JeNiece Freeman-Holt comes to GRDC as a Program Specialist with some valuable hands-on experience. A Challenge Detroit Fellow, JeNiece worked with the marketing team for The Platform, the developer of the Obama building at Grand River and Lahser in Old Redford. In this position, JeNiece was able to use both the creative training she received as a graduate from Michigan State University’s Arts and Humanities program, and her natural affinity for making connections between people and resources. JeNiece’s role at GRDC fits nicely as a next step for her. What’s more, JeNiece’s roots run pretty deep in Grandmont Rosedale. She grew up in Grandmont, and her grandmother and aunt lived just a couple of blocks away.
After her time as a fellow with Challenge Detroit, JeNiece “did a hard core job search.” This was made even more challenging as the COVID-19 safety restrictions preventing in-person meetings were in place. While she looked for work, she continued to volunteer with Mint Artist Guild, an organization that offers art classes to Detroit students whose schools do not offer an art curriculum. Just how JeNiece got involved with the guild demonstrates her ability to make meaningful connections. JeNiece was attending a meeting at the Fisher Building, where The Platform has its offices. She stepped out for a bite to eat at a bakery, and saw artists’ work covering the walls of the bakery. This pop-up gallery featured works by the Mint Artists Guild. Creating art had long been a part of JeNiece’s life, and so she reached out the guild and offered to help them find spaces for future pop-up galleries. Quickly JeNiece became a video editor and a strategist to build the guild’s community presence.
JOINING GRDC’S TEAM
JeNiece has also worked with Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT), a City of Detroit program that offers a variety of employment opportunities for young Detroiters. GRDC has been a host site of several GDYT teams. JeNiece particularly enjoys working with young people, especially on their goals. “I really enjoy talking to young people who are just starting out. We talk about future plans, about developing their own business models as small business owners one day.”
JeNiece came to GRDC in the midst of COVID-19 and jumped right into transforming our annual Small Business Saturday event, Shop small in GRANDmont Rosedale, to an online experience. Ordinarily a one day, in-person shopping event, Shop small in GRANDmont Rosedale became a completely virtual, month-long event. Working with GRDC’s Economic Development Manager Kiki Louya, JeNiece engaged the participation of 23 vendors to offer their goods and services online, for the entire month-long holiday shopping season. JeNiece worked with these small business owners and entrepreneurs to discover the best way to connect shoppers to their products and services. Some business owners already had online shopping sites – others did not. “Different businesses had different needs, so we worked to learn which methods made sense for which types of businesses,” JeNiece says. Mint Artists Guild was one of the Shop small in GRANDmont Rosedale vendors, and according to Vickie Elmor, co-founder and executive director of Mint Artists Guild, “We definitely saw an uptick in traffic to our website and online store…because of the Grandmont Rosedale promotion! For a small, youth-serving nonprofit, this is significant.”
JeNiece’s cultivated community connection paid off, not just for the guild, but for the Grandmont Rosedale small business community. Creating community means building relationships among residents and among small business owners. It means helping the residents and the small business owners fully realize that they need one another in order for their community to thrive. This knitting together of social ties takes time and persistence, but JeNiece is up to the challenge. As she admits, she likes to stay busy: “I’m not fond of idle time. I still volunteer with the Mint.”
DAY TO DAY AT THE GRAND RIVER WORKPLACE
Among JeNiece’s objectives at GRDC is to evaluate the Grand River WorkPlace, in terms of the co-working office services provided to its members, as well as its small business support services and programming. JeNiece is even taking a look at the physical interior of the workspace itself. JeNiece’s early and intense experience with the Grandmont Rosedale small business community offered an immediate insight into what our small businesses need from their neighborhood co-working space.
JeNiece has not ruled out the possibility of becoming a small business owner herself. In an interesting combination of her creativity and her head for business, JeNiece is educating herself on photography with thoughts of creating a real estate photography business one day. She also has ambitions to develop her own line of décor.
JeNiece credits her mom for passing on her creativity gene. “She’s in IT, but she’s a very talented visual artist – very hands on,” JeNiece says. JeNiece’s hands-on approach has already served her well in her role at the Grand River WorkPlace. Whether it’s artwork or photography, an effective marketing plan or technological support, JeNiece is excited to facilitate the connections our small business community needs. She does this with the same enthusiasm she brought to our Shop small in GRANDmont Rosedale event: “Let’s create magic.”
Keep in touch with the Grand River WorkPlace by liking the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GrandRiverWorkPlace, following its Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/grworkplace/, or checking out the website at grandriverworkplace.com.