To use the parlance of today’s teens, Detroit’s small businesses knew how to bring it to the Mackinac Policy Conference.

They brought pins. They brought literature. They brought pin-up girls dressed in patriotic garb who passed out the pins and literature. It was a greeting like no other.

The brains behind it all? The marketing maverick known as Rachel Lutz, who is bringing her Peacock Room and its friends to Mackinac Island. Want to know how to get noticed in the best possible way among all of these muckety-mucks? Bring some Retro Girls with you to greet everyone when they get off of the ferry and onto the Island.

There is a joy to her mission – she’s a small-business evangelist. Lutz has a clear agenda, and it is to make sure that Detroit, its entrepreneurs and her friends get noticed. That everyone talks about them here and back in the city. That they get their missions understood. What a way to live your brand and your message.

Senator Debbie Stabenow with dock greeters
Senator Debbie Stabenow with dock greeters

Why is Lutz here? She is one of the creators of “Building Bridges to Small Business,” a pop-up shopping experience at the Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island from 3-7 p.m. Thursday, May 28.

The event, sponsored by Detroit-based IT staffing and business solutions company Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) and Mackinac Island’s Mission Point Resort, will coincide with the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Lutz recruited three successful, Detroit-based small businesses to bring their own pop-up shops to Mackinac, including Sweet Potato Sensations, Rebel Nell and Cyberoptix Tie Lab.

S3’s sponsorship reflects the personal commitment of founder, president and CEO Cynthia J. Pasky to support and profile talent that resides in the City of Detroit.

“The small businesses of today are the big businesses of tomorrow, and when there’s robust civic and institutional support of small business, we remove barriers to retaining talent,” Pasky said in a statement. “Small businesses have a real stake in the progress of the communities they serve and are critical to urban revitalization.  S3 started out as a small business in Detroit, and now we’ve grown into a $264 million global company that provides over 2,700 jobs.”


Here’s a little bit about each business – all are must-sees here and in Detroit:

The Peacock Room – A fourth-generation Detroit business owner, Rachel Lutz went from unemployment to providing jobs for seven people after establishing the women’s apparel boutique in the Park Shelton building in 2011.  Tripling her projected revenue during her first year in business, the success of The Peacock Room allowed Lutz to open a second store within ten months at the Park Shelton, called Frida.

Cyberoptix Tie Lab – Bethany Shorb, owner and lead designer, came to Michigan to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and after graduation chose to settle in Detroit, starting Cyberoptix in 2005.  Fabricating scarves, ties and other accessories from silk, microfiber, leather and recycled materials, each item is individually hand-stitched and silkscreened to order by Shorb’s studio team.  Cyberoptix was named one of the top ten performing handmade artists on, and their items can be found online and at over 250 retail locations.

Sweet Potato Sensations – A second-generation family-owned bakery and restaurant, Sweet Potato Sensations was created in 1987 when Cassandra and Jeffrey Thomas began producing sweet potato cookies at local events in northwest Detroit.  Expanding from community kitchens to successful storefronts, Sweet Potato Sensations offers a variety of sweet treats six days a week at their bakery café on Lahser Road in Detroit, as well as local retail outlets.  The company has been featured in local and national media, and has provided the dessert course for the largest sit down dinner in America, the Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner for the Detroit Branch NAACP for over a decade.  In 2013, Sweet Potato Sensations was admitted to the first Detroit class of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.

Rebel Nell – Co-founders Amy Peterson and Diana Russell started their jewelry company with the sole purpose of employing, educating and empowering disadvantaged women in Detroit.  Rebel Nell repurposes broken concrete chips of graffiti, and transforms them into unique, wearable art objects.  The company’s stated goal is to help women move from a life of dependence to one of self-reliance, and they have helped several women successfully make the transition from homelessness to financial stability.  Working directly with local homeless shelters, they identify women who are ready to overcome barriers to employment through the fruits of their own labor.

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