“There is no lack of people within Detroit’s neighborhoods who want to collaborate. April Boyle, Executive Director of Build Institute, a network of grass-roots programs that train people to bring their business ideas to life, says more attention and investment needs go to into community entrepreneurship. To date, Build has graduated 600 aspiring and experienced community entrepreneurs. Build fosters growth for what they call Main Street entrepreneurs– brick and mortars or mom and pop lifestyle passion businesses–that are looking to open businesses in their community.
“We need both the investment paid to tech and high-growth companies but we also need to foster and nurture the community and Main Street entrepreneurs to keep the wealth, to keep our culture, and to preserve Detroit as a unique place,” says Boyle. “The respect for the small business community or the work that we’re doing at that cross section of community entrepreneurship and economic development doesn’t get the respect it deserves because people measure success in dollars, and they don’t understand that this problem took 50 years. It may take hopefully not as long because we don’t have that long to wait, but it’s going to take a long while in order to have that pipeline of workers, and talented, bright innovative workers have to start somewhere.”
We’re so excited to welcome Eric Dean to our Build team as our new Registration and Recruitment Coordinator. Eric will manage all the registration process for our Build classes as well as outreach to more aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Get to know Eric a little bit more in this Q&A.
Where were you born and raised?
I am born and raised in Detroit, MI. I love to traveling and sightseeing but nothing beats Detroit.
What made you want the position of Registration and Recruitment Coordinator at Build Institute?
Each one of the Build staff, graduates, and volunteers I met were very welcoming and friendly. I knew wanted to be a part of Build Institute in some way. After finding out about the position, I knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the Build team.
What do you like most about your current job?
Being that I come from a communications and public relations background, I love to connect with the public and spread the word about Build programs and courses. Whether it’s through social media, emailing, or in person, Build gives me the opportunity to be one of the faces of the organization.
What is your education background?
I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in Public Relations and Sociology. I have been thinking about grad school lately, but I like spending my time at Build right now.
Do you own a small business?
No business yet, but I have been playing with the idea of starting my own public relations company.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I’m not working, I am usually looking at fashion magazines or going to concerts. Fashion and music have always played a big part in my life. Whenever I was need to de-stress, I put on my headphones and read GQ, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, or Vogue.
What do you love so much about Detroit?
I love the people and the new developments happening around the city.
Detroit is a city full of hardworking, honest people. When you talk to someone from Detroit, we are very open and inviting to tell you about our lives. We remind you that we don’t live in the perfect city or have the perfect lives but we are strong and determined to make our lives remarkable and meaningful. The pain, passion, and determination in our voices are something that I haven’t seen in any other city.
I also appreciate the new restaurants forming. I love food!
What makes a successful leader?
To me, a successful leader is one who takes risks. Someone who understands in order to better yourself you sometimes need to make tough decisions. Someone who isn’t scared to state what they think, even if it’s not the popular opinion. With that, someone who understands they don’t know everything, so there’s always an area to grown and learn.
A successful leader in an organization is someone that can effectively communicate the goals and the mission of the company to their team. Some employees feel disconnected with the employers and it shows in their work. A successful leader is one who can include their team in the operations of the organization and inspire them to do their best work.
What’s your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
My plan is to travel more and spread the word about Build programs and courses. I want to finish grad school and start my own public relations company. That’s the simplified version. I know there’s a lot of work that goes into these things. So I guess that my BHAG.
Our Build facilitator Tifani Sadek of Sadek Bonahoom is known as the small business lawyer in Detroit. She’s worked with tons of companies including many of our own Build grads. Here she shares her top pieces of legal advice for entrepreneurs.
Do not get your legal advice from the internet.
It is a good idea to get a good general background so that you can have a knowledgeable conversation with your lawyer, but do not get your legal advice from the internet. I have seen startups bring me some of the worst contracts I could ever imagine that they found on the internet – contracts from other countries, contracts that unknowingly give their companies away, contracts that are completely unenforceable in Michigan, contracts that would result in possible jail time (usually pertaining to SEC violations and trying to raise money from investors). I understand not every startup can afford tall legal bills – that’s why I started my own firm to be able to offer more affordable legal services. But there are plenty of opportunities to seek legal advice for free or low cost. So many business organizations in Detroit offer legal seminars in which you can access an attorney and get your questions answered. Area law firms – including mine – regularly host events, seminars, and workshops for entrepreneurs. The US Patent & Trademark Office has events where you can speak directly to patent law professionals. Wayne State University and the University of Michigan offer free or low-cost services to startups that meet certain financial guidelines. Bottom line – there’s no reason you have to go it alone when it comes to making sure you are on the right path legally. As the saying goes – whether it is at the beginning or at the end, you’ll pay for a lawyer one way or another.
Make the deal clear with your business partners.
I always say that taking on a business partner is like getting married – you will be sharing finances, making decisions together, and spending a lot of time with each other. Would you marry someone without really know them and what they expect out of marriage? I hope not! Similarly, you should not become legal partners in business so easily. Talk about key issues, like how much money you expect each to put in, how much time each of you must work, what happens if someone wants to quit, and how are you going to make decisions together. These issues and more should be drafted up in what is called an operating agreement, which are basically the rules of your company. Think of it as a pre-nup, and by going over these issues early while they are still hypotheticals, you can create a roadmap of how to deal with sticky or uncomfortable situations and avoid a lot of potential conflict.
Make the deal clear with your clients.
If you are a service-based company, investing in a good master contract – one you can use over and over – is a great idea. Small business owners are sometimes wary of contracts because they don’t think they would actually enforce them if it came down to it, but that ignores one very basic reason for having a contract: making sure you are on the same page (or a meeting of the minds, as we call it in law). There are many disputes that could have been avoided in the first place had the company and client actually discussed the topic beforehand. Having a comprehensive – yet readable – contract to review with your client makes sure that you both understand the agreement you are making, and that you cover all possibilities and determine how they will be handled ahead of time. I have seen two people have a conversation and walk away with two different understandings of what they just agreed to. Seeing the agreement in black and white clears up a lot of confusion. For that reason alone, having a contract is very valuable to maintaining good customer relations.
Be careful with real estate.
In Detroit specifically, there are a lot of bad real estate contracts floating around, and by bad, I mean the favor the landlords heavily. Make sure you have an attorney review your lease before you sign it. We all read stories about businesses getting evicted or having their rent increase astronomically when an area becomes cool – there are legal protections you have in your lease to prevent that. At the very least, you’ll know what you are getting into before you spend a lot of money advertising your location or sprucing up the place.
Protect your intellectual property.
This is especially important for tech companies, but this applies to everyone really. Sometimes we forget about our intellectual property. We understand those things we can touch – real property like our office or personal property like our laptops. But there is a lot of value in your branding, your recipes, your customer lists, your computer code, your pricing strategies – all of that is what’s referred to as intellectual property. Those things we can touch but that would give our competitors an advantage if they were to have access to it. There are ways to protect your intellectual property, from securing trademarks to having your key employees sign confidentiality agreements so they do not spill your “secret sauce” to the public. If you have a lot of valuable intellectual property that is essential to your business, make sure you are protecting it.