a program of Southwest Solutions
With diverse backgrounds and business experience, our Trainers are culturally competent and committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed. Each Trainer excels at helping entrepreneurs get from a dream or an idea to developing an exhaustive understanding of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Through twelve in-class sessions and ten one-on-one consultations, our Trainers are committed to helping participants progress toward the creation of a business plan. With ongoing relationships and accountability, our Trainers are mentors and counselors to students and program graduates.
Fluent in Spanish and passionate about social ventures, Nydia Cardenas is a daughter of immigrants and serves as an asset to entrepreneurs. She is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business as a Master of Business Administration where she was also the Urban Revitalization Circle Director for the University of Michigan Social Venture Fund. Before attending U of M, Nydia worked with the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City where she interacted with hundreds of businesses in the Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and New York areas that were part of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Currently, she is the founder of The PlayOurs Fund, a startup that activates the social and financial capital of athletes for their individual long-term well-being and that of their communities. Nydia sits on the Board for Southwest Economic Solutions. With an abundance of experiences working with small businesses, she also serves as a Camp CommUNITY Advisor for The Multicultural Alliance where she works with youth to create responsible leaders and social change advocates in a diverse community.
With tremendous experience working with multicultural communities, Joe Cooper brings a deep understanding of international development and relations to the team. After three years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Central Africa, Joe returned to the US with an intimate knowledge of providing training and support to community-based organizations. Following his work with the Peace Corps, he served as an Operations Manager for Punch Bowl Social, a gastro-diner with locations in Denver, Portland, Austin, and Detroit. He now uses those experiences, and his Master of International Administration from the University of Denver’s School of International Studies, to work with participants who have varied immigration stories unfolding in the US.
Truly committed to helping budding entrepreneurs, Shawntay Dixon is a teacher, trainer, and consultant. With over twenty years of combined management experience specializing in business management, program management and administration, training, teaching, and consulting in the fields of entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, and workforce development, Shawntay was raised in Detroit and has spent years working with diverse communities throughout Wayne and Oakland counties. With an Entrepreneurial Specialty in her Master of Business Administration in Management from Davenport University, Shawntay teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses for the University of Phoenix’ School of Business. Putting her knowledge to work, she is a minority shareholder of an outpatient clinic in Livonia, MI where she manages the business operations. Through her consulting firm, Precisely Done Enterprises, she has developed and implemented customized career development and small business / entrepreneurship programs for individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and faith-based communities.
Devoted to being the kind of business coach that helps his clients make more money, Herb Drayton is interested in making an impact on businesses marketing and sales goals. With experience in the corporate world, namely with automotive clients, and with small businesses, Herb has been the Principal Consultant for Drayton Consulting Associates for over twenty years. From his website, MotorCityCoaching.com, he works to help clients generate more leads, attract more clients, and make more money. He is currently also a Business Advisor for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in the greater Detroit area. From Fortune 500 companies like Ford and Chrysler to startup businesses, Herb has demonstrated an ability to work with companies on improving everything from people to processes to products and services.
With education at the forefront of his personal and professional development as a lifelong Detroiter and city advocate, Marcus Harris is committed to his own education and that of his students in multiple capacities. With his Master of Business Administration from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, he is now pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration degree from Lawrence Technological University’s College of Management. Through this work, his research interests include social entrepreneurship and social innovation, urban entrepreneurship and microenterprise development, and nonprofit management and leadership. As the Managing Director of his own consulting firm, Urban Strategies Services, Marcus works with businesses at any stage in their growth through our training program, and he also serves as a facilitator for BUILD Social, an innovative training and development program for social entrepreneurs, which he co-founded and launched with nonprofit D:hive Detroit (now Build Institute) in 2014. He currently serves as the Program Director for Innovation Springboard at the Henry Ford Learning Institute, and he is devoted to molding burgeoning entrepreneurs as adjunct faculty in the Entrepreneurial Studies department for Wayne County Community College.
Especially versed in finances and business plan development, Lawrence Jackson is a skilled facilitator and passionate about his work as a business advocate. As a Financial Specialist for Emerging Enterprise Group, he works with businesses in the areas of financial analysis, lending tactics, Small Business Association’s loan strategies, tax strategy, business development, entrepreneurship, and business plan facilitation. Working with a variety of service providers in Detroit, Lawrence is truly an advocate that sees the value of financial planning for entrepreneurs. With his Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Davenport University, he transfers his knowledge to participants for the betterment of the community through financial viability.
Among several accolades, Stella Safari brings to the team an intimate knowledge of helping entrepreneurs with lending readiness. She is the Executive Director of Startup Effect, a nonprofit educating youth about entrepreneurship in Detroit and New Orleans and has native French proficiency (spoken, written, and reading and is fluent in Swahili and Lingala (spoken)). Previously, she had experience as the Director of Operations of Detroit-startup, Floyd, and was the Executive Director of Ponyride for some time. Before that, she spent time as an analyst with Invest Detroit and was a 2013 Fellow with Venture for America. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College where she focused on mathematics, economic development, and women’s and gender studies which informs her current focus on women’s economic development and issues of immigration.
Regarding entrepreneurship with reverence, Laura Sigmon is a graduate of Detroit Public Schools and sees the potential in Detroit’s neighborhood businesses. As the President and CEO of Best Practices Consulting Services, she has more than twenty years of senior leadership experience specializing in business development, marketing, strategic planning, and capacity building. She transfers this expertise to the classroom because she sees the value in providing real application-based learning environments. Utilizing her Master of Business Administration from Davenport University, Laura also serves as a Business Instructor at Mott Community College. Trust is at the forefront of the work she does concerning small business development and management.
After working on, and leading, several teams dedicated to small business and community development in Detroit, Leah Vest created Capacity Builders specializing in community and economic development. Her company provides strategic planning, project and financial related technical assistance to nonprofit organizations and small business enterprises to realize their goals associated with the revitalization of Detroit’s neighborhoods. With her Master of Business Administration concentrating in Finance from Wayne State University, Leah is adept at working with organizations, including entrepreneurs, in the short term and transferring knowledge for long-term growth and development. With more than twenty years of community and economic development work in the City of Detroit, Leah’s work is predominantly with community development corporations to revitalize Detroit’s communities with special emphasis on low and moderate income populations.
Particularly versed in technology, Marvin offers expertise in using technology to start, expand, and manage a small business. An entrepreneur himself, Marvin has owned and operated a few different small businesses of his own before concentrating on using technology for community organizing and teaching. After a stint in Washington, DC, Marvin recently returned to the Southeast Michigan area working with the Defense Intelligence Agency as an IT Project Manager while serving as the Board Chairman for the City of Melvindale’s Economic Development Corporation. Possessing a Master of Business Administration from Baker College with a concentration in Computer Information Systems, he has experience with technology in both the corporate and small business ecosystems with extensive ties to the Detroit area.
Our Entrepreneur Training Program is eager to work with trainers, mentors, and consultants that seek ways to connect with Detroit’s neighborhood businesses and promote place-based economic development. If you are interested in teaching low and moderate income, immigrant and minority entrepreneurs and small business owners how to build a successful business plan, we welcome your enthusiasm to help grow our program and offer essential resources to the community.
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