Detroit organization gives residents chance to chase dreams

Nonprofit helps people kickstart businesses

By Kelley Kosuda - Producer

DETROIT - It can be hard to get a small business going. You need a plan, licenses, permits, a business structure, finances. The list can go on and on.

For Detroiters with a passion, there’s a non-profit organization that helps kick start their businesses with the hopes to help them succeed in the community.

ProsperUS Detroit is a branch of Southwest Solutions. It’s a support initiative designed to empower low and moderate income immigrant and minority individuals. It focuses on supporting these entrepreneurs with training, business services and micro loans.

The goal is to launch and grow sustainable businesses that can transform local economies in the neighborhoods of Detroit.

Director Channell Scot Contreras said ProsperUS values the neighborhoods and those in them.

"We know that residents might often feel disconnected or not a part of the energy and the resources in downtown or midtown," Contreras said. "We consider it our jobs to get them connected to those services."

One of those businesses is Lush Yummies Pie Company. Owner Jennifer Lyle is a graduate of the program. She went to ProsperUS with an idea. She had a delicious lemon butter pie recipe that had been passed down four generations.

Lyle wanted to turn her pies into a business but didn’t know how. After going through the program, she now sells her pies at Eastern Market, sells them in local grocery stores, caters and will soon be opening up a brick and mortar store in Midtown Detroit.

Lyle is just one of the many success stories for the organization, so she was a natural choice to help judge the annual pitch competition.

Three entrepreneurs pitch their small business ideas with the chance to win three prizes. Checks range from $3,000 to $10,000.

Yotique

Marie (Deirdre) Crenshaw owns Yotique, a vintage clothing store for men and women in Detroit.

She grew up going to a vintage store in Eastern Market with her grandma, but could never afford to buy anything. It’s her goal to make vintage pieces affordable for everyone. She’s a born and raised Detroiter looking to bring more fashion and glam to the city.

Paradise Natural Foods

Nezaa Bandele owns Paradise Natural Foods, a 100% vegan, plant-based food company.

She was born and raised in Jamaica and loves to do global vegan cuisine with a nod to her Caribbean roots. Nezaa’s dream is to open a deli where people can try the food and buy some to bring home and cook themselves.

Nezaa says she’s hoping to be a part of Detroit’s comeback as she grows her own business.

Havana on Wheelz

Mayra Planas owns Havana on Wheelz, which brings authentic Cuban cuisine to Detroiters.

Mayra came to Detroit from Cuba in 2001 and noticed there aren’t many Cuban Sandwich shops in Metro Detroit. She’s hoping to bring her culture and fresh cuisine to the area and to create jobs in the city by building a café.

Intuit, the flagship for products like TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint, was a major sponsor for this year’s Annual Convening. Eileen Fagan leads corporate responsibility for Intuit and has been working with ProsperUS. The company helped with the prizes for the pitch competition and gave a major donation to ProsperUS to help future entrepreneurs of Detroit.

Find out the winner of the pitch competition above.

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