Crain’s Detroit Business
Aug. 19, 2022
A group of 36 entrepreneurs who will be featured in a series of Detroit Historical Museum exhibits highlighting Detroiters who grind daily includes skilled tradespeople, retailers, restaurateurs, DJs, and caregivers.
“The Hustle: Celebrating Detroit’s Unsung Entrepreneurs” is the historical society’s newest effort to uncover and put a spotlight on the stories of Detroiters who make everyday life in the city special, according to a news release. The honorees, a part of the Detroit Historical Society’s The Hustle initiative, were announced during a Thursday evening event at the museum.
The winners will be interviewed and photographed prior to the opening of the exhibit, scheduled for Oct. 8.
Nominations were sought in a variety of categories designed to cover a cross-section of life in the city.The winners were chosen from nearly 800 nominees from all over Detroit. An independent committee selected the 36 winners, who will be featured in five Detroit Historical Museum exhibits over the course of 2022 and 2023. A new group will be profiled each quarter. Honorees include a 15-year-old who established an entertainment venue to a DJ who’s rocked the turntables for more than three decades.
The Hustle will include several educational components. School tours and educational sessions are planned for the 2022-23 school year. A summit is slated for summer 2023 that will provide resources for entrepreneurs of all ages. Virtual tours, a virtual exhibition and a podcast on the program will debut in next year.
“This is just one of many programs and exhibitions that will tell unexpected stories and feature the unsung heroes of Detroit’s history and the interest that the program is garnering is a testament to the fact that we are on the right track,” Detroit Historical Society President and Chief Executive Officer Elana Rugh said in a news release. “Every Hustle exhibit will open with a free community open house, and we’re hoping that every one of the nominees will visit to see their names on the walls of the Detroit Historical Museum.”
Founded in 1921, the Detroit Historical Society is a private, nonprofit organization in Midtown Detroit.
The cost of the project is $500,000-$600,000. The program has garnered strong support from sponsors, including the Gilbert Family Foundation, which made a $150,000 contribution to the effort; Toyota Motor North America and AAA/The Auto Club group, each of which chipped in $100,000; Bank of America and PNC Bank each put in $50,000; JPMorgan is chipping in $20,000, while Dykema Detroit is making a $10,000 contribution.
The honorees from each category:
- Adrienne Bennett, Benkari LLC: Michigan’s first female licensed master plumber and plumbing contractor. She held several high-profile positions before starting her own company.
- Jarrell Lowman and Emile Vincent, Handy Relocations: Both owners, also hip-hop artists, have built a sustainable moving business from the ground up, generating jobs for Detroiters.
- Orson Porter, Orson’s Collision and Auto Repair: Started his business as a teenager in his childhood backyard and has been the owner of the go-to neighborhood auto shop for 10 years.
- Algernon Bartell, Times Square Clothing; 42nd Street; The Mad Hatter, The Red Door, The Shoe Box; Suits 4 Less: Longtime retailer with four stores on Detroit’s “Avenue of Fashion” and another on the east side.
- Briana Matthews, The Sock Place: Online sock retailer, gives back to the community by making sure that local schools have socks in wintertime.
- Tykia Stokes, Karismas Kloset: Customer service-driven boutique that has grown to two locations plus an online presence over 10 years in business.
- Candace Williams, Barks Fifth Avenue: Williams left a high-stress corporate job to open luxury dog boutique in 2022 and mentors aspiring retailers.
- Danyell Bragg, Hair By Danni Bee: Up-and-coming hair stylist who created scholarship opportunities for local students and workshops to teach skills to aspiring stylists.
- Emmalene Hunter, The Fashion Place: 40-plus year owner of a staple boutique in the New Center area, showcasing the latest in women’s fashion trends.
- Frederick Paul II, Fahrenheit 313: Created a sneaker exchange business model to sell the hottest new sneakers and allow Detroiters to re-sell their preowned sneakers.
- Lorenzo Pearson, Untouchable Empire Unisex Salon: Barber, salon owner, football coach and founder of “The Big Build Up,” an annual neighborhood picnic and family event on the west side.
