Black Founders Praise Chase’s $100 Million Investment in Detroit Businesses

Serial entrepreneur Haj Flemings is re-branding Detroit’s innovation economy

Hajj Flemings, founder of GoKit, is invested in developing the innovation economy in his hometown of Detroit (Image: Source)

Detroit leaders and organizations are working with JPMorgan Chase to deploy the bank’s $100 million commitment in various ways that are advancing the city’s priorities when it comes to helping startups and minority-owned businesses launch, grow, and scale.

Food sector small businesses are a fast-growing part of Detroit’s community of entrepreneurs. Incubators like Shed 5 at Eastern Market and efforts like Chase’s Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, which supports minority-owned small businesses, play a key role in helping these businesses get up off the ground.

[Related: Minority Recipients of JPMorgan Chase-Backed Entrepreneurs of Color Fund Awarded $325,000]

In 2014, JPMorgan Chase made a $100 million five-year pledge to accelerate Detroit’s recovery. Two years in, Detroit’s local minority-owned businesses are seeing real results, says Hajj Flemings, founder of Brand Camp University, which runs the largest personal branding conference in the midwest. He is also the author of The Brand YU Life: Re-thinking Who You Are Through Personal Brand Management (Third Generation Publishing; $14.95).

Flemings—who also launched a tech startup called Gokit, a company that develops identity kits—believes that innovative ideas and efforts that are spurring Detroit’s turnaround are providing models for other cities seeking advance progress. This past January, he headed to Silicon Valley for Rebrand Detroit: Innovating Detroit Neighborhoods, a project sponsored by the Knight Foundation. During his trip, he met with investors, VCs, influencers, and startups about partnership opportunities. Flemings gained national attention in 2011 when he was featured in CNN’s documentary Black in America 4: The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley.

The objective of the Rebrand Detroit project is to bring the innovation economy to Detroit neighborhoods, he explained. “The project strategy is designed to help revitalize disconnected communities with a tech and brand enabled strategy that is a catalyst for neighborhoods to become innovation districts.” Flemings was also quick to point out that Detroit has lower barriers of entry for entrepreneurs than other metro cities.

Flemings was on hand that Detroit Startup Week powered by Chase. He was among various founders to share their personal stories and offer some insights to new and existing entrepreneurs. “African American consumers are taste-makers. We are helping others make billions,” he observes. “We are major consumers of technology. We over index in most platforms, but we don’t enough businesses.”

Some top takeaways for would-be entrepreneurs from Flemings:

  1. Live your dream, versus managing someone else’s.
  2. Stop seeking perfection. Get your product to market and test it.
  3. Don’t fly solo. Tap other entrepreneurs and resources to help grow your business.
  4. Seek real revenue streams to make your business real.
  5. Don’t be driven to what others tell you that you should be doing.
  6. Connect with other people who come from different backgrounds, are of a different gender or race, and come from a different industry than you do.
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  • Erica3256

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  • YoungWealthBuilders

    I love this article! It showcases there is value in Detroit. There are financial resources in Detroit, it’s just about tapping into that network to win the awards to fund your business.

  • Gail Joiner

    I am so happy to hear how Chase has stepped up to invest in small businesses around the country but, especially in cities like Detroit. I help young entrepreneurs prepare their business plans and I have found the biggest stumping block to launching great business ideas is funding. We need more investors to step up to help struggling entrepreneurs to get to that next level.