The Black Student Union at EMU presented the Black Business Expo last Thursday night. This brought successful self-starters and entrepreneurs together to share and network with black business leaders. Sponsors included the Society of Africology, I Am P.I.N.K. and the NAACP.
A featured speaker was Tony Hill, an EMU alumni. Hill is a real estate broker in Detroit, and has worked 23 years for his family-owned business, Majestic Homes and Investments.
“Investors are coming to the city, the neighborhoods are starting to see the effect of the downtown area development,” he said. “It was good seeing the students, and the entrepreneur spirit that they have. I’m willing to help them and support their endeavors with my experience in business.”
Hill has seen property investments rise and fall, and sees the decade-recent development surge in Detroit is good for the city.
“I’ve been wanting to do this event for a long time, and now I finally didi it.,” said Emerald Cox, President of the Society of Africology Emerald Cox, EMU junior, majoring in social work and minoring in African American studies.
Cox felt the expo was a success and hopes the turnout is twice as large next year.
“I wanted to bring a positive light in the black community, to end the semester on a good note,” she said. “The promoting of black business and unity is meant to bring it to light , because of all of the negative things’ we’ve been facing on campus.”
Dereck Jerome, electronic video and film studies and a minor in marketing. Jerome runs a photography and graphic design business and makes flyers and posters for campus organizations.
The most recent flyer is he made was for ‘The Warm Up’, a clothing drive for Detroit, presented by EMU Phoenix.
“I think the expo was great, definitely something different and that we need to see a lot more of this here on campus,” he said. “We need a lot of diversity in our businesses.”
Darnisha Davenport another vendor at the expo developed iKURLY Natural Hair & Beard Care, a moisturizer for women, men, and children. Davenport has created a webpage dedicated to iKURLY, as well as pages on Etsy, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
“It’s a five-in-one moisturizer for $10,” Davenport said. “That’s the problem that I’m solving amongst our black community, to provide a product that covers more than one base that’s affordable. It’s for all hair types as I also have caucasian and asian clients.”
She started making the product in 2012 for herself, then people encouraged her to go into business with it, and so she began to package it and developed a business in January of 2016.
“Going to school and getting the fundamentals pushed me and helped other people to see my gift, and I believe a gift is something you can do with less effort,” Davenport said. “I stepped out in faith, I gave it a name and ever since I’ve been in business.”
Brandon Myricks is a student at MIAT in Canton, and was a vendor. He’s been operating his catering business for two years.
“I started making breakfast sandwiches there in the morning, they went from $80 a day to $200 a day, and so I thought why not try other things,” Myricks said. “I think this expo provided my business with a lot of exposure to EMU’s campus. I think it’s a really wonderful tool for college students, who definitely need a home-cooked meal, especially when they’re far from home, they don’t have their mom or dad to cook those meals. So this brings you back to that comfort.”
Myricks hopes to grow his catering business and bring it to EMU some day.
Kara Speigner was another vendor at the expo and started her Guiding Light Foundation, a non-profit midterm program. Speigner serves as a mentor for girls in Ypsilanti Community Schools.
“We do different workshops, programs and games. I really just serve as a positive role model for these girls because they go through a lot… and I just want to be there for them to guide them in the right way.”
Speigner has been involved in co-creating a male midterm program called Iron Sharpens Iron that will start next semester. “I had a lot of people come over to sign up, so I think it’s good that there’s an interest in getting involved in other people’s lives,” Speigner said.