Midland makes progress supporting diverse small businesses, room to build

When everyone has equal representation and access to opportunities, everyone thrives.

About 18 months ago, Amy Beasley approached Tony Stamas, president and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance, to co-chair the Midland Business Inclusion Alliance with her. 

Tony Stamas, president and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance, co-chairs the Midland Business Inclusion Council with Amy Beasley.Beasley saw a need for business leaders to address policies, guidelines, and practices. Along with the Midland Community Inclusion Council — whose goal is to connect, educate and advocate — the two together can deliver maximum impact.

“We’re hoping to build the kind of town where business owners who are from marginalized communities would want to come and establish a great, thriving small business here,” says Beasley. “... The healthy way for us to grow and thrive is to attract lots of different kinds of people here. And to do that and keep ‘em, we’ve got to create the infrastructure to support that.”

Two business owners, Rickey Fields and Meko Price, share their stories of opening small businesses in Midland.

Rickey Fields gives his “Total Attention”

Rickey Fields owns three businesses within the Midland Mall: Total Attention Insurance Brokers, Total Attention Apparel, and Total Attention Barbershop. 

Rickey Fields is the owner of Total Attention Insurance Brokers, Total Attention Apparel, and Total Attention Barbershop. Fields is also a pastor at I Am Come Ministries.Fields got his start in business in 1995 cutting hair at his storefront in Saginaw. In 1996, he was approached to cut hair for African American men who worked at Dow. Every Tuesday, he traveled from Saginaw to Midland to cut hair.

“I came at 5 o’clock; I didn’t get off until 2 o’clock that morning,” says Fields. “… I went home and said, ‘well, we’re going to be doing Midland from now on.’”

He relocated his barbershop to Midland in 1996. There, he would have conversations with businessmen. One client told him that any business could be started with just $100.

“It all started from the guy that was more brilliant than me and me being around him,” says Fields. “To this day, we still have conversations like that — we’re kind of like a think tank for the city.”

After that, Fields decided to move to Midland permanently and start opening more businesses. One of the most persistent barriers he faces is finding opportunities to pay for certain property leases.

Fields relocated his Saginaw barbershop, Total Attention Barbershop, to Midland in 1996. He’s had steady business cutting Black men’s hair since.“There’s been some, ‘well, we thought about it, and we don’t want that business to come here.’ And I’m like, ‘it’s an insurance business; it’s not like I’m serving alcohol or anything.’ [And they say], ‘Yeah, but it’s probably going to be rowdy.’ … When have you ever heard of a rowdy car insurance company?” asks Fields.

He admits he can’t be certain if it’s because of his race, rather, he believes it may be something those from outside Midland experience. “Midland has been pretty good to us, other than those incidents,” says Fields.

Fields would like to see more businesses open up in Midland that serve diverse populations. For example, he’s the only barber in Midland to cut Black hair. There are no salons that can service Black women’s hair.

“We don’t have anything for the Chinese population, the African American population, the Hispanic population. … We talk about the [Midland] bubble, but we force people to leave the bubble because they don’t fit the Caucasian model. They have to take all their economic value out of the bubble.”

He also wants to see more inclusive events that are attractive to diverse audiences.

“Events that will force diversity, almost, like a comedy show — where it doesn’t matter your diversity when you come, you’re just going to laugh as a group,” says Fields. “Midland doesn’t have those types of things.”

Meko Price helps Midlanders “glō”

Meko Price is the owner of glo SKIN SPA.Meko Price is the owner of glō SKIN SPA. Her business offers a range of skincare services, including personalized consultations, vitamin infusions, injections, products, and more.

“Although our purpose is aesthetics, it goes much deeper than just looking good,” says Price.

Price grew up in Hope and earned her degree from Ferris State University. She left to work in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Southern California before returning to Midland in 2015 to raise her kids.

In 2017, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “That put a whole new outlook in terms of what I wanted to do with my career,” says Price. “That really solidified the fact that I was going to quit corporate America and start my own gig as an entrepreneur.” 

Up until then, glō SKIN SPA had been a side-hustle. In January 2018, she opened her storefront full-time, on Wackerly Street. Last December, she purchased a building on Eastman Avenue next to Horizon Bank  — using the second floor for her business and renting out the first level.

Price belongs to a couple of networking groups in Midland, namely the Women Entrepreneurial Roundtable (WERT). They get together once a month and learn from each other — not just about business, but also about being a woman entrepreneur.

“It's a great group of people and it's just very empowering to see. Some of these women have been in business for themselves for many, many, many years,” says Price.

Price’s staff is predominantly female. Price says she hasn’t had an issue with her race in Midland. As a young child, she was adopted from Asia.

“I've never personally felt discriminated against, or anything that’s happened to me that I felt like I was discouraged from doing something, being Asian. It was more being a woman than anything,” says Price. “Not necessarily in this town but overall, in general just being in business [in corporate America].”

Price would like to see more diverse leadership boards. Women are often straddled with greater work-life balance issues, such as childcare, which makes it more difficult for them to enter leadership roles. She also wants to see more corporations come to Midland — big and small.

“I think that the opportunity for Midland to open up and become more diverse is to have more companies here to bring people into this town,” says Price. “You can't be just [a] one-company town and expect to be diverse, because those diverse people don't usually stay here. … Hopefully, I inspire other people to [open a business] because I think that's where the need is, is to have more.”

The Business Inclusion Council has a vision for the future

While Midland is taking on more diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, there’s always more work to be done.

Beasley’s vision for Midland is four-tiered. First, she wants leaders to be humble learners and submit to public accountability. Second, she would like the community to be brave and choose agency and ownership of culture. 

“[I want us to] be okay with being uncomfortable if it means that we can grow and thrive in the long-run,” says Beasley.

Third, Beasley would like to see businesses get serious about improving policy and practice, and structure and strategy.

“Businesses have an incredible opportunity to have a widespread impact,” says Beasley. “... It’s amazing what small decisions can do in that environment. I want our businesses to get serious about really leveraging their opportunity to have a positive impact.”

Last, Beasley looks outward to the rest of the Great Lakes Bay Region. She says that while each county is different, each has value to contribute.

“We’ve got to work together for the region to evolve,” says Beasley. “... The diversity is there; we just have to appreciate the opportunity as a region to do this together.”

Read more articles by Crystal Gwizdala.

Crystal Gwizdala is a freelance writer with a focus on health and science. As a lifelong resident of the Tri-Cities, she loves sharing how our communities are overcoming challenges. Crystal is also a serial hobbyist — her interests range from hiking or drawing to figuring out how to do a handstand. Her work can be seen in Wide Open Eats, The Xylom, Woman & Home, and The Detroit Free Press. To see what Crystal’s up to, you can follow her on Twitter @CrystalGwizdala.