Dismantling barriers for Southwest Detroit business ownersResilient Neighborhoods Feature Story

This is the first half of a two-part story on the Southwest Detroit Business Association. Read part two next week.

Araceli Hernández, owner of FlorBella Salon in Southwest Detroit, is a woman of ambition and of action. She grew up in Southwest Detroit and intends to stay put, offering a safe, comfortable space for salon services so her local customers don’t have to drive to Troy or other suburbs to have their hair or makeup done.

With more than one-third of its population Hispanic, people like Hernández and other Southwest Detroit immigrants are "a driving force behind small business economic development and job creation,” according to the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) website.

Since 1957, SDBA has worked with investors, entrepreneurs, customers and neighbors to capitalize on Southwest Detroit’s competitive advantages.

With programs for business development, community development and real estate, the nonprofit association is committed to supporting big and small businesses, promoting companionship between innovators and enhancing the city of Detroit.

SDBA acts as a conduit of networking and growth for entrepreneurs and residents in the community. Entrepreneurs can join a membership program to receive benefits and resources and participate in initiatives that help with business expansion. For an annual fee, which varies based on the size of the business, members can receive business exposure, access to technical assistance, quarterly bilingual workshops, discounted offerings and more. Currently, more than 150 people have become SDBA members.

“We invite everyone to become members, not just business owners in Southwest Detroit,” says Laura Chavez-Wazeerud-Din, SDBA president and CEO. "It’s important for us to partner, collaborate and help each other out. We have connections and partnerships with local architects, and we can negotiate construction loan rates that are affordable.”

Salon services in the neighborhood

For Hernández, Southwest Detroit is her home. She’s been a hair stylist and cosmetologist there for 25 years and has created lifelong relationships with her clients. 

“I really want to serve my Latino community. I am Latina, I am Mexican,” says Hernández. “I grew up in Southwest Detroit, and I wanted to stay here and provide a good service."

Before FlorBella came to exist, Favi’s Nail Salon, run by her sister, was first. The salon stayed in the Springwells neighborhood for 17 years, becoming a staple business in Southwest Detroit. In 2005, Favi’s Hair Salon was created, which was where Hernández mastered her skills in hair and skin care.

Hernández managed the hair salon, and her sister managed the nail salon. The nail salon has been under new ownership for ten years and the hair salon, now known as FlorBella, recently relocated to Michigan Ave., offering a range of cosmetology services.

Hernández was introduced to SDBA by her sister, who was already a part of the membership program. Hernández became a member, using SDBA support and resources.

"We didn't ask for help. We just got it done."

“I’m not used to asking for help. The women in my family are hard workers. We didn’t ask for help. We just got it done,” says Hernández. When she became a SDBA member, she networked to gain more clients and connected with other business owners. "Latinas are used to just being work horses and not looking around to see what else is out there. But I’m learning to do that, and it’s opening doors for me.”

She says that businesses need these types of support organizations: “They’re like a middleman for you. They guide you where to go and help you solve problems. It’s also comforting to know that there is an organization that can represent the Latino community in Southwest Detroit.”

Presently, Hernández is working with SDBA on upgrading the front of her building through the Façade Improvement Program. This program provides up to $10,000 in match funding for improvements, referrals to architects, and help with understanding permits and building and zoning regulations.

From business promotions to connections to other business owners, Hernández is able to see that a little help goes a long way. In October, Mujeres en Business: Michigan Edition, a book that features the stories of 12 successful business owners located in Michigan, was launched. Hernández is one of the owners highlighted in the book.   

“It shows people that even if you come from another country, you can make it," Hernández says. “You don’t just have to be a labor worker; if you have a dream you can achieve it.”

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series examining how Detroit residents and community development organizations work together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from The Kresge Foundation
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