Working with Inspiring Business Owners in Detroit through DNEP +Impact Studio for Local Business

By Grace Aretakis (BBA ’24)

As the daughter of a female business owner, and the granddaughter of a first generation immigrant who came to Detroit to start his own enterprise, small businesses have been a central part of my family and life thus far. Through the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project +Impact Studio for Local Business internship, I have the privilege of working closely with driven entrepreneurs who are paving the way for  success for both their families and communities. 

My name is Grace Aretakis and I am a sophomore undergraduate student, studying Business Administration at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. After a little over a week in my internship, I find myself immersed in an environment that has allowed me to grow, explore my curiosities, and learn from the remarkable small business owners we have the honor of working with.  

Our first meeting with the initial set of clients set the tone for this internship. Our first two clients are two women who have centered their entrepreneurial visions around their dedication to the Detroit community. Not only are these business owners impressive for their entrepreneurial ambition, but also for their selflessness. They value the growth of their businesses for the growth it will foster in their community. What struck me from this meeting was how intertwined the goals of these businesses are with the needs of the community. When we went to visit the site of one of these businesses, I noticed that each interaction Felicia had with her customers was fueled by generosity and love. I am especially enthused to learn this summer by observing the passion and care these business owners have for the people they serve. 

Felicia Maxwell, Owner of Fit 4 Life in Detroit, led the Open Road team in a workout during our time with her.

In my short time so far, I have also learned how many roles the title of “business owner” truly encompasses. These women do not just hold the title of founder of their business, but accountant, marketer, maintenance, tech support, researcher, employee, employer, and the list goes on. Not only do they hold these many titles relating to their business, they also hold the responsibilities of mother/father, mentor, teacher, provider, and the list goes on. Understanding the many pressures and responsibilities these entrepreneurs face made me recognize what a responsibility and privilege we as students have in this internship. We have the opportunity to use the resources and training provided by DNEP +ISLB to take ownership of one of these titles to take this weight off of the owner. If we can take over “accountant” or “marketer”, and implement a solution that will free this burden, we can enable further success and growth for these business owners.

Felicia Maxwell passes a plate with ease as she directs our workout at Fit 4 Life in Detroit.

As we are introduced to new projects in the upcoming weeks, I look forward to soaking in the many additional lessons I will learn from the owners we work with, the challenges we tackle, and the talented student interns around me. This opportunity has allowed me to assess where I can grow as a business student and a member of a team. In such a short time, I already see myself becoming a more effective communicator and team member. By the end of this program, I look forward to seeing growth in myself along with the growth that we stimulate in the business we work with. Thank you to all who have made this rewarding opportunity possible. I cannot wait to see the impact we make during these upcoming weeks.