Detroit Blows Co-founder Katy Cockrel tells SEEN about building a business that gives back to women entrepreneurs and what women can do to empower each other to fight for ‘fair play and equal pay.’
By Stephanie Steinberg
Photography by Boswell Hardwick
Name: Katy Cockrel
Job Title: StockX vice president of public relations and Detroit Blows co-founder
Katy Cockrel serves as a co-founder of Detroit Blows. Along with partner and co-founder Nia Batts, Cockrel developed the concept for the city’s first-ever single service, dual process, socially conscious blow-dry salon. She also helms integrated communications efforts for the business, taking the lead on PR and marketing efforts designed to garner awareness and drive traffic to the salon’s downtown Detroit storefront. In addition to her role at Detroit Blows, she serves as vice president of public relations at StockX, the world’s first online stock market of in-demand consumer products, including sneakers, watches and handbags.
She holds a dual bachelor’s degree in political science and public relations from Wayne State University, where she was a member of the David Mackenzie Honor Society. In October 2015, the university named Cockrel its 2015 Recent Alumni Award recipient.
1. What are you currently working on?
At Detroit Blows, we’re ramping up with some exciting new partnerships in the health and wellness space with local favorites like Citizen Yoga and Jabs Gym. We’re also formalizing collaborations with some of our neighbors, which you’ll hear more about as we move into summer. We recently launched our suite of bridal services and have already seen significant growth, which is really exciting. Finally, we’ll continue to work in partnership with Alternatives For Girls, our inaugural Detroit Grows microgrant recipient, to provide two AFG shelter residents interested in the cosmetology field with opportunities to learn from our team and offer support as they pursue their dreams.
Outside of Detroit Blows, I recently joined the insanely talented team at StockX, the world’s first-ever stock market of things, where I jumped right into quite a few exciting projects (stay tuned). And I’m probably most stoked about “Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win,” a documentary film I recently executive produced about my late father, Ken Cockrel Sr. and his work to dismantle STRESS, the controversial Detroit Police Department decoy unit that was responsible for the deaths of 22 young black men in the early 1970s.
2. What is your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment is, without a doubt, bringing Detroit Blows to life. Nia and I spent the better part of three years building out this concept and to have made it a reality is something I’m so incredibly proud of.
3. What is an obstacle you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
Building a business is not without its challenges, particularly when you’re doing it for the first time without industry experience, on top of a full-time job. In fact, every day seems to present a new set of obstacles to overcome. From my perspective, one of our biggest challenges could have been the fact that we’re not beauty industry veterans but rather longtime consumers of the service. We took great care to build a team of top industry talent that brings that experience to the table, and it is our collective commitment to building a conscious, accessible, inclusive brand that gets us over the hurdles you are bound to encounter as an entrepreneur.
4. What motivates you each day?
I’m lucky in that I have many motivating forces in my life, but my mom (Sheila Cockrel) is the single largest. We lost my dad to a sudden heart attack when I was only 3 years old. She raised me single-handedly while serving as a member of Detroit City Council, which is by all accounts, a very demanding job. Her many sacrifices and unwavering support over the years are what push me to strive for success in all that I do, each day.
5. What’s the biggest issue facing women today?
It is an unfortunate reality, but the biggest issue facing women today is the same one that we’ve been faced with for decades — institutionalized gender inequality. While we’ve definitely come to an inflection point relative to sexual harassment and assault allegations, we still have a long way to go when it comes to the equity gap. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center, for example, revealed that despite women making up half of the workforce and 40 percent of them being the sole or primary breadwinners for their families, respondents still overwhelmingly believe that society values physical attractiveness in women more than anything else, including leadership, ambition and intelligence.
We see these disparities across industries and sectors and, of course, in our everyday lives. Women entrepreneurs often feel the effects. We run 39 percent of all small businesses, and together employ 9 million people and generate $1.7 trillion in sales, according to 2017 stats from the National Association of Women Business Owners, but that’s just part of the story. Women-owned businesses receive just 7 percent of venture capital investment money, which is highly disproportionate to their role in the economy. Additionally, loan approval rates for female entrepreneurs is 15 to 20 percent less than it is for men. That says a lot about just how far we have (or haven’t) come.
6. How can we address or resolve that issue?
I don’t know that there is a cure-all, but the best way to address the issue is to keep climbing. We’ve broken nearly every glass ceiling (other than the one at the White House, of course), but it doesn’t mean we stop fighting for fair play and equal pay. It means we keep working to ensure our voices are heard; it means we find ways to empower ourselves and each other however we can. For us, that meant building a business rooted in the idea of giving back to other female entrepreneurs, but it can take many different forms.
7. What advice do you have for other women?
Be exactly who you are and go after all of your dreams; just remember to do so with equal parts heart and head.
8. What’s something others may not know about you?
People may not know that I am a fried chicken aficionado. It’s a problem.