This summer I am working remotely for ProsperUs Detroit. ProsperUs is a place-based economic development strategy designed to empower low and moderate-income, immigrant, and minority individuals.
The organization has three programs, Entrepreneur Training, Business Services, and Micro-Lending to help rebuild the Detroit community from within. My role will be creating a graduate network for alumni of the Entrepreneurship Training Program. I will be reaching out to graduates to learn more about their businesses, stories, and experiences with ProsperUs. These materials will be used to help graduates interact with each other, share stories of successful entrepreneurs with investors, and learn about ways to improve the program. What I find inspiring about ProsperUs is their approach to furthering Detroit’s economic development. Time and again communities see economic growth through gentrification which pushes out underresourced members of the community. I grew up in Chicago which similarly to Detroit is a hypersegregated midwestern city. I have seen firsthand the discrepancies in resources given to predominantly white versus minority communities and the immense negative impact that has had on underfunded neighborhoods and the people living within them. Detroit’s economic downfall has mainly been addressed by attempts to improve the downtown and midtown areas which fails to help a lot of the people, especially minorities, living in Detroit. ProsperUs aims to empower these very individuals to start small businesses and regrow their economy from the inside out.
I was surprised by how welcoming my coworkers were during this first week. I immediately felt like they were excited to have me there and that I would be contributing meaningful work. Beyond that, I was inspired by their dedication to helping people. I think oftentimes in college I spend a lot of time thinking about what to do to help myself, improve my resume, provide the best professional opportunities, and lose sight of the greater perspective. Everyone working at ProsperUs is passionate about their work and just within this first week I have witnessed how they go beyond the scope of their role to do as much as they can to aid the Detroit community. I am looking forward to working with these amazing individuals, learning more from them, and seeing the impact their work has. This week I will also begin calling graduates of the Entrepreneur Training Program and documenting their stories. I am excited to connect with the community despite working remotely and learn more about the growth of small businesses from the entrepreneurs themselves.