America was built on small businesses. They’re what make cities great and what helps create a unique, one-of-a-kind character and charm. Detroit is home to dozens of small businesses; some have been around for more than 100 years and others are new, entrepreneurial ventures just getting started.
Our city is absolutely brimming with creativity, collaboration and innovation, so it’s no surprise Detroit has become a launching pad for small businesses of all types. We reached out to some of Detroit’s most successful enterprising small business owners to get their top tips for starting a small business.
Four years ago, four metro Detroit sisters started bottling cold-pressed juice in their parents’ kitchen. Today, DROUGHT has six retail locations across metro Detroit, including 719 Griswold Street (Chrysler House) downtown. They raised $5,000 to purchase equipment through a Kickstarter campaign and the rest is history!
“Begin anywhere,” said Julie James, one of DROUGHT’s co-founders. “After a few too many hours spent on our ‘business plan’ – we decided to stop planning and just move on our idea. If you have a great idea, get it out there while it’s hot! Do the necessary planning, but MOVE. When you move, everything else around you moves!”
James also stresses the importance of putting in the necessary time and hard work.
“Many people think working hard should feel the same as working an eight hour day for someone else. But the reality is, owning your own business is constant and requires many more hours of work each day than you may be accustomed to. The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
But, James adds – balance is important, too.
“Find time for things other than work. Remember that your original goal in working for yourself was unconventional freedom of some sort. Be sure to grant that to yourself – you’re the only one who will!”
When Kacee Must opened the first Citizen Yoga location in Royal Oak in 2013, she focused on bringing purpose to the studio, not only through the physical practice, but through the greater community as well. In just two years, Citizen Yoga has expanded to include a second location in downtown Detroit (1224 Library Street), a clothing line, special yoga events, a teacher training program and, most notably, a strong community of “citizens.”
Kacee advises that consistency is key when starting a business and to keep the bigger picture in mind when making day to day decisions.
“Everything has a solution. It is guaranteed that issues will come up daily with customers, employees, etc. The faster you find a solution, the less stress and frustration you will feel as an owner.”
The golden rule also rings true no matter what type of business you are in.
“Most important, treat people well and remember that everyone wants to be heard, seen and understood,” says Must.
Founded by two metro Detroit natives and Wayne State University graduates, ASHE Supply Co. was born after the owners traveled the world and realizing there was a need for high quality, delicious coffee back home.
Now, ASHE Supply Co. produces handcrafted coffee, clothing and art and is about to open their first brick and mortar café in the Madison Building (1555 Broadway) in downtown Detroit.
A.J. Nichols, one of ASHE’s co-founders, says it’s important to master your craft.
“People’s perception of your knowledge and skills, whether they’re correct or not, can kill or increase your credibility,” said Nichols. “If you want to start a company revolving around a craft you have not yet mastered, no worries, but you have to dive in with all your heart and spend countless hours practicing and learning.”
A.J. also advises not to be afraid to pivot when beginning a new venture.
“In fact, plan to pivot at some point and plan to be efficient enough to be able to pivot,” he said. “Your skill set or company offerings should be vast enough to allow you to change with the market trends.”
Nichols adds, “Remember, if someone else can do it, why can’t you?Anything is possible if you really want it.”
For Rachel Lutz, starting businesses runs in the family. Lutz, owner of the Peacock Room and Frida (15 E. Kirby Street), two Midtown apparel and accessory shops that carry unique and fashion-forward products, is a fourth generation business owner and a second generation Midtown Detroit business owner.
When it comes to advice on starting your own business, Rachel advises starting small.
“You may want everything to be perfect, but the most important thing is to get started, no matter how small you are! Starting a business is a learning process, and you can always adjust as you grow.”
Lutz also says be willing to ask for help.
“No one is an expert on all things, and as a small business owner, you will wear many hats. Identify the areas you need help with, and find people that you respect to give you advice.”
The entrepreneur studied chocolate for eight years at various institutions around the world, worked as a pastry chef, and even traveled to Paris on a whirlwind chocolate tour, before returning home to Detroit in 2014 to start her own chocolate shop in a 600-square-foot Hamtramck production kitchen.
Now, a year later, Alexandra has three retail locations across Michigan, including one at 719 Griswold Street (Chrysler House) in downtown Detroit and makes more than 70 different types of chocolate. She has been nominated for several entrepreneurial awards, and employs nine “babes babes babes.”
