“Elevate Your Voice” Entrepreneur Spotlight: Doudou Kane

This article is part of a 12-part profile series that seeks to capture the thoughts and ideas of entrepreneurs in Inkster, Dearborn/Dearborn Heights, Ecorse, and River Rouge. This series is made possible through the New Economy Initiative’s “Elevate Your Voice” campaign, designed to help inform entrepreneurship support, and amplify authentic voices in the small business ecosystem. This profile features Doudou Kane of family-owned and operated business KG’s African-American Grill, based in Inkster, Michigan. 
Can you share a little bit about your business?

We are an African and Caribbean restaurant. We started our first restaurant in 2018. It's a family-owned and operated business. As a boy back home, whenever my mom would go into the kitchen, everybody would come to help, so we ended up picking up a few habits there, from being in the kitchen, helping mommy do the dishes, and learning how to make traditional food. So when we came to the United States, as a young man, we were like, okay, let's try to see how things are going to go with the cooking. And, fortunately, I met my sweetheart, my beautiful wife, and she liked the kitchen, too. She liked to cook. Then we started doing things at home, having guests, sometimes cooking for the community. And her sisters, too. They love to cook. Everybody loves to cook. So the idea came from there. Since we love cooking so much, why don't we open up a restaurant? So we sat down as a family, and her sisters joined us, and that’s how we started, putting our ideas into a business. We were trying to find a place, and one of her sisters had moved (to Inkster) first. We were in New York, and she found a place on the road. She told us about it and that's it. We jumped on it. That’s how KG’s was born.

What would you say inspired you to plant business roots in the Inkster community? 

I'll say my wife. Before we got married, she used to live here in Michigan. So, somehow, when we were dating, I was going back and forth between New York and Michigan. And when we got married, I asked her to move to New York. When we were ready to open up the restaurant, her sister had moved to Inkster, so she suggested we come back to Michigan. We had actually visited quite a few places in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and maybe Michigan was meant to be.

How have you been able to find or access capital needed for your business?

For capital, it’s a family business. It's basically me, my wife and her sisters. So everybody decided to put in some of our own money. We didn't get funding from a bank or from an organization or anybody since we were determined to move forward. We saw the place, we visited it, and we liked it. And, based on the idea we had in mind of what we wanted to do, we were like, “This is going to work. We're just going to have to put up our own money to open it.” That's how it happened.

What are your current business goals?

Right now, the business is good for the community. Everybody's supportive. The business is booming. Right after COVID-19, we tried to see how we were going to move forward because our goal wasn't just to open up one restaurant. So, after Covid, we tried to open another one and, like the first one, it was a challenge, but we had quite a good experience, so we were like, “Let’s see if we can find another good spot, and open another one”. But the restaurant is too demanding because when operating a dine-in restaurant you need to hire people. So we decided to try a food truck. Instead of trying to make the people come to us, why don’t we try to go to the people? And, since we have a very diverse menu, we picked a few items and put them on the food truck. Three months ago, we started to put it on the road, and, eventually, it looks like it's going to work. So, now, if everything goes as planned, we probably want to see how we're going to develop it again. Make it bigger and bigger and bigger, and why not franchise it?

What would you say are some resources you need to achieve those goals?

Small businesses can thrive if they have the right associates, the funding, the expertise and the guidance, like an organization or some kind of structure where they can promote or where the businesses are linked, and they can do some exchange based on their experiences. That would help because my experiences might be different to somebody else's experiences. And if we sit down and challenge each other on our experiences, maybe something good might come up, might be a benefit for him, might be a benefit for me. So if we can have some structure that can help us, guide us for things like funding because sometimes it's hard to find a financial institution to fund a new business. What if you don't have the proper investment? If you don't have the proper funding? It's going to be hard for you to do what you want to do.

If someone came to you and gave you the best resource guidance for your business goals, what would support from that resource look like for you?

If I had one, the first one would be funding. The second would be to help with digital because it's hard to keep up with the digital advertising the digital ordering, all those things. So to have somebody who can help you set up a nice platform because all we can do right now is do some advertisements on Facebook or on TikTok and stuff like that. But when you're so busy, it's hard for you to do all those things. You are running around trying to provide all the material you need for the cooking and all those things. So I think we need funding and help with digital advertisements.

Fill in the blank: ____ has been a really good resource for me. Please share how or why. 

I would say the Global African Business Association (GABA) because, since they approached us, I can see they are trying to connect to all of us to share our experiences, and eventually put us on a path where we can get all the information we need to develop our businesses. They did some listening sessions and a seminar. But it's still a way to go.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in starting, growing, or sustaining your business? 

The biggest challenge would be funding. The second one would be finding qualified workers, people willing to work because I understand we're lucky we are a family-run business. But if you want to expand, if you want to develop your business, you're going to need manpower. You're going to need people working, and, frankly, sometimes it's hard to find people who are dedicated or want to give whatever they have to give to make the business work. That's the main problem for any business is to find the resources you need, which is mostly finance because it's the nerve of a business.

If you met a new business owner in the community, what is the first resource you would recommend connecting them with to help them succeed within your city? Who would you connect them with outside of your city?

Besides the bank we're dealing with, I would say the SBA, the Small Business Administration. They help some small businesses, but you have to be qualified. You have to be qualified in order for for any institution to lend you money. For any business, they're going to need customers. For example, what I noticed is, during the summertime, we did a lot of festivals, and it really helped. It puts your name out there, people see you, people know what you're doing, and it's a constant reminder for people to support your business. Because if you don't do that, you might end up just depending on your advertisements or a few people who know your business. But you have to go toward the community. Whatever they’re organizing, whatever’s happening. Just try to participate, and it will help you quickly develop your business.

What would you say is a shared issue, concern or challenge among the entrepreneurs and small businesses in your community?

You have to accommodate (your customers). The best example I can give is when we opened, we were doing some African and American and a little bit of Jamaican cuisine, but we noticed every time somebody entered (the restaurant), they were asking for something we could add to the menu. Every time they asked, we were like, okay, why don't we make a change? So, what I'm saying is be open because your business depends on the people coming into your restaurant, whatever you think they need, they're going to express it to you. And if they express to you whatever they need, take it into consideration, study it, see how you can accommodate them. So any business, be open-minded. Don't just be like this is what I'm going to do. That's it. You have to reinvent yourself. Because if you don't, you are limited. 
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.