Jack Dorsey, Square co-founder and Twitter chairman spent some time in Detroit, looking to bring together business owners in the spirit of cooperation. His “Let’s Talk” series of chats is making its way across the country and our beloved and challenged city is on the list of his stops.
Many people already know about Square. They began with a free credit card reader for mobile devices, giving businesses the ability to accept payments anywhere and anytime. Now, they offer a full suite of hardware and software tools for businesses of just about any size.
Detroit entrepreneurs from Beau Bien Fine Foods, Just Baked, the Peacock Room and Salt & Cedar were part of a panel lead by Dorsey and laid it all on the table in front of a capacity crowd at historic St. Andrews Hall in the city, on September 17. They talked openly about the types of issues all business owners face, regardless of how big or small.
Square kicked off the series in St. Louis, went to cities in the West and now after the Detroit visit, will continue on to Minneapolis, Toronto, New Orleans and the Bronx. Everywhere they have gone, according to one of the organizers, the response has been phenomenal with large turnouts and productive conversations.
During an interview with Dorsey and Just Baked Cupcakes owner Pam Turkin, the two talked about the Square device as a business growth tool and about making a real go of it in difficult times as a business owner.
“One of the things I always loved about Silicon Valley and California is there is a great mentorship network and support network for entrepreneurs. Anyone feels like they can go up to anyone else and have a conversation about what has worked and what hasn’t,” says Dorsey. “The idea of ‘Let’s Talk’ was to bring this concept to not only tech companies, but also local, small and medium-sized businesses. Hopefully, the conversation started here persists and continues on.”
“Square, at a very reasonable cost, allowed us to put in a point of sale system that was a perfect fit for what we do,” says Turkin, who uses the devices in seven of her stores in Metro Detroit. “It really has given us insight we would have never had before.” In addition to processing payments on the customer side, Square also gives the business owner analytics to help them optimize sales and operations.
For a city like Detroit facing its own unique economic realities, Dorsey believes Square and the “Let’s Talk” series can help. “Making it easy to start and making it easy to grow is our mission,” he said. “There is so much entrepreneurial energy in Detroit and all of the cities we’re visiting. There is a real desire to build and grow something. Detroit has a legacy of success. A key is finding that same energy and spirit again and bringing it all together.”
It just so happens all of the panelists at the event were women. “I’m excited that the Let’s Talk event is featuring all female business owners who are like minded in our sense of community and commitment to our city,” said Molly O’Meara, Beau Bien Fine Foods Co-Owner. “Launching our business in Detroit was important because this city is our home and because of the support of the local business.”
“Businesses of every size should have the tools and resources to compete on the merit of their work and ideas,” added Dorsey. “The growth and success of a community depends upon the people who support it. We’re eager to meet business owners, listen to their stories, introduce them to one another, and unite their neighborhoods.”
“I would not have been able to have the success I’ve had in any other city. Detroit allowed me to start my businesses with very limited resources because of the city’s low economic barriers and underserved market,” said Rachel Lutz, The Peacock Room Owner. “It’s time for the business community to not see opening in Detroit as a cause, but as a true opportunity.”
Although a mainstay of many people’s daily lives now, even Twitter at one point was a small business. “We were building Twitter for ourselves. I’ve seen that attitude in a lot of entrepreneurs I meet,” said Dorsey. “They want to see something specific in the world; they want to use something specific in the world that doesn’t exist, so they make it themselves.”
“There has to be a willingness to make mistakes along the way. One of the things I love about this country is that we are comfortable making mistakes, getting up and taking another risk the next day. That is the spirit of entrepreneurship and it’s one of the things that makes Detroit so great. The fight is still here, the energy is still here and I think it will fix the city.”