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BMe Michigan Chronicle Story 1.20.13Page B-1 Home Front (2)

BMe Michigan Chronicle Story 1.20.13Page B-1 Home Front (2)

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Published by CJ Wilson
BMe Detroit story call for community impact. Share. Inspire. Connect
BMe Detroit story call for community impact. Share. Inspire. Connect

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Published by: CJ Wilson on Feb 26, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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section B

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February 20-26, 2013

A face of Comerica in the community, retires after 44 years

Louise Guyton,
or the past 44 years Louise Guyton, vice president of public affairs at Comerica Bank, has started her day the same way each morning. She wakes up at 6 a.m. and enjoys a fresh cup of tea while reading her Bible, the Daily Bread and the newspaper. While her mornings have been routine, her career has been anything but. Guyton has been a driving force for positive change and improvement both within the bank and the community during her 44-year career. Destined for greatness, Guyton started school much earlier than most at the ripe age of four in Memphis, Tenn. Excelling in school and determined to make something of her life, she graduated near the top of her high school class and was accepted into Memphis State University. After two years at Memphis State, Guyton and her husband saw opportunity and moved to Detroit. She found work as a bank teller at Detroit Bank & Trust, known today as Comerica Bank. With

See Louise Guyton page B-2

Louise Guyton (front, fourth from left), along with Comerica colleagues and the Perfecting Community Development Corporation, with Oprah Winfrey and Pastor Marvin Winans at “An Evening with Ms. Oprah Winfrey” in 1994.

BMe grants change lives of Black men in Detroit and their communities
Inside the F.A.M.E. Shop, a little building on Joy Road on the west side of Detroit, you’ll find Clement Brown Jr., owner, creating new designs on his embroidery machine or screen printing T-shirts. You may even see him cutting and sewing custom art on clothes. But he doesn’t want to keep his craft a secret; he’d like to impact his community by sharing his knowledge, and he can do so with a grant from the BMe community. BMe, which stands for Black Male Engagement, is a growing network of Black men committed to making communities stronger. The organization is awarding $200,000 in grants to Black men working on projects in Detroit that improve their community, with a special focus on those working collaboratively. “Looking back, the kind of person I want to help is the kind of person I was when I got started. I had some raw ideas, but I didn’t know how to move them forward. Working at the F.A.M.E. Shop was a catalyst to my success,” Brown said. “I want to teach people not just about design, but about how to market themselves and run a business, from accounting to copyrights and intellectual property ownership, I uploaded my story and have completed the grant process, I’m looking forward to the outcome.” Eddie Connor, Jr. knows firsthand the impact that a grant from BMe can make. Connor won a grant from the BMe community last year for his project Boys to Books, a mentorship program with a mission to empower boys through literacy, leadership and life skills. “The BMe grant has given

Cassandra and Jeff Thomas

By Robin Kinnie

There’s nothing like the sweet taste of victory. Just ask Sweet Potato Sensations owners Jeffery and Cassandra Thomas, who own and operate a bustling business in northwest Detroit’s Old Redford. What began as a kitchen counter operation blossomed into a full-fledged operation as Cassandra found an ample group of patrons interested in her sweet potato creations originally conceived to cater to her husbands’ love of sweet potato-inspired baked goods. Loyal patrons, who liken the shop to a slice of “heaven on earth,” have been supporting Sweet Potato Sensations for more than 24 years.

Sweet Potato Sensations is “all that” and more, according to one loyal customer exiting the shop with a bagful of sweet potato bread the day of my visit.

But sometimes, even being that good is not “good enough,” as many small business owners can attest. Producing a good product is only a part of the formula for success. ACCESS TO CAPITAL IS KEY Like many entrepreneurs, the Thomases

Robin Kinnie

Local business benefits from CEED support

learned many lessons along the way to developing a successful business model. One of them was the importance of external support. They got plenty from the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED), which they credit for helping to accelerate their business growth. Their first contact with CEED was at an Entrepreneur Roundtable that featured a series of sessions aimed at bridging the knowledge gap between entrepreneurs and resource providers. Access to capital is one of the main challenges for any small business, including Sweet Potato Sensations, which lacked the resources to purchase the equipment needed to start making and selling a new sweet potato ice cream product line.

Clement Brown Jr. and Terasia Collins at Joy Day community festival.
me a platform to expose the program around Michigan, and even nationally,” he said. The Boys to Books program received an endorsement from the U.S. House of Representatives. Connor teaches at University High School in Ferndale where 35 boys have joined the program. Another BMe grant winner from last year and program coordinator for this year, Shaka Senghor, held his book launch party recently at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. His dream come true was made possible by taking the first step and uploading his video of community engagement to www.BMecommunity.org.

CEED helped Sweet Potato Sensations secure the funding needed to launch the line and, in turn, helped the business breathe new life into the languishing business district. Today, the once sleepy strip of Old Redford businesses is thriving. PAYING IT FORWARD The family pays its support forward by giving

See ceeD page B-3

See BMe page B-3

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