Clark’s words of wisdom are simple, “Surround yourself personally and professionally with people you love and respect.”
About Small Business Saturday
First there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. November 27, 2010 was the first ever Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S. More than 200 organizations have already joined American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.
#ShopSmall in Detroit!
Show your support for local Detroit businesses on Saturday, November 28 and shop small with Detroit Experience Factory’s Shop Small Tour or BUILD Bazaar at One Campus Martius. Follow @ShopSmall on Twitter and Instagram, “like” Small Business Saturday on Facebook, and tag your posts and photos with #ShopSmall #SmallBizSat #ShopDetroit.
Six Small Detroit Businesses to Visit!
Maybe you’ve heard their names and always wanted to give them a try, or maybe you didn’t even know they existed (but now you do!) Here’s a list of six small Detroit businesses to visit. From books to gifts to delicious pies, you’ll be glad you decided to #shopsmall in the D!
Neighborhood: Cass Corridor, Midtown
Must-have: Detroit and Michigan-themed Christmas ornaments ($12)
Nestled along West Canfield in Detroit’s Cass Corridor sits City Bird, a shop with enough Detroit-centric merchandise to bring you back time and time again. Michigan-themed items include drinking glasses adorned with neighborhood names like Boston Edison, glicee prints of the Bronx Bar, and tote bags with the logo of the now-defunct Detroit Tribune newspaper. 460 W. Canfield St., Detroit, Mon.-Sat. 11-7 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m., 313-831-9146, www.ilovecitybird.com.
Must-have: Detroit Mercantile Co. greeting cards ($4.50 ea.)
Tote bags, jewelry, t-shirts, and so much more ware waiting for you at the Detroit Mercantile Co., in Eastern Market. Of particular interest is their holiday season cards, which feature iconic Michigan locations set with Christmas imagery: Santa’s sleigh parked outside the American and Lafayette Coney Islands, a Christmas boat sailing under the Mackinac Bridge, and much more. 3434 Russell St., Detroit, Tues.-Fri. 10-7 p.m., Sat. 7-7 p.m., Sun. 11-5 p.m., 313-831-9000, www.detroitmercantile.com.
Neighborhood: Eastern Market
Fashion is a way for us to express ourselves without having to say a word; that’s why Cyberoptix, a tie lab based in Eastern Market, gives shoppers complete customization of their neckwear and accouterments. Whether you want your monogram on a pocket square or a star chart on a skinny tie, Cyberoptix can create it for you in-house. To stay warm in the polar vortex season, pick up a pashmina scarf. The scarves are made of cashmere wool and are printed with images of Detroit, vintage scarves, or whatever you design. Available at Peacock Room, Savvy Chic, the DIA gift shop and City Bird. www.cyberoptix.com.
Must-have: Salted maple pumpkin pie ($4 per slice)
November and December are primetime for pie-eating, which is why every Detroiter should head to Sister Pie, the company that the 2015 Hatch Detroit contest. To get in the spirit of the holidays, snag a slice of salted maple pumpkin pie. It’s a fantastic blend of sweet and salty. 8066 Kercheval St., Detroit, Tues.-Fri. 8-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 9-4 p.m., 313-447-5550, www.sisterpie.com.
Must-have: 2014 Marland Cabernet Franc & Sauvignon, $19
Have you heard it through the grapevine? House of Pure Vin is open on Woodward Avenue and it’s an absolute playground for wine enthusiasts and casual wine drinkers alike. House of Pure Vin offers Detroiters an entry point into a culinary culture that’s rather foreign for most. With the help of master sommelier Claudia Tyagi, patrons can navigate the world of wine from Syrah to sherry. Tyagi recommends the 2014 Marland Cabernet franc and sauvignon vintage, a Michigan vintage by a winery that, in her own words, “can do no wrong.” 1433 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 313-638-2501, www.houseofpurevin.com
Neighborhood: Edge of Downtown Detroit
Must-have: The book you want.
The only thing better than a good book on a winter day is a rare book on a winter day. John King Books, sitting just on the edge of downtown Detroit, has four floors of used and rare books. It’s nationally recognized as one of the country’s greatest bookshops and if you visit you’ll quickly know why. Be sure to grab a map when you enter so you don’t miss what you’re looking for! 901 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, Mon.-Sat. 9-5:30 p.m., 313-961-0622, www.kingbooksdetroit.com.