Jennyfer Crawford: building a community for Detroit’s Entrepreneurs

Mar 18, 2020 | Inspiration, Women's History Month

Jennyfer Crawford will tell you that she is a self-taught entrepreneur who has no formal education or background in marketing. It was through sheer determination that she worked to become a powerful resource for business owners throughout Michigan. Dubbed the ‘Small Business Advocate’, her goal has always been to help others pursue their passion and become their own boss.

growing up

Jennyfer Crawford was not raised to be an entrepreneur. Growing up, she was taught to work hard and pay bills. At the age of 14 she held two summer jobs and had no motivation to pursue college. “My parents worked a 9 to 5 and always trained me to work. There was never any talk of having my own business. In their eyes, all I ever needed was a good job,” said Crawford. “I love my parents because they did the best that they could. In those days, they were raised to have a certain mentality so that’s how they raised us.” 

Jennyfer Crawford smiles for a photo. (Photo: Ask Jennyfer)

Seeking something more, Crawford found the inspiration to change her life by working with different companies. “I met great people at some of the businesses I worked for. I referred to them as angels because my father suffered from drug addiction and these people took me under their wing,” she said. “Some of them owned buildings and ran major projects. It was then I knew that I wanted to have a different life.”

Starting out

Before the days of Eastern Market and thousands of attendees, the first event Crawford hosted was from her one bedroom apartment with 12-14 guests. “My first event was called Pamper, Pick, and Purchase and I sold Pure Romance. I wasn’t very good at it,” she laughed. “At the time I had a friend that made jewelry, another did nails, and one was a caterer that I asked to make food for the party.”

Detroit themed products showcased on a table. (Photo: Ask Jennyfer)

With this being a good way to gather business owners for a mutual cause, Crawford decided to host the event once a month. “In a one bedroom apartment it was a bit of a challenge, but it was ok,” said Crawford. “It wasn’t a business to me at first, it was just a party with girlfriends. I had a full-time job in the construction field and the pamper parties became the highlight of my month. I knew if I sold enough Pure Romance I could pay off my car and get out of debt.” 

Building for Detroit’s Entrepreneurs

Crawford moved her pamper parties to Nikis Pizza in Greektown, where she also worked as a part-time employee. With Detroit on the rise and getting national attention, she got the idea to use the second floor of the venue to host an ‘All Things Detroit’ themed event. “Anybody that has been to Nikis knows it’s a lot of steps to get upstairs. The event didn’t get as much exposure as I would have liked,” she said. Determined to see her vision through, Crawford continued to hold day jobs until she ultimately had enough.

 “I was working in the construction department of a company and it was the most miserable time of my life. All I did was complain to my friends about my job,” she said. “At work I was called a drop of oil in a bucket of water – I did not mix. Not too long after I quit my job with about $1500 in my pocket, and $800 of that was rent money I used as a deposit on Eastern Market to host an event.” 

Eastern Market. (Photo: Ask Jennyfer)

Alone in her apartment, she mulled over how to make All Things Detroit different from any other vendor show. “Once I was done questioning why I quit my job, I decided that in order to make my business different from the rest I had to be about people and genuinely care. There were so many who felt stuck at a day job and were miserable like me. I wanted to be a resource and build a platform for those who wanted to do what they love.” 

Gaining Respect as a Business Owner

With her small business expo now attracting thousands of shoppers per event, Crawford explained the challenges she still faces as a female entrepreneur. “It’s tough trying to get people to listen to you when you are not a person that has all the right connections. I have a community that I have built through All Things Detroit, but when you’re a black woman, or a woman that’s not a size two, those things can play against you. People are always looking for a certain image so it can be hard,” she said.  

Article feature in the Michigan Chronicle. (Photo: Ask Jennyfer)

“I am faced with people not listening to my message, so I’m going to make them listen by showing them what I can do. There are people, including women, who have looked down on me. When my business reaches national notoriety I want to empower other women and not ever make them feel that way.”

Advice for Female Entrepreneurs

For women who want to start their own business but are fearful to leave their stable day jobs, Crawford offered several tips. “Find a supportive circle of women and join it so you can share your dreams with people who encourage you. Do your research, make a plan, and put it in motion. Above it all, stay in prayer because it takes tons of work. You have to put a lot more in than you get out of it, which could take years. But if you have the time and the patience for it, which a lot of us don’t, it can happen.” 

Shoppers flood Eastern Market for All Things Detroit.  (Photo: Ask Jennyfer)

Future Plans

Crawford went on to launch several other tools for small business owners including All Things Ticketing, All Things Marketplace, and a mobile app for All Things Detroit – which she just recently turned into a national day. On May 31, 2020 the first ever National All Things Detroit Day will be at Eastern Market from 11a-4p.

“It takes a lot of tears to get where you want to be,” said Crawford. “One thing I have learned in business is that every day is not a good day. It can chew you up and spit you out in a second. If you’re not mature or strong enough, and don’t have that drive, you’re done.”

Graphic for National All Things Detroit Day. (Photo: Ask Jennyfer)

Screenshot of All Things Detroit mobile app. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

“All Things Detroit operates with no sponsorship and everything comes out of my pocket. The money I make goes right back into the business. Even if this thing falls through I have to remind myself of all I have accomplished and those that shared in it. Chances make champions. I didn’t wait on an opportunity, I created it so I could create opportunities for others.”

What do you love about All Things Detroit? Share with us in the comments!

(Cover photo courtesy of Ask Jennyfer/Jennyfer Crawford)

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