Capturing the Moment Beyond Movement with Monique Becker

Tash Moore: So, tell us how you got started. What led you to found CREATIVE RELATION?

Monique Becker : We’re in our second year now with CREATIVE RELATION. During last year’s pilot, we went by Resident Movement as the program was most heavily focused on access to Movement Music Festival. I was born in Detroit and always knew Techno music as black Detroit music, but over the course of a decade of attending the festival, it felt like it began to reflect black Detroit culture less and less. So, [we] birthed out of a frustration for that reality and a desire to do something about. So I linked up with Adrian Tonon from the mayor’s office, who’s the night time economy ambassador, Michael Reyes from We Are Culture Creators and then Sam Fotis and Jason Huvaere from Paxahau, the production company behind the festival. I could not have asked for stronger, more genuine partners. It was important to Paxahau in particular that we give the right folks — emerging creatives of color looking to grow professionally — an avenue to attend the festival and also understand the behind the scenes, the production side, the visual arts components, vending opportunities, etc. beyond just the performance side. Our grassroots effort and team have grown to include Cyrah Dardas, Kashira Dowrige and Xavier Cuevas as Creative, Social Media and Media Directors, respectively. We are always looking to build with other like-minded businesses and excited for the future of our work.

CREATIVE RELATION’S Monique Becker, Photo by James Charles Morris

TM: How do you define & redefine the business of art?

MB: That can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. [The business of art is] how to make money from art, how to make a sustainable career from art, how art really is incorporated into the economy. And we really start with education about business aspects of art. There are a lot of amazing groups that offer workshops for small and creative businesses in the city. We definitely don’t believe in working in silos or reinventing the wheel, so rather than our approach to education focusing on a more formal workshopping session, we’re working to connect people with people. We bring in speakers, we have a quarterly educational series that focuses on topics from financial planning, budgeting to real estate for creatives and understanding lease terms, what do you need to be aware of. Gentrification is something that every city has to tackle. The folks in the creative economy are the ones who make a place cool, add that social capital, and then don’t have any equity and so they are pushed out. How do Detroit creatives purchase property and position themselves to protect against future gentrification? We have to understand negotiating and contracts, or how to pitch yourself or sell your work….We advocate that it needs to be sustainable and opportunities need to flow democratically and to folks that tend to be marginalized. We’re sharing our collective knowledge.

TM: How do you see Detroit’s creative or cultural economy evolving over the next few years?

MB: I feel that Detroit is in a very important moment in terms of cultural and creative output. The desire for folks to collaborate on a broader scale is there. Developments are also ramping up and we see the tourism industry growing. Michigan is one of the fastest growing markets in the country and it’s in large part because folks are beginning to learn and become more familiar with the real Detroit story. They want to visit and participate in the culture here. The tourism industry should benefit the creative economy greatly as a way of connecting art and culture consumers with art and culture producers? For us at CREATIVE RELATION, we want to make sure emerging creatives of color see the upside of increased tourism and outside money as well.

TM: What drew you to entrepreneurship?

MB: In Detroit where everyone has five side-hustles, I am no different. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and self-directed and self-motivated. As CREATIVE RELATION and my other company, Mona Lisa Development, began to ramp up, I found it difficult to focus on my entrepreneurial work while working full-time for someone else, especially when the leadership or mission did not quite fit with my values. With CREATIVE RELATION we’re continuing to refine our business model but we see ourselves as a social enterprise, so we’re really rooted in providing a good to the emerging creative community, the business community and government. It’s important that our work always contemplates who are we serving and who are the opportunities going to? It’s important to redirect ourselves and make sure that focus is strong. In the end, our goal is to sustain work that brings a real benefit to our community and city.

TM: What is your favorite memory from [Detroit] Startup Weeks past?

MB: I am really looking forward to [attending for the first time], not just as an aspiring entrepreneur…and Olivia Guterson* who is leading Detroit Startup Week is actually in the CREATIVE RELATION cohort.

Monique Becker is Managing Director of CREATIVE RELATION. Monique is an art and design lover and collector that appreciates the union of vintage and contemporary styles. This aesthetic interest carries over into Monique’s passion for connecting people across lines of difference, which is essential for innovation and mutual growth. Monique is co-founder and Partner of Mona Lisa Development, which focuses on adaptive reuse of duplexes in Detroit. More information about CREATIVE RELATION can be found here.

In celebration of Detroit Startup Week, 5 day conference for Detroit’s entrepreneurs, we’re speaking with leading creators and founders in our community. Meet local leaders in person at the conference June 17th-22nd. RSVP here:

Full Disclosure:

* Olivia Guterson is a lead organizer with Detroit Startup Week.

I Left My Heart in Startups with Seun Phillips

Tash Moore: So, tell us about My Big Dream Club. What is your mission?

