Do you wonder sometimes how out-of-town entrepreneurs view Detroit?
Small Talk recently interviewed Kevin Smith, a Chicago resident and entrepreneur who was in Detroit recently for a weekend event called Another Detroit. A program designed to show entrepreneurs all sides of Detroit — not just the negative.
Smith is the chair for the International Youth Board for Habitat for Humanity and an Executive Board member and owns the Kevin Smith Agency, a nationally recognized insurance agency known for its innovation and social media work. His State Farm agency has produced record numbers and has grown from 0 to over 1,900 clients in less than five years.
He is also the keynote speaker for his “Strategic Mess” events across the country and keynoted some of the largest conferences in the country. Additionally, he was in the Wall Street Journal and has the #1 bestseller and New York Times bestseller “The Orange Revolution” on creating great teams.
ST: How did you get involved with entrepreneurship?
KS: At age 18, I started my first charity and business. I have always been focused on both business and charity so entrepreneurship has always been the only option for me. The freedom that entrepreneurship gives me is one that I wouldn’t exchange for any dollar figure. Entrepreneurship to me is more about the freedom to create than it is about running a business.
ST: You recently visited Detroit as part of Another Detroit. What is it and please share your experiences.
KS: Another Detroit was a life changing experience put together by my good friend Nicole Patrice, a Detroit native. Nicole had the vision along with some other entrepreneurs to introduce the real Detroit to entrepreneurs around the world.
What was most inspiring was the fact that even if the hardest economically hit parts of Detroit you got the sense from the people living there that they not only had passion and faith in creating something better but everyone had a real sense of community.
ST: What were you expecting when you came for the weekend and were your perceptions changed?
KS: When visiting Detroit I was expecting to get the highlight reel of Detroit or see the most economically hurt parts. What I was most blown away by was the passion people shared who lived there. I don’t think there is a city in America with more passion. Passion is the key ingredient to great ideas and innovation so I am excited to see what comes out of Detroit next.
ST: What do you think about Detroit’s future?
KS: Detroit just has to realize what they have. Detroit is filled with some of the most exciting people in the world and has a landscape to create amazing things. Detroit has been through a lot and because of it it’s been exposed, and when I actually went to visit Detroit to see the exposure I was so impressed with what the people of Detroit have at their core.
ST: What about small business development?
KS: I am looking to Detroit to lead the country in innovation. After meeting the people of Detroit I am so excited to combine those people with the experience they have been through, that is going to result in some of the most innovative ideas our country will have seen in a long time.
ST: Detroit is reinventing itