DETROIT, Mich., April 18, 2022 – Three students and two advisors from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University recently made a weeklong trip to Detroit to help five area entrepreneurs with their marketing and business needs.
The entrepreneurs are all graduates of LaunchDETROIT, the Rotary-powered program established 10 years ago to help entrepreneurs in under-resourced areas of Detroit with business education classes, mentoring and networking, as well as micro-loans of up to $2,500 each for those who qualify.
According to Detroit Rotarian Margaret Williamson, who chairs LaunchDETROIT, the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University contacted them five years ago — offering to send students from its alternative break program to help LaunchDETROIT entrepreneurs with marketing and finance needs.
Students were then paired with graduates of the LaunchDETROIT program who expressed an interest in receiving the third-party review and recommendations for their businesses.
LaunchDETROIT committee members welcomed the students for three consecutive years until the onset of the pandemic. With COVID numbers dropping this spring, three students and two advisors arrived in March.
Freshman Sabina Llerenas, who is studying finance and business analytics, described the group’s experience of meeting with Ronier Golightly of Motor City Popcorn. They recommended alternative business strategies to help Golightly increase sales and gain more foot traffic to his store at 7104 W. Seven Mile in Detroit.
“I’d never been to Detroit before this trip and I was told to expect the worst,” said Llerenas. “I have to disagree with them. Detroit has very strong growth potential, and it was inspiring to see how LaunchDETROIT is part of it.”
The Indiana University students also had an opportunity to meet with members of Wayne State University’s Rotaract Club, who offered a personal connection to other people in Detroit.
Entrepreneur Alita Moore, owner of Ambiance Gift and Candle Bar, met with the students at Detroit’s Tech Town. Sharing her Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis with students, Moore added, “They were able to develop business solutions in a concise and expedient manner. This was insightful and beneficial as I incorporate their recommendations.”
Sophomore Laura Reznar, a finance and accounting major, served as an advisor to the student group, describing her experience in Detroit as amazing. “I feel like I learned a lot and that we made a contribution to the entrepreneurs.” One of the entrepreneurs was Destiney Mohammed, founder of Cultured Diapers, who welcomed their assistance with implementing a social media campaign and also a plan for a non-profit idea.
The group also met with entrepreneur Linda Kay Pruitt, maker of Mrs. Pruitt’s Gourmet CHA CHA, at the Meijer Rivertown Market on Jefferson Avenue to see her products on display.
“I shared my business strategy, and I am thrilled with all of their recommendations,” said Pruitt. “I applauded the students for detailed attention to my brand and great work in a short period of time.”
Entrepreneur Willie Brake, founder of All About Technology, a first-year graduate of the LaunchDETROIT program, invited the students to his store at 6450 Michigan Avenue.
Brake said, “We spoke in detail about social media marketing strategies, and I left with some takeaways that I was able to implement immediately.”
Speaking on behalf of LaunchDETROIT, Williamson said, “This partnership has become an all-around ‘win’ for everyone — the entrepreneurs, students and our program.”
Photo Caption: As part of their weeklong visit to Detroit, Indiana University students attended lunch with entrepreneurs and Rotarians at the Rotary Club of Detroit’s weekly meeting at the Detroit Athletic Club.
(Front row l. to r.: Detroit Rotarian Bernadette Durkin; entrepreneur Destiney Mohammed; IU students Maggie McCarthy, Julia Magrini, Sabina Llernas; Back row, l. to r. entrepreneur Linda Kay Pruitt, IU student Hemang Kirtania, Detroit Rotary President Vita Ann Brown, IU student Laura Rezner, and Detroit Rotarians Mary Ferris and Margaret Williamson, LaunchDETROIT chair.)