By MARGARET BLOHM
For the Times-Herald
Over the past few months, LaunchDETROIT has been following the progress of small business owners who are graduates of this multi-faceted micro loan program for Detroit area entrepreneurs.
“With the many challenges small businesses are facing during this pandemic, we wanted to find out how they were doing and what kind of support they need,” said Margaret Williamson, chair of LaunchDETROIT, a program spearheaded by Rotary volunteers from Rotary District 6400, which includes Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Downriver. “We invited entrepreneurs featured in our online Entrepreneur Marketplace to participate in a series of Zoom sessions.”
Williamson said they learned entrepreneurs were indeed facing a variety of financial and logistic challenges of getting their products to market.
“What we were delighted to witness was how eager they were to help one another by sharing their own networks and strategies,” she said. “Even more, they demonstrated tremendous resilience and positive attitudes.”
This month, LaunchDETROIT learned two of the entrepreneurs have made dramatic leaps forward. Latricia Wright, who is founder of Olive Seed, was one of 15 black female business owners selected by Stacy’s Pita Chips and Hello Alice to receive a $10,000 grant along with executive coaching, mentorship and professional advertising services.
Wright was partnered with celebrity mentor Gwyneth Paltrow, CEO and founder of goop, who promoted Wright’s business on her social media channels during a daylong “Small Business Takeover.”
“The social media takeover was a huge success for Olive Seed,” Wright said. “In addition to increased visibility, we gained a few hundred followers and increased sales. The business development training provided by LaunchDETROIT provided the tools to increase my capacity to achieve sustainable business growth.”
While the pandemic slowed Wright’s progress in opening a holistic wellness center, demonstration kitchen and community space in Detroit, she is excited about moving forward with her plans.
Almost simultaneously, Rotary volunteers learned that Ronier Golightly, owner of Motor City Popcorn and also a graduate of LaunchDETROIT, was putting the finishing touches on a new store that opened last week at 7104 W. 7 Mile, west of Livernois, in Detroit.
During LaunchDETROIT’s most recent Zoom meeting, Golightly gave attendees a virtual tour of the store which mirrors a movie theater concession filled with its signature gourmet popcorn in a variety of flavors plus ice cream, nachos, candy, and beverages.
In addition to the new Detroit location, Golightly shared that he has increased online sales to individuals and other stores nationwide through his website, www.motorcitypopcorn.com.
Celebrating the success of these entrepreneurs, Rotary’s LaunchDETROIT volunteers are in the process of finalizing selection of its next class of entrepreneurs, who submitted applications online.
“Due to the pandemic, we’ve had to make some adjustments to the free business classes we offer, because they will have to be virtual rather than in person,” Williamson said. “However, there are many positives to the changes we’ll make. We can’t stop. We have to keep moving ahead — like our entrepreneurs.”
For more information about LaunchDETROIT, its Entrepreneur Marketplace or to submit an application online, go to www.LaunchDETROIT.org.