SEEN caught up with Jennyfer Crawford, founder of All Things Detroit. She tells us why she created the event for small businesses in Detroit and discusses all things entrepreneurism. Check out the next expo in Eastern Market on Nov. 4.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Name: Jennyfer Crawford
Title: Owner/Brand Manager
School attended: Southeastern High School in Detroit
1. Tell us about Ask Jennyfer and why you founded it?
I originally started to call myself Ask Jennyfer when friends and family started calling me for advice on everything from jobs to other information. When I started hosting events, I knew that was the perfect name for my business. I founded the company because I wanted to help individuals like myself who have a passion for doing the work they love.
2. Your business showcase All Things Detroit now attracts 12,000 people a year to Eastern Market. How did you come up with the idea for this event?
I was hosting events at Niki’s in Greektown. At the time, the event was very small, so I started to think of ways to promote a variety of different businesses in Detroit. I also knew I wanted to play a part in the growth happening here in my city. I was thinking of ways to create an event that would stand out. I wanted it to be different than any other event where vendors pay a fee and set up, but ultimately no one knows they are there. That is when I realized I had to help share the stories of these businesses and really focus on promoting their brands. All Things Detroit is not just a one-day event. It’s about putting small businesses in front of thousands of customers so they can build their brands and grow.
3. Have any big plans for All Things Detroit in the next year?
Yes! We have plans to expand into different cities like New York and Atlanta. As for events here in Detroit, we are working on ways to make it even bigger.
4. You started working in the construction industry after graduating from Detroit Public Schools. How did you transition from construction to entrepreneurism?
It kind of happened by accident. I was working on my business and — at that time — I just looked at my events as a hobby. As time went on I realized that I really loved working with small businesses, and I was really passionate about it. So, I decided to step out and take a chance with just $1,500 in my bank account.
5. Did you learn any lessons from your experience working in construction that help you in your career today?
I was a project manager assistant for large construction projects. It was a job that requires you to be very detailed and organized. Those are definitely two things that have helped me throughout my career as a business owner.
6. You recently launched a podcast called “Ask Jennyfer: The Podcast” to highlight small business owners and entrepreneurs. What’s one of your favorite segments so far and what was it about?
My favorite episode so far is called “How to manage anxiety as an entrepreneur.” I really wanted to do this episode to bring awareness about anxiety among entrepreneurs. I struggle with anxiety and I wanted to let others know that is OK and that there is help out there.
7. One episode talked about the challenges of running a woman and minority-owned business. Do you have any advice for minority women with businesses in Detroit?
The advice that I would give to any woman-owned business is to stay positive, know your worth, take chances and never be afraid to show people who you are. Look at the word NO as the Next Opportunity or Next Option, not a roadblock.
8. Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Detroit?
When starting a business here, make sure that it is something that you are passionate about. I feel that we are most happy in life doing what we love. If you are starting a business in Detroit, do your research and definitely take advantage of some of the great educational and financial programs here in the city.
9. You mentioned you started your marketing firm with about $1,500 in the bank. For other people in Detroit who have a business idea, but not a big bank account, what advice do you have for starting a business?
Don’t focus on the money that you don’t have. I did not have a plan. I went about things in a non-traditional way, but I would tell businesses to definitely create a plan of action.
10. Do you have any tips for marketing that business once it’s off the ground?
Always remember to do your research and never forget to be open minded to learning something new.
11. Do you have any tips for growing an event, like All Things Detroit, into something thousands of people attend?
When you are trying to grow an event like All Things Detroit, I would say, make your event about the people. Set your own trend.
12. What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job is the people. I get to share their stories and promote their talents, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
13. Who’s been a mentor in your career?
One of my mentors has been Joyce Flowers, an old coworker of mine who always gave me the best advice and believed in me before I even thought of having a business. She was amazing, smart and beautiful. Unfortunately, she passed away this year, but I know she is truly proud.
14. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
A friend of mine once shared advice his uncle gave him — the reason he has been in business for over 30 years is because he always thinks of ways to reinvent himself, and he’s never afraid to try different things. That is what I live by.
On to some fun questions:
15. Do you recommend any books or other podcasts for entrepreneurs?
I love the podcast Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso.
16. What’s your favorite small business to support in Detroit?
I work with a lot of small businesses in the city, so it’s hard to name just one, but we do have some new businesses. Coffee Upcycle makes bags out of recycled coffee bags and military jackets. I am a huge fan of handmade, so they are one of my favorites.
17. Three vendors people need to check out at All Things Detroit?
On Nov. 4, you should definitely check out local artist Stina Aleah. She will be doing live painting. Natural Red Essentials is a go-to for all of your natural bath and body products, and Ink Detroit will have some new tees and bags for the holidays.
18. Who’s a local entrepreneur you admire?
I admire all entrepreneurs who are putting in the work and risking it all to do what they love. I truly admire Karen Guilmette with Natural Red Essentials. She is a mother of five who has managed to run a successful business and also make time for her family.
19. If you could have lunch with any entrepreneur, who would it be and where are you dining?
Shonda Rhimes at a cafe in New York.
20. When you’re not working, where can we find you?
Well, I’m always working, but for that brief moment when I am not, I like to spend time with my niece and nephew. Even we chat about entrepreneurship. Or I am just binge watching my favorite TV shows.
Bonus question: Anything else you’d like to share?
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. In order to be successful, you must do the work, but I like to say that in the end Chances Make Champions.
Each month, we interview executives in Metro Detroit to get their business and career advice. If you know someone who should be featured in SEEN Around the Water Cooler, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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