Tenecia Johnson was just 18, fresh out of high school, when she was hired by a commercial bank in Detroit to work with small businesses. Although Tenecia admits that the job was “challenging for an 18 year old,” she did so well in that position she was transferred to a branch downtown where her responsibilities increased. While working at the downtown bank, Tenecia earned her degree in Communications from Eastern Michigan University in just three years. As she recalls, she was focused: “My motivations to be in college were sometimes a bit different than some fellow students.” While she was at EMU Tenecia was also involved in several student organizations, such as the NAACP, student government, and a sorority. Tenecia clearly likes being busy.
GAINING A VARIETY OF BUSINESS EXPERIENCE
Tenecia also worked at DTE Energy, starting out on their commercial team and eventually she was chosen to write the curriculum for the training program for the commercial team. She also served as a regional coordinator for Head Start, and has been involved with several community and non-profit organizations through the years.
Tenecia also has her own social enterprise, what she calls “a hybrid between a non-profit and a for-profit.” It’s called Pretty Professional L3C and its mission is to “connect young women to opportunities.” Pretty Professional L3C provides “business and leadership training to high school women and matches them with internship opportunities to get a head start in achieving their career goals.” Several young women have acquired full-time employment and even college scholarships through the connections made with Pretty Professionals L3C.
THE FUNCTIONS OF A BUSINESS LIAISON
Tenecia’s small business banking expertise, her involvement in the non-profit world, and her role as a small business owner herself make her just about the perfect fit for her position as Detroit Economic Growth Corporation’s District Business Liaison – District 1. The DEGC is a non-profit organization whose focus is to support “existing businesses and bring new companies and investments to the city.” While opening a business in a community can be exciting for both the business owners and the residents of that community, navigating the relationship of a business with the community, its residents, and the larger city of Detroit can be challenging. That’s where Tenecia comes in. As the Business Liaison for District 1, (where Grandmont Rosedale is located), Tenecia has three primary functions: 1. To provide small business access to resources and programs that can support their success, such as TechTown, Build, and the many resources available at the Grand River WorkPlace. 2. To advocate for business owners in their use of city of Detroit services, ensuring that business owners understand such regulations as property maintenance guidelines. Tenecia further helps businesses find a location, talent, and secure capital. 3. To collect data and identify trends. In studying the relevant data, she can identify what is working as well as what is not. Tenecia can determine if a change in city policy would make opening a business in Detroit easier, and then she can advocate for the change. In short, as Tenecia says, she is always “looking for solutions to make a community better.”
Tenecia is the first person to hold this position. This idea to have a business liaison or advocate for the businesses in each of the districts was the result of a community meeting of Detroit business owners who expressed a need for someone to help them navigate city hall, their residential communities, and their business community. For District 1, that somebody is Tenecia. Tenecia also sees herself as an advocate for the residents for District 1. According to Tenecia, it is her job to “tailor businesses to fit the needs of the community.”
If you are a business owner in District 1 and you have not yet met Tenecia, contact her and introduce yourself: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313.460.0775. If you’d like to learn more about the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, check out their website: degc.org.