Black Women Entrepreneurs Are Big In Detroit, But Much More Needs To Be Done

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Black women entrepreneurs are the fastest growing group of business owners in the nation, but they’re also starting with the least amount of capital.

That’s especially important in a city like Detroit that is about 80% black, although our entrepreneurial sector – especially those who get venture funding – does not reflect that.

This conversation with Dr. Courtney McCluney, assistant professor at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University was recorded a few days ago.

Dr. McCluney is in the middle of work on a multi-year study on the topic of Black Women Entrepreneurs in Detroit.

But to me is especially poignant to share now in light of a recent article in MLive featuring a 19-year old entrepreneur.

Who is a University of Michigan student.

Who said they started their million dollar firm, Zuplift, from nothing two years ago.

It seems at first like the typical young guy business success story we’ve read a thousand times.

But that entrepreneur is AJ Gilbert, the 19-year-old son of one of America’s richest men, Dan Gilbert.

And here’s the passage that is full of usually ignored business speak that caught the ire of many of my neighbors in Detroit, attributed to AJ.

“We started it from nothing…It took a lot of hard work but we’re passionate about putting our customer first.”

I’d note here that their biggest client, according to the article, is Quicken Loans. As you probably know, his dad, the aforementioned billionaire, founded that.

Now I’m not one to discount hard work. Or that it’s a challenge to build a business.

But privilege, I think, isn’t about that.

It is the awareness you’re starting ahead of others. That the playing field in this society is not level. And stat after stat, and life experience after life experience for people of color, shows that it’s not.

In short, we as a community and a country have work to do. And there are people and organizations, locally, who are making an effort to change things in the entrepreneurial space.

This conversation was recorded before the article I mentioned above, but I think important to talk about. So have a listen in the player at the bottom of the screen or in your favorite podcast app:

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