NEI Story Quick Facts
Grant: Inforum Center for Leadership SE MI Program
Grant Amount: $250,000
Grant Period: 2/24/2012 - 3/31/2014
- Increase the number of women-led high tech ventures in Michigan that will Spur economic growth and job creation.
To bring [Livernois Avenue] back and to call it the Ave of art and fashion, I think it puts a fun, and up to date twist on it.
- Yvette Jenkins, Love. Travels. Imports.
Inforum’s ACTiVATE program guides women through the whole process of business development- from conception to commercialization- and connects them with resources and subject matter experts. The program also helps women overcome the unconscious barriers created by the gender gap in STEM field businesses. Though 60 percent of STEM graduates are female, only three percent of new businesses in those fields are started by women. ACTiVATE’s goal is to help women achieve parity within 20 years.
Inclusion is a critical building block of the new economy, and NEI is proud to support Inforum and other organizations that are giving women entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed.
Love. Travels. Imports.
When Yvette Jenkins was a girl, Livernois Avenue- one of the City's premier high end shopping destination's- was known as the Avenue of Fashion. As a girl, Yvette fantasized about shopping sprees on Livernois that would make her the most fashionable woman in Detroit.
Over the years, the Avenue of Fashion and other shopping districts in the City deteriorated as malls grew in popularity and neighborhood stores had difficult competing.
But there is a new movement to re-establish Livernois as a shopping destination, and Yvette Jenkins is a part of it. IN 2013, Yvette launched a pop-up shop called Love. Travels. Imports. on the Avenue through the REVOLVE Detroit program. Her shop contains fashion accessories made in Detroit and fair trade goods from abroad.
Yvette had been a member of Inforum for several years but got involved in the ACTiVATE program to help her launch her business. ACTiVATE plugged her into a network of support that she feels was critical to her business's success. Despite Detroit's struggles, Yvette believes the City offers more opportunities for entrepreneurs today than ever before.
Deborah Tacoma knows a bit about overcoming adversity. She broke her back in a car accident and was hospitalized for an extended period of time. Due to her injury and her weight, she could not perform basic hygienic functions for four and a half months and had to rely on nurses for everything. The stress and humiliation of needing help with basic tasks, like going to the restroom or washing up. were unacceptable to Deborah, so she did something it. She invented the Freedom Wand, a a lightweight and easy to carry device that allows people with limited mobility to regain their independence.
Deborah discovered ACTiVATE when they invited her to speak on a panel. After the discussion, she was so impressed she decided to join the program. Even though she had been in business for six years, she lacked mentors, which her peers in ACTiVATE helped her find.
"ACTiVATE gave me the confidence I needed to nail down and finish my business plan. They allowed me to go back and clean up the mess from when I was just getting started blind." It has been a fulfilling journey for Deborah, and the letters she gets from the men and women whose lives have been positively affected by her invention keeps her going. She was once just someone who broke her back, but now, with the help of ACTiVATE, she is changing lives around the world