Dreamers hit the Bohm stage vying to become breakout Albion business owners through dream.build.rise

By Ann Dwyer

Contributing Writer
July 29, 2021

The dreamers and judges stop for a group photo.

A group of business owners and entrepreneurs are now more prepared than ever to become a lasting part of the Albion community. After several weeks of intensive work in the dream.build.rise program and ISM, Inc. (International Strategic Management), these dreamers are now ready to take their businesses to the next level.

Dream.build.rise is an entrepreneurial program “designed to encourage, nurture, and support entrepreneurs and the development of small businesses in the Albion area by providing technical assistance, education, and networking and mentorship opportunities with other local, successful entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, and community stakeholders,” according to their website.

Tiki March presents her pitch to the judges about her event planning business.

On Monday night, each participant got on stage at the Bohm Theater to present their business pitch in front of an audience of peers, family and a panel of judges to compete for prize money to invest in their companies.

One of the judges, John Schmitt of the Michigan Small Business Development Center, shared what he thought of each presentation. “It was a great energy and really all the presentations had interesting points to it. It was really well done. I have done a number of these and everybody had the passion. It’s one of the first things you look for. When you own a business, you have to have that passion.”

“When you own a business, you have to have that passion.”

Under the guidance of Faris Alami, CEO of ISM, participants learned about entrepreneurship, technology, community outreach and operating in a global market. ISM is a Troy-based company seeking to educate those interested in starting their own businesses.

“I want to boost them through their business, helping them from a startup mindset to an established mindset, because most of them operate in survival mode,” Alami said.

The EDC was able to bring dream.build.rise and ISM to Albion by a grant through the Community Foundation. The EDC is hoping to raise $5,000 in order to gain the matching funds from the Community Foundation so that they may bring the program back in the fall.

In order to do that, dream.build.rise and the EDC are looking for community support and interest.

dream.build.rise and the EDC are looking for community support and interest.

“There’s definitely a need to have local entrepreneurs, and we weren’t getting a lot out of the current system,” said Amy Deprez, president of the EDC. “There isn’t a lot of minority-owned businesses, especially successful ones because a lot of them are doing it under the table or more as a hobby. We need them to diversify what we have and show everybody else what Albion’s all about.”

“We need them to diversify what we have and show everybody else what Albion’s all about.”

Deprez described this first cohort as sort of pilot program and hopes to expand by getting people trained to teach similar classes to help more entrepreneurs and businesses in Albion or others in surrounding areas who would invest in Albion.

For the second program, DePrez said they are looking to bring in investors and have a Shark Tank-style event.

O’Neal Warnsley and Damarius Smith give their prize-winning pitch about their business, Inside Out Automotive Detailing Service.

After winning first place and $10 thousand, Damarius Smith and O’Neal Warnsley, owners of Inside Out Automotive Detailing Service were excited and grateful for not just the prize, but also the opportunity.

“It was a great experience. It took us about a week to get our presentation down pat and we showed up. We did what we had to do and we excelled. Hopefully, we can continue to be great in the future,” said Smith.

Faris Alami, CEO of ISM, Inc., emcees the dream.build.rise pitch presentations at the Bohm Theater.

“We just want to say thank you to everybody, the dream.build.rise program, the Economic Development Corporation, Faris Almi at ISM. We just want to say thank you to everybody.

“We’re going to sit down with some business professionals looking for some guidance and making sure our company is around for the next five years,” Warnsley said.

Prize winners photo, L-R: First place winners, O’Neal Warnsley and Damarius Smith; Brandy Eggleston, Edward Jones; second-place winner Tracy K. Tolbert; judge , Christopher Burdette, Sr. Vice President/CRBO, Homestead Savings Bank third-place winner Jenny Risner-Wade; judge John Schmitt, Michigan Small Business Development Center.

For second-place winner, Tracy K. Tolbert, dream.build.rise will give her an opportunity to return to her roots in Albion to pursue her passion in photography.

While currently based in Lansing, Tolbert plans to open her studio in her grandmother’s former restaurant space on Austin Ave. in Albion. She plans to use her $1,000 winnings toward getting the building back up and running. While the building still needs a lot of work, Tolbert is excited to invest in the city where she grew up.

“I love Albion. I will tell anybody in a minute, Albion is just a great city,” Tracy K. Tolbert said.

For third-place winner, Jenny Risner-Wade of the Yellow Bird Chocolate Shop, the grassroots networking and meeting with other Albion entrepreneurs proved most valuable.

“I am so excited to continue with the conversation and learning from dream.build.rise and ISM,” Jenny Risner-Wade said.

Risner-Wade currently has a shop located at 306 S. Superior St. where she makes craft chocolate from bean to bar. She plans to use her $300 prize toward more equipment.

Coach and participant, Donisha Brewer, talks about her company, Sip N Love Teas.

Donisha Brewer, Mocara Ortiz and Ryan Showers, owners of BOSS Up Productions, partnered with dream.build.rise. They took their experience further by coaching while also going through the course as individuals. They found the coursework invaluable, even though it was hard work.

“It is a challenge, because we do all work full-time jobs, and then some of us have kids, and others have different obligations. But we made it this far, so what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Showers said.

‘But we made it this far, so what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…”

“It’s worth it if you want your business to be successful. You want to learn as much as much as you can before opening or if you want to improve your business. There are a lot of things you might not have known that you should,” Ortiz shared.

“Stay consistent and persistent in what you’re doing. There are no easy ways to get to get to the top. You just have to keep after it day after day after day until you get your big break,” Brewer added.

“You just have to keep after it day after day after day until you get your big break.”

Ortiz also owns Kerizma Salon at 100 E. Erie St., and Brewer owns Sip N Love Teas. Boss Up Productions films events, ads and professional videos for personal and marketing purposes.

Their work does not end at the Bohm. From here, participants will get a social media audit to evaluate their online footprint and what steps they need to take to get positive attention on their businesses. They will also receive technical assistance from ISM to help grow their businesses.

Read another article about dream.build.rise.albion by clicking below.

Dream.Build.Rise Albion – a vehicle for creating thriving minority and women-owned businesses

To learn more about dream.build.rise, visit their website at dreambuildrisealbion.com.

Photos by Ann Dwyer except as noted.  Photos and story copyright, The Recorder.

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