Blog: Chanell Scott & Jordan Contreras

Jordan Contreras and Chanell Scott are two new-school entrepreneurs that have combined their love for Detroit, entrepreneurship, and sustainability into the business they co-founded – Guffly.com.  Guffly is the stylish consumer's source for unique and creative gifts that ease the conscience by being eco-friendly or fair trade.

The pair met while attending Bizdom U, an entrepreneurship training program in Detroit, and quickly realized their diverse set of skills and overlapping interests made for a dynamic team.  Together they came up with Guffly's unique business model – a style-hunting internet retail store that features a new product every weekday in addition to customer favorites and top sellers that are always available in the store’s "Top Guffs" catalog.

 
With Contreras' experience in management and leadership at a successful local sports club he is rightly suited to take on leading Guffly's operations as the company’s "Chief Strategic Friendship Ninja" or COO. 
He has lead their team in creating and maintaining relationships with their network of over 100 suppliers which include independent artists, small businesses, and even local Michigan producers.  Prior to creating this role for himself, Contreras excelled as a student in Bizdom U as one of the few who successfully completed the tough 2-year program.  

Likewise, Scott completed the program as a top student and together they pitched for and successfully attained a substantial capital investment to launch Guffly.  This, however, happened only after connecting to the green community for over a year through their blog that later became Guffly.com.  Prior to joining Bizdom U, Scott began her career at Detroit's Mosaic Youth Theater working to organize hundreds of performances and events around the city and state, as well as nationally.  Her BA in Sociology & Communications from the University of Michigan was the springboard to her role as Guffly's "Chief Guffly Love Distributor" or CEO where she steers the path for the young company.

Together Contreras and Scott will share their opinions on Detroit's entrepreneurial climate, the role of small businesses, and why staying eco-friendly in the process is important.

Chanell Scott & Jordan Contreras - Most Recent Posts:

Post 1: Micro Equals More

At the crux of what seems to be a potential turning point in Detroit's story, many are seeking to find the next industry that will carry this city and state into the future.  Will it be the film industry, clean-energy, tech-based firms?  We encourage the effort made by organizations and governments to answer this question by offering heavy financial incentives and support to existing businesses.   However, it's our opinion that an increased focus on a diverse set of new and small business endeavors is an important part of the equation that needs more attention. 

In our business, Guffly, we focus on helping artisans, small businesses ("tiny" may even be more accurate), and crafters get their products to the marketplace in a creative, meaningful, and financially beneficial way.  We do this in the eco-friendly retail market, and every day we become more convinced that a resurgence of trade and craft is happening all around us.  People seem to be more eager than ever to take their destinies into their own hands by starting their own small ventures.  This is what we're doing ourselves, and this is what our network of suppliers have also done.  We believe that if nurtured correctly, there is limitless potential for Metro Detroit to benefit from this trend.  Organizations and individuals looking to bolster Detroit's long-term economic climate need to focus on micro-entrepreneurship and here are our suggestions on how this can be done:

•    Wage smaller bets.  In addition to allocating large sums of money to medium and large firms and investing in bringing out-of-state businesses to the state, we need to spread this money more widely through micro loans and investments.  All businesses start with one sale.  In order to get that first sale, individuals need money.  This amount of money, however, is much smaller for certain businesses than what you may think.  If you spread $1,000,000 amongst 500 individuals, thus giving each an investment of just $2,000, you are increasing the number of successes to be found instead of investing that same amount of money all in one place.  Likewise, the rate of return to be had on the successful small investments is often greater than the rate of return found on larger investments.

•    Create a nucleus of resources.  Small businesses and individual ventures are not only strapped for cash, but often even more so for time.  In order to generate revenue they need people on the ground level doing the dirty work, pushing the business forward.  The issue for small operations is that there aren't enough financial resources to hire the people needed to make the ground level work happen the right way.  Organizations seeking to encourage entrepreneurship need to provide resources to small ventures that have overlapping needs.
 
For example, as an e-commerce company Guffly needs web developers to enhance our value and marketing professionals to grow our customer base.  There are thousands of small businesses out there who need these exact same things, and we venture to say that a hundred or so are right here in Metro Detroit.  We need to pool our resources and share them cooperatively. 

We envision a hub for e-commerce businesses that staffs professionals in the areas where we need help, and do this by using government funds or philanthropic dollars.  We imagine this could work in various industries – retailers sharing warehouses and the fulfillment staff, tech start-ups sharing developers, etc.

•    Prime the young. Once these small ventures have the capital needed to begin, and the nucleus of resources available to grow, the next step is have an army of new workers who are primed to take on the task of working for start-ups.  From grade school on, we need to teach our children a new, more entrepreneurial way of thinking.  One of the problems Guffly has encountered is finding the right team members and interns who understand what working for a start-up entails.  In our world, there is no such thing as a guaranteed 40-hour work week.  Instead, we need people eager to put in the time and effort needed, people who don't see themselves as "on the clock" and instead are focused on growing a new business from the ground up and making the necessary sacrifices to do so. 

We're not proposing that workers make sacrifices that won't yield a personal benefit, of course.  Instead, we mean to say that we need to change our frame of thinking in a way that normalizes hard work and long hours for all team members involved in the early stages of a business, and likewise normalizes the expectation of ownership interests, stock options, and other serious financial benefits for team members who grow the business from the beginning.   There are simply not enough people who think this way and are willing to do this, and we think that solving this problem starts with educating youth to value entrepreneurship and small business once again.

We're not proposing that we stop supporting large businesses – we need them to hire people and pay salaries, after all.  However, our region is past the stage of putting all of our eggs into one basket. We should spread the wealth and resources horizontally in order to create more of it.  The more people we have at bat, the more home runs we'll see in the future.

 
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