Seun Phillips: My Big Dream Club started in 2018, I co-founded with my wife Omonye Phillips. The mission [and vision] is to discuss transformative topics with like-minded individuals to motivate, inspire, and to dream BIG. And, what we do is bring a group of people together [to] get excited, sparked up, whether it’s innovation, pursuing something outside of their 9–5, or a passion project. Then creating that support system along with accountability for these dreams to come true and for people to step outside their comfort zone because they see how others in the group are also stretching themselves to new opportunities.

TM: How do we encourage more black children, especially boys, to consider technical roles or roles that historically [BIPOC] were excluded from?

SP: I think what’s important is that we are able to expose these children and the youth at an early age. So, my background is electrical engineering, and I’ve co-founded a STEM organization (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and one of our key things is that we allow our youth to program at an early age: [we] program robots, cars, and launch rockets, [etc.]. All of these are exposing them to the field of technology. And I think for my children and the children that I interact with, it’s all about exposure. The key is that they feel comfortable because not everyone is going to be interested in technology, not everyone wants to pursue engineering. However, give them a choice where they’re able to have the ability to see what engineering is about or science. What a doctor really does. That ability opens their horizon and gives them options on the type of career they want to pursue. Also, science and math and [similar] subjects really help with problem-solving and critical thinking which are generally important in life.

Seun Phillips of My BIG Dream Club

TM: How do you see Detroit’s entrepreneurial scene evolving over the next few years?

SP: So what’s happening in Detroit as many people can see is very exciting — you have accelerators popping up, accelerators like Techstars*. You have different pitch competitions and Detroit is becoming more entrepreneur-friendly which is attracting entrepreneurship in the region and promoting it. And also providing support for it. It’s one thing to say Hey, just be an entrepreneur, but [t]hen you’re able to provide tangible support. [My] full-time job is with PlanetM** and we’ve created the PlanetM Landing Zone to have the ability to get people to innovate and accelerate that innovation. Then we bring together the right players; we make it as easy as possible for a small company…as a startup you’re bootstrapping….I think that’s going to continue to grow and evolve over the next few years.

TM: What drew you to entrepreneurship?

SP: So, I was first drawn to entrepreneurship as a little kid where I had my first CD burner and I had friends who wanted to be artists. They would come to my house with a 4x speed CD burner, which was extremely slow, but through the process you start to understand how business works, and you also have the ability to create things and I get very excited about just creating something from nothing, building it from the bottom up. This is essentially the third business I’ve been able to create. A lot of people will talk about Hey, I want to do this, or this is my passion. When you’re actually able to do that, it’s fulfilling, and to see the impact that you have on other people’s lives and having the ability to bring together partnerships, it’s exciting. There are no excuses as to why things cannot happen when you’re doing something entrepreneurial when you’re the creator or directing how things move. This is your company, this is your business, this is your vision, so that in itself is very exciting.

As you think about the economy, what makes things evolve, which brings more work for people, it’s all about entrepreneurship. That’s why there are so many incentives for businesses, that drives the economy. You want the Googles, the Amazons, the Apples, but all companies must start at the beginning, that’s how you start, and then you work and watch it grow.. That’s what excites me.

TM: What is your favorite memory from [Detroit] Startup Weeks past?

SP: Last year I was on a panel around #mobility and just being able to see the all the people inspiring each other to be entrepreneurs…at times it can be lonely, you’re thinking: Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing something that’s really going to impact? There’s a lot of doubt that can come into one’s mind, but when you surround yourself with other entrepreneurs or supporters it gives you that spark, that excitement…[you see] that other people are going through similar challenges. Other people want to help. Having that is exciting. When I see that with Detroit and Detroit Startup Week and what it’s become, how it continues to grow, you can tell there’s a lot of interest, a lot of excitement, a lot of people that want to participate. The energy is what gets me excited about DSW.

Full Disclosure:

*Techstars is a leading partner of Detroit Startup Week.

**PlanetM is a partner of Detroit Startup Week.

My Dream BIG Club started in January 2018. Husband and wife, Seun and Omonye Phillips, always desired a group in their local area where they could connect with other professionals and discuss transformative topics to better ourselves. They could not find this group and decided to start one. Most importantly they have experienced members of the club getting inspiration from other members to start their own business or to undertake an endeavor they once feared. More info can be found here.

In celebration of Detroit Startup Week, 5 day conference for Detroit’s entrepreneurs, we’re speaking with leading creators and founders in our community. Meet local leaders in person at the conference June 17th-22nd. RSVP here:

Meet Three Local Entrepreneurs Making A Positive Impact In Detroit 

We’re counting down the days… we’re so excited for Detroit Startup Week to kickoff!

Of course, we could not get ready for Detroit Startup Week without meeting some of our local entrepreneurs!

This week, we are highlighting three Millennials who are not only making a significant impact in the city of Detroit but also bringing hope and positivity to others! One is creating benches to support local neighborhoods, another is co-working spaces and event series to help entrepreneurs thrive, and lastly, one is creating a medical device that will communicate with 911 dispatchers during food allergy emergencies.

We applaud them for the tremendous impact that they are generating, making Detroit known across the nation for its entrepreneurial spirit!

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