LaunchDETROIT resources helped him with his community building efforts.


Caldwell said, “Sometimes, you just want to change the world, while my mentors and networking helped me to drill down to more specifics.”

He added, “What I found separates LaunchDETROIT from other programs is that there is follow up from our mentors and the committee. They want to make sure we succeed.”

The third panelist McFarland, a certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist in Riverview, gave credit to her mentor “Jason” who helped with marketing, enabling her to create the first PPR Elite brochure.


Upon completing LaunchDETROIT, McFarland shared her reasons for becoming a Rotarian and joining the Southgate Rotary Club. She said, “Rotary shares the same passion I do — to wake up every day to make a meaningful change in the lives of many.”

In closing the panel discussion, Ahles invited conference attendees to meet with the panelists and learn more about their businesses.

In summing up how the LaunchDETROIT presentation was received, Ahles said, “Our panelists ‘knocked it out of the park.’ There’s no PowerPoint or slideshow that could have made the same impact.”

To learn what LaunchDETROIT can do for your business or business idea, and for more information visit www.LaunchDETROIT.org.

Photo Caption: Rotary District 6400 conference leadership and LaunchDETROIT presenters included from left: Nick Krayacich, Rotary District 6400 president-elect; Stephen Ahles, Southgate Rotarian; Linda Kay Pruitt, panelist and Detroit Rotarian; Jennifer Jones, past Rotary International president; Phillip Caldwell, panelist and Tara McFarland, panelist and Southgate Rotarian.