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Female Entrepreneurs Are Staking Their Claim in Detroit

National studies report women generally start their businesses with half as much capital as men, hold less than 20 percent of all patents, and are paid about 80 cents to the dollar. Yet, despite the difficulties that they may face, a new batch of female entrepreneurs in Detroit is showing that they can thrive in the city. Here are just a few.

It’s mid-November, and Detroit Blows co-founder Nia Batts is eager to surprise her business partner, Katy Cockrel, with an impromptu anniversary celebration for the blow-dry bar they launched just one month prior.

“Celebrating the tiny victories is important,” she says as she stages a jelly doughnut with a single birthday candle on the salon’s front table. In walks Cockrel a few minutes later. Excited to see the sweet treat from Dilla’s Delights, she and Batts each grab an end of the plate and blow out the candle.

Despite the salon’s brick-and-mortar space only being open for a short time, there are years’ worth of history behind its conception. Batts and Cockrel are childhood friends who met while studying at the Detroit-Windsor Dance Academy. The two eventually grew up to become successful in their chosen fields — Batts was previously an executive at Viacom, and Cockrel has been a publicist for over a decade in New York and Chicago. A few years ago, they reconnected while working together on attendance challenge campaigns through their respective jobs. When Batts, who at the time was living in New York, would fly into town for meetings, she was often confronted with the same issue: there was nowhere to get a blowout in Detroit.

“I had to tell her, ‘We can’t just do that here. You have to call, you have to make an appointment, we’ve got to drive to Royal Oak.’ It’s a whole process,” Cockrel says. “We had that conversation enough to realize there was opportunity to be had in creating the experience we were looking for.”

What followed was several years of researching the market, creating business plans — and running said plans by their moms — generating funding, and working on branding and build-out.
Standing shiny and new in downtown Detroit, guests can now utilize the salon’s menu of services, which includes non-toxic blowout options as well as waxing, nails, and makeup application. A number of items, including home and beauty goods from socially conscious brands, are also available for purchase.

Inspired by their own experience working on social impact projects and participating in local funding competitions (they were a Hatch Detroit finalist last year), Batts and Cockrel decided to launch a charitable component of Detroit Blows as well. Called Detroit Grows, the philanthropic arm receives $1 from every blowout, as well as a portion of profits from merchandise sold, to create microgrants. That money is then awarded to entrepreneurs, many of which may be women.

“As [women] moving through the world, especially in this building process, we’re lucky that we’ve really had people who have been supportive from the outset,” Cockrel says. “But there are a lot of female entrepreneurs who don’t necessarily have the access.”

With one month down, and many more to go, the two women are looking forward to eventual growth. But, for now, they’re taking it day by day, and relying on each other to get through both small stressors and larger challenges.

“Find a good partner that shares your vision,” Batts says. “I can’t imagine doing this without Katy. There’s going to be a lot of times where you want to quit, but don’t.

“Take a shower, go to sleep, and try again. That’s just what we have to do over and over again.”