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A business meeting

DMB unveils its class of fellows ready to tackle challenges facing Detroit entrepreneurs

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

DETROIT (September 29, 2023) — Detroit Means Business, a coalition of private, public and philanthropic partners committed to serving Detroit's small business sector, has announced a cohort of entrepreneurs tasked with addressing challenges facing small businesses in the city.

Seven Detroit-based entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in the Small Business Owner Advocates (SBOA) Fellowship. Over the span of 10 months, fellows will collaborate to remedy an issue impacting small business owners. Their solution will then be presented at the 2023 Small Business Summit. The summit, hosted annually by DMB, offers entrepreneurs a platform to acquire concrete skills essential for elevating their businesses.

“The SBOA Fellowship represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to uplift Detroit's small business community. By engaging with the fellowship, business owners are poised to play a pivotal role in driving sustainable growth and innovation within Detroit’s small business ecosystem," said DMB President Dr. Marlo Rencher. “We believe that by harnessing the expertise and experiences of local entrepreneurs, we can drive positive change and foster a more prosperous business environment for all.”

Fellows will engage in a robust curriculum to develop vital advocacy and business acumen. This includes mastering the art of fostering community connections within their district, expanding their business footprint beyond local confines, prioritizing self-care and creating tangible advancements within Detroit's business landscape. In addition, fellows will receive mentorship from established Detroit entrepreneurs and access to their networks.

"The resilience of Detroit's business community depends on the insights of its entrepreneurs," said SBOA fellow Nezaa Bandele, owner of Paradise Natural Foods. "It's an honor to support a program that lets me directly empower other entrepreneurs. DMB gets that - they know the entrepreneurial spirit drives Detroit.”

The fellowship was developed in collaboration with DMB’s SBOA Prime members, who were the first group of entrepreneurs recruited by Detroit Means Business to guide the development of its initiatives. Participating members of the current cohort (SBOA II) are established, profitable, and Detroit-based with at least three employees. They include:

· Nezaa Bandele, owner of Paradise Natural Foods

· Robyn Childers, owner of Welcome Home Yoga & Wellness

· Cathrynn Coleman, owner of Bouncing Around the Motor City

· Jonathan Farley, owner of Accesspoint Transport

· Joaquín Oyuela, owner of Huapi LLC

· Jasmine Royster, owner of Trap Vegan

· Tonja Stapleton, owner of Parkstone Development Partners

"This fellowship further represents DMB's commitment to the City of Detroit and has the potential to drive prosperity for the small business community," said Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, which manages DMB. “Fellows will walk away with tangible skills on how to become a voice for entrepreneurs and use it to create positive change.”

For more information on the SBOA Fellowship, visit

About Detroit Means Business (DMB):

Detroit Means Business is a coalition of business support organizations and government agencies that was established to help small businesses in Detroit, Michigan. The coalition's primary objective is to provide small business owners with the resources and support they need to survive and thrive in Detroit's economy. This includes access to financing, training, technical assistance and other resources.

About Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC):

Detroit Economic Growth Corporation is a non-profit organization that serves as Detroit’s lead implementing agency for business retention, attraction and economic development. DEGC is led by a board comprised of business, civic and community leaders. Its staff provides services for key public authorities that facilitate incentives and other forms of financing for projects that bring new jobs and investment to the City. DEGC also manages important initiatives to support small businesses and grow neighborhood commercial corridors. DEGC is dedicated to inclusive development and access to economic opportunity.

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