By Branden Hunter
Black Friday, entrepreneurs all over the metro Detroit area will have sales on their respective products, in hopes of receiving your money in return. And understandably so. But one group of business owners in the city called the “Detroit Entrepreneurs” made it their duty to give back during the holiday season.
Detroit Entrepreneurs was started by friends Blake Hare, 25, and Jason Watts, 17, in 2016 as a way to unite black-owned small businesses in and around the area as a way to impact the community in a positive way. The organization also exists to let people know what black businesses they can spend their money with during the holidays. Thanksgiving Eve, the non-profit held its 3rd annual giveback at two local Detroit shelters where they fed, clothed, and fellowshipped with those in need.
“We are just a group of millennials getting together to give back to the community,” said Hare, owner and creator of Billionaire by Confidence clothing line. “We want to show people that we can be positive and very impactful when we come together as one.”
The Detroit Entrepreneurs served dinner to recipients at COTS (Coalition On Temporary Shelter) in midtown Detroit and the Detroit Rescue Mission on the city’s west side. Volunteers between both shelters served close to 80 occupants, mostly women and children, Thanksgiving food, but in a unique way. Instead of having people stand in line to receive food, volunteers acted as waiters and waitresses, taking orders from menus to provide a full-service experience.
“The people looked kind of surprised by the way we were serving them. They didn’t expect that,” said Watts, who is still in high school and owns Polished Apparel clothing. “At COTS, some people were familiar with it from the first year, but others were shocked that they didn’t have to get up and get their own food. We brought everything to them and made them comfortable.”
The creators of Detroit Entrepreneurs have both tasted some success thus far in their young lives. Hare owns a business and holds a business degree from Western Michigan University. Watts runs his own business as well and a non-profit and he cannot even play the lottery yet. They have been blessed with an abundance of opportunities business wise and wanted to spread some of that knowledge to those at the shelters.
“From visiting the shelters for Thanksgiving, I learned that people there actually want to learn and be impacted by someone,” said Hare. “I met a 15-year-old named Darnell who wants to open a landscaping business and didn’t know where to start. He’s only 15 and he was completely inspired by us, which gave us the idea to use our non-profit to help people in shelters start businesses and get back on their feet financially.”
The Detroit Entrepreneurs are not able to hold giving-back events throughout the year as they would like to but feeding those in need during Thanksgiving is never a bad idea. There will always be those who need to eat and people willing to help with the process of feeding them. Over 60 donors made the giveback possible, with over 50 volunteers assisting with setup and serving of the food. Popular millennial pastor Mikiah Keener even delivered a powerful prayer at COTS.
“I think what they (Hare and Watts) are doing is great,” said Shalita Harper, who volunteered at COTS. “They’re so young and they also are mentors to those who want to start businesses. What they are doing is really great for the community.”
Since its inception, the Detroit Entrepreneurs giveback has grown, and Hare and Watts expect that same trend to continue in 2019.
We want to make this bigger and better every year,” said Watts. “We want to include more entrepreneurs and get more volunteers and hopefully feed more than two shelters. We usually feed one shelter, but this year we fed two. So next year we want to aim for three shelters or try something different.”
This article originally appeared in the Michigan Chronicle.