- Bert Dearing, Bert’s Marketplace and Jazz Restaurant: Carrying on a legacy of family entrepreneurship and providing a showcase for Detroit’s arts and music communities in Eastern Market.
- Nya Marshall, IVY Kitchen + Cocktails: Redeveloped a vacant structure on East Jefferson and opened a full-service, sustainable restaurant that also gives back to the community.
- Seajoseffer “Joe” Spencer, Louisiana Creole Gumbo Restaurant and Food Trucks: Has owned the creole restaurant since 1983, serving family recipes and employing hundreds of community members.
- C. Espy Thomas, Sweet Potato Sensations Bakery: Neighborhood destination of more than 30 years for sweet treats that also offers community support.
- Raphael Wright, Neighborhood Grocery: Working to drive change by partnering with Black food businesses and opening an equity-crowdfunded grocery store.
Artist and Entertainers
- Cathryn Coleman, Bouncing Around the Motor City: Rehabilitating a long-vacant building into Detroit’s one-stop shop for party and event rentals and balloon décor.
- Kelli Cooke and Jordyn Watson, Detroit Selfie Museum: Mother-daughter duo running a 6,000-square-foot immersive photography playground in downtown Detroit
- Carl W. Hollier, “DJ Invisible” & Invisible Entertainment: DJ, worldwide goodwill ambassador and teacher, sound and lighting engineer, and full-service event planning company owner.
- Khyiana Tate, Signing with Khy: Teen author who is deaf and wrote and published an ASL ABC signing book featuring Black and Brown family and friends.
Creators and Makers
- Luci Butts, Chilled Peels Lemonade: Turned a lemonade stand she started in 2020 into a bottling business that now produces 20 flavors and 2,500 bottles weekly.
- Ali Evans, GODNII: The only eyewear manufacturer in Detroit and the only known minority-owned eyewear maker in the country.
- Akil lvin, Digital Detroit Media: Started ad agency at 18 years old, now a multimillion-dollar business nine years later.
- Sherrie Savage, Naturally ILLustrated LLC: Illustrator who creates artwork featuring curls, coils and kinky hair types, coupled with all-ages community coloring events.
- Emmanual Smith, “Mr E in the D”: Dean of culture at University Preparatory Academy-Ellen Thompson Campus who creates fun and exciting academic materials to engage students with math and reading.
- M. Kay Willingham, Art in Motion: Ceramics studio where artists from around the world share their crafts and community members learn to express their own creativity through art.
Helpers and Caregivers
- Patrick Hines, Functional Fluidics: Biotechnology company owner who created diagnostic tools to help predict sickle cell disease and other disorders related to abnormal red blood cell function.
- Khali Sweeney, Downtown Boxing Gym: Founded the nonprofit Downtown Boxing Gym, offering free after school academic and athletic programs, meals and transportation.
- Alison Vaughn, Jackets for Jobs: Celebrating 22 years of providing more than 31,000 Detroit job seekers with professional attire to look their best for job interviews.
- Latricia Wilder, Vibe Ride Detroit: Fitness studio owner committed to encouraging a healthy mind and body, as well as supporting other entrepreneurs.
- Djenaba Ali, Black Bottom Garden Center: Offers flowers, houseplants, hand tools, and more, with an emphasis on customizing portable culinary gardens.
- Marc D’Andre, 7Mile Radio: Online, independent radio and TV broadcast company reporting on news and crime in the city for more than 15 years.
- Richard Blanding, Scrap Soils: Since 2020, Scrap Soils has collected and composted more than 52,000 gallons of food waste with on-site operations.
- Arthur C. Davis, “A Work of Art” Executive Protection: Longtime security professional providing personal security/executive protection for top Detroit names in addition to visiting performers and celebrities.
- Mykolas Rambus, Hush: Privacy protection firm committed to building a tech ecosystem in Detroit.
- Tyrell Slappey, Terrance Crowell, and Markita Richardson, Round 1 Gaming Lab: Created a mobile video game trailer that has become a community entertainment staple for all ages.