Detroit entrepreneurs encourage residents to shop small for the holidays

This is part of a reporting series, supported by Build Institute, that chronicles BIPOC-led businesses and entrepreneurship in Detroit. 

The holidays are right around the corner and soon there will be a rush of delivery trucks dashing to deliver packages and joy to loved ones' doorsteps. For many, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year and there is a way consumers can give the gift that keeps on giving by shopping with local.

Detroit's small business supporters understand that there are a lot of benefits when consumers shop with local businesses. Products usually have an interesting story behind their creation, and the more people shop, the more exposure small businesses receive, local talent is discovered, relationships are built and consumers aid in the growth of the local economy. 

Build Institute, located in The Corner of Corktown, gives small business owners a chance to promote their ideas to the community and connect them with the resources needed to grow their businesses. With programs such as Build Bazaar, Build Box and Detroit Soup, small business owners can connect with fellow Detroiters and draw more people to their businesses. 

Teeahnah Addison. Photo by Steve Koss.

Not Your Aunt’s Vegan Baked Goods

Teeahnah Addison is an entrepreneur with many talents and skills. From being a professional DJ, to a radio personality, to a podcaster, a content creator and a vegan chef, she is always on the move. Addison started her online business Not Your Aunt’s Vegan Baked Goods in 2019 after the passing of her mother. She realized at that moment that she needed to make a change in her diet and began to incorporate more plant-based foods into her diet. 

“Heart problems and diabetes run in my family and after watching what everybody was eating and cooking, I decided it was time to stop and make a change,” says Addison. “When death happens, you feel like nothing is in your control. So for me, I changed my diet and cut my hair because that’s all I could control at the moment. Now, my goal is to ultimately meet my grandkids and I have to be here in order to do that.”

For Addison, incorporating this new lifestyle wasn’t an easy task. She has a sweet tooth and she found that vegan desserts weren’t quite to her liking. So, she decided to take matters into her own hands, literally, and make them herself. Before she knew it, she had created her own business.

“There wasn’t a time that I had a vegan dessert that I thought didn’t have a funny taste or didn’t taste like cardboard. I also was weary of the certain ingredients that were being used to make the vegan desserts," says Addison. “So, I started making my own vegan cookies and I found out that not only did I enjoy them, my family and others started liking them too.” 

As any new business owner, Addison was looking for help and expert advice on how to effectively grow her business. Last year, Addison was able to connect with Janae Griggs, Build Institute’s entrepreneur-in-residence, on Twitter. From there, she received some advice that she now incorporates into her business. 

“I just happened to go on Twitter one day, and I saw a post from Janae asking people if they needed help with their business. I jumped on that opportunity and we were able to set up a phone call to talk,” said Addison. I had websites, email lists, and my social media sites, but I wasn’t making the best use of them. She gave me great advice on how to change my mindset on business and the importance of having consistency with marketing.” 

Addison, since being an entrepreneur, has redirected her shopping practices and is now discovering smaller local shops to buy products from. 

“Aside from supporting others in the way I hope they would support me, it feels like a source of empowerment,” says Addison. “It’s less about where I spend my money and more about validating someone’s dream for me. Us Detroiters want to know that the ideas we have aren’t for nothing, because these are gifts from God and we want to see them be used to their fullest potential.”

Addison is currently trying out new flavors for her vegan cookies and will introduce a new flavor in November. For people that have trouble just choosing one flavor, she also sells batches that can contain up to four different flavors. She’s also in the process of giving out gift boxes for holiday orders and is collaborating with other businesses in the Detroit area. When she’s not baking vegan desserts, you may catch her hosting an event, DJing at a local party or putting out content on her social media.  

Shareese Shorter. Photo by Steve Koss.

Skinphorea Facial Bar and Acne Clinic

Nowadays, the skincare and beauty industry is very prosperous and has grown substantially in popularity. Shareese Shorter, the co-owner of Skinphorea Facial Bar and Acne Clinic, started this business with a “happy hour” theme to help people have and maintain healthy and clear skin, with a main focus on clientele of color.
The business became a brick-and-mortar in 2016 and is now a franchise with one located in Royal Oak on 621 Washington Ave., and the other in Corktown on 1620 Michigan Ave. Shorter and Jessica Hayes-Stallings joined forces to create Skinphorea due to both having a love and passion for skincare. Hayes-Stallings had the vision of the business and the esthetician knowledge due to working and running different spas, whereas Shorter was more in line with finance and operations.

“Skinphorea is honestly Jessica’s baby and vision. She ran Motor City Spa and Massage Green, so when it comes to the hands-on part of beauty and skincare that was always her passion,” says Shorter. “ I understood the vision, but my background is more in finance and operations. It’s a beautiful mixture of her passion for understanding the chemistry and biology behind skin and my passion for understanding the chemistry and biology of running a business.” 

Skinphorea’s services include in-depth consultations, customizable facials, chemical peels, hydra facials, enzyme treatments, microneedling, eyebrow services, body waxing and more with the ambience of going to brunch with friends. It also includes an acne boot camp clinic, with a 97% success rate, that consumers can book to follow an extensive, step-by-step customized program to help with skin needs.  

“The acne boot camp clinic includes the facials and treatments but there is a higher level of education to understanding one’s skin, which is where the clinic part comes in,” says Shorter. “You’re really going more into what are you eating or what are you drinking that may be causing the problem, it includes thorough one-on-one care and use of more medical grade products during the services.” 

Shareese Shorter. Shorter and her business partner are both alumni of Build Institute. They were a part of the first original classes created in 2012 and not only were they taught how to operate a business, but were introduced to connections and resources in the city of Detroit. 

“We were a part of the original Builders program, and they gave us a Builder’s book which had the curriculum to help us develop and put together our business plan,” says Shorter. “Also, Build allowed us a seat at the table. We wanted to rub elbows with people and make connections in our actual hometown, so Build put us in the position to find financing and create connections in the city.”

An example of this connection is Motor City Match (MCM). Skinphorea is a MCM 2021 $30,000 grant recipient. The grant is used to grow the business, as well as kickstart the careers of future estheticians. Skinphorea University is a full esthetics program that entrepreneurs and future estheticians can attend to obtain their Michigan state license. A team of certified professionals provide attendees with a hands-on educational experience. This program emerged from the partnership between Skinphorea and P&A Scholars Beauty School.  

“We have programs where people can come and get their esthetics license instead of paying thousands of dollars to go to a school," says Shorter. "Estheticians that are running their own private suites can take business courses that show them how to scale up their business from being a basic salon or spa to being something a little more elaborate and help them own their own brick-and-mortar.”   

Classes start on November 7th, 2023 and are located at 12001 Grand River, Ave. 

Shorter wants consumers to look out for new services and offers being presented at Skinphorea for the holiday season. One product for example is Skin By Aspen. This is Shorter’s recently launched personal skincare line, inspired by her daughter, Aspen, and it primarily focuses on aging skin and multicultural skin. Skinphorea is also working on opening up more locations, and Skinphorea VIPs can get gift boxes with free products and have the opportunity to treat friends and family to some free services, and non-VIPs are offered free sample bags of products and discounted services.

Jennyfer Crawford-Williams. Photo by Steve Koss.

All Things Marketplace/All Things Detroit

One difficult task of shopping small is figuring out which businesses to go to. Jennyfer Crawford-Williams is the multi-entrepreneur who can help with that task. Crawford-Williams started one of her businesses, All Things Marketplace, in 2020. This business is a one-stop-shop that ships and fulfils orders for Detroit entrepreneurs, creators and non-profits whilst connecting them with others and it gives customers an easier, simpler way to shop for goods that are crafted by those same entrepreneurs.

“I would see and meet all of these people that would come up with such great ideas and I wanted others to get to know these people and their creations,” says Crawford-Williams. “In 2020, I got a grant from Lowe’s for $20,000 and I bought a delivery truck and flipped my website into a multi-vendor website and turned myself into an Amazon for small businesses,” says Crawford-Williams. 

From there, she was able to transform her business into a brick-and-mortar after she rented a space from Build Institute. She was able to test out how her business would actually work inside of a building by utilizing Build’s pop-up program.

“Build Institute has a program that includes a rotating pop-up, and they use it to show their Build grads, who work in retail, how to prepare for their own storefront before actually owning one,” says Crawford-Williams. “While COVID was happening, the space was empty so they thankfully allowed me to rent it and we were able to have a small retail space and carry the products from the makers and ship them.”

This experience opened her eyes to opening up a brick-and-mortar, whereas before, she was not interested in owning a storefront. Promoting events is her main purpose and she learned and discovered the different ways one could do that with a storefront.

“The idea of owning a storefront did not interest me because I believed it would tie me to one place, and I didn’t want to deal with inventory,” says Crawford-Williams. “But this experience taught me a lot about delegating, having the right people in position, about requiring staff, and having to create an unforgettable experience every week as opposed to one day with a storefront.”

Now, this business has a space around the corner from Build located at 1620 Michigan Ave, Suite 123. 

Crawford-Williams curates a number of events in the Detroit area. While starting her first business AskJennyfer, she wanted to advocate for small Detroit business owners. She realized support goes a long way and she wanted to show the talented and skillful people that Detroit holds. This led to the creation of her other business All Things Detroit. This business holds events twice a year and draws more than 12,000 shoppers each time. 

“I have been hosting All Things Detroit since 2014, going for a decade now and on April 3, 2016, there were 14,000 customers that came out,” says Crawford-Williams. “ I felt people all around the world should know how great Detroit is, so in 2020, I worked on how this could be made into a holiday and it officially became one in April of that year.” 

Crawford-Williams has also received a number of awards for her businesses. She’s a Crain’s Detroit Business 40 under 40 honoree, a 2018 Vanguard Award recipient, and All Things Marketplace has earned the Best of MichBusiness award in 2022 to name a few.

“People’s belief in me is what keeps me going. In doing this, I never thought people would want to be a part of something that I did," says Crawford-Williams. “I’m a girl from the Eastside of Detroit, so I never thought I would have an impact and encounter a great group of people… but this is why it’s important to shop at small businesses, the community is what thrives from it the most and it’s impossible to promote Detroit without promoting the community."

For the holidays, All Things Detroit is presenting a holiday shopping experience and food truck rally on November 5 at the Eastern Market, at sheds 3, 4, and 5. An extra hour is added to the event due to its popular demand. Tickets are available now for Beat the Crowd with costs at $5 while general admission costs $10. 

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