TechTown Detroit’s Black Business Reunion: Reflections from ZLI Program Coordinator Jasmine Jaggers

Zell Lurie Institute
February 29, 2024

Resilience. Equity. Humility. The building blocks that make Detroit the breeding ground for innovation and strength. Once the leader of the automotive industry, Detroit continues its rich history of entrepreneurship through investing in black entrepreneurs. TechTown Detroit’s Annual Black History Month Conference: Black Business Reunion continues that legacy. The conference offers the opportunity to connect with budding entrepreneurs and seasoned experts who have one goal in mind: building black excellence.

Detroit has stood as the epicenter of black business for over a century, sustaining over 300 black-owned businesses to date. Detroit’s renaissance is a story of reckoning, overcoming great struggles with heart. While there has been a national dispute over the future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives that exist in our schools and workplaces, our communities remain committed to reducing the inequities our people face. The Black Business Reunion reinforced the foundational concepts in the field of DEI. To build world-class companies, we need to harvest top-tier talent in every community. We must hold our values to our chest, recognize where we come from, and stay true to our roots as we continue to make meaningful contributions to the entrepreneurial communities we are part of.

“Organizations that put forth an effort to be inclusive and diverse thrive more. When we prioritize inclusion and equity from the start, we lay a foundation for the success of future generations to come.”

– Don Graves, United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce

The challenges each entrepreneur faces are unique, and becoming an entrepreneur can seem almost impossible as you navigate the pressure and anxiety of starting your own business. Luckily, the previous generation has a few tips and tricks to put you at ease as you embark on this journey to becoming a founder and building a prosperous business:

  • You need courage to serve your community. To be successful in your industry, remember that service is the cornerstone of business. Read your customers and learn from what other businesses are doing around you. Take in that information and apply it to your venture to make yourself stand out.

  • Embrace the strange. Strangeness helps you to adapt. As a founder, you will need to pivot as you navigate your customers’ needs, market changes, and any problems that arise. Adaptability is a skill any successful entrepreneur should possess.

  • Consistent is what you do, and constant is who you are. Regardless of trends in the market or what’s happening in your industry, you must be true to your foundation and remember where you came from.

  • Resiliency matters most. The hardships you will face will make you all the wiser and stronger. When you get tired or feel under pressure, think about how long you fought to get to the place you are today. Keep pushing through.


It’s not just the capital gains or the pride of creating something new. There’s an unspoken motivation: to help uplift the black community and build a better world, one idea at a time.

Jasmine Jaggers

Student Programs Coordinator, Zell Lurie Institute

With this wisdom, the hope is that aspiring entrepreneurs will pursue their goals and not let the fear of failure hold them back. Being a founder means learning as we go and maintaining a growth mindset as we launch our startups. Entrepreneurship as a career can seem arduous, but the lessons learned are invaluable. The current generation of black entrepreneurs had some insights to share as well:

  • Success is social capital. The people you connect with will be able to support you in more ways than you can name. Don’t underestimate the power of a good connection and be willing to help others the way they’ve helped you.

  • Know how to ask for help. Not everything will come easy to you, especially in a market you aren’t familiar with. Rely on your mentors, other founders, and community members as you build your business. We are constantly learning from each other and want to see you succeed.

  • Do not be a jack of all trades, master of none. Understand your market and customers better than anyone else. The founders that have the most success have a deep awareness of what their customers’ pain points are and how to best solve their problems. 

The various experiences these entrepreneurs have shared have collectively inspired the next generation of black leaders in entrepreneurship. I was fortunate enough to learn from these industry professionals and understand what drives them to entrepreneurship. It’s not just the capital gains or the pride of creating something new. There’s an unspoken motivation: to help uplift the black community and build a better world, one idea at a time.