Detroiters are, in a few words, a loyal bunch of community builders. If they see something that is missing, they’ll create it. If they want a service, they’ll start offering it. If they need something, they’re not afraid to call out to friends for help.
A few months ago, that’s exactly what Rachel Lutz did – she called out for other small-business owners to help her. Lutz, proprietress of Frida and The Peacock Room in Detroit, wanted to put together a showcase of her peers, their work and their collaborative nature during the prestigious Mackinac Policy Conference.
The result was a whirlwind of an event that took place last week called “Building Bridges to Small Business,” a pop-up shopping and sampling opportunity. There, four small-business owners including Lutz treated visitors (some who even came over to the Island just for the event) to hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and shopping with Cyberoptix, Sweet Potato Sensations and Rebel Nell.
Would you drive nearly five hours and expend your time, energy and resources if a friend called on you for help? If you were a FOL – Friend of Lutz – chances are, you would and you did.
“Building Bridges” happened on Thursday, arguably one of the most important days of the conference. If the Mackinac Policy Conference does any one thing well, it is that it overwhelms you information from the people who make some of Michigan’s biggest decisions. There they are, guys like Mayor Mike Duggan, roaming around the Grand Hotel’s main lobby, shirtsleeves rolled up and looking ready to rumble.
What Lutz and her cohorts gave those who attended their event was a mini-vacation from that intensity. It was an ideal moment to stand back, enjoy a Batch brew and catch your clichéd breath. The Mackinac Policy Conference happens fast; you almost get whiplash from the time constraints between the panels, the keynotes, the conversations and the networking. Basic MPC fact: You cannot be everywhere at once. Fact 2.0: You cannot even hope to be half of the places you’d like to be during this conference.
It’s been a full week since the Conference happened, and Lutz’s showcase remains one of my favorite memories of that experience. First, she organized the Retro Girls to highlight her event, the store’s fashion sense and the creativity she displays as a retailer. Then, she got in front of every Chamber member who she knew – and even more she did not – and made sure everyone she met all wore her #ThinkSmall buttons, taking pictures of every luminary as she went along to share on social media.
The “Building Bridges” event, sponsored by Mission Point and Cindy Pasky’s Strategic Staffing Solutions, was the final piece of this elegant puzzle. Few people in Northern Michigan probably realized there was such a vibrant business community in Detroit. Only a handful might have been familiar with the goods being sold at Mission Point that night.
Some of the Conference attendees might not have understood how these business owners – everyone from Stephan Roginson of Batch Brewing Company, Amy Peterson of Rebel Nell, Bethany Shorb of Well Done Goods and Cyberoptix and Etta Espy of Sweet Potato Sensations – take care of each other. How they actually care if one succeeds. How they are friends at work and at play. How they embrace the challenges and the opportunities together. How they welcome strangers to their doorsteps, how they make everyone feel welcome, how they honor small business.
But now they sure do.