SWOT City Grantee

I think it’s kinda cool to be a part of an area that’s really on the verge of moving upwards.

- Espy Thomas, Sweet Potato Sensations


NEI partnered with TechTown SWOT City in order to spread opportunity and hope to existing businesses in Detroit’s neighborhoods.  We hear constant buzz about startups and their role in propelling us toward a new economy, but equally important is the role of existing businesses already servicing neighborhoods.  SWOT City empowers neighborhood businesses, providing them with expert analysis to help them identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, paving the way for future sustainability.

Tom O'Brien

Old Redford Resource Center

Tom O'Brien

Tom O'Brien took a chance on a building that others had given up on- the old Masonic Temple in Detroit's Old Redford neighborhood. The building, which was built in `11923, went vacant in the 1970s. The Motor City Blight Busters acquired the building in the late 80s, but were unable to make good on a $1.4 million loan to renovate the building and lost it to the bank. That's when O'Brien stepped in.

His vision was to turn it into a neighborhood resource center, where non-profits and community members could rent space at reasonable rates. So far, that's what has happened. TechTown SWOT keeps an office in the building, as do Michigan State University's Extension and the motor City Blight Busters.

Espy Thomas

Sweet Potato Sensations

Espy Thomas

Since 1987, the Thomas family has been running Sweet Potato Sensations, a bakery located in Old Redford specializing in terms made from sweet potatoes. Located in Old Redford, The Thomas family has been heavily involved in the neighborhood's growth and revitalization, but they needed help growing sustainably. Luckily, TechTown's SWOT City program was there to provide them with needed expertise and resources.

With guidance from SWOT City's experts, Sweet Potato Sensations has been able to expand its market, increase its visibility, and access the resources it needs to grow and succeed. It hasn't always been an easy road, but the Thomas family has persevered. Now, with TechTown SWOT's help, they hope to grow and thrive while remaining a neighborhood staple and "the sweet potato lover's heaven on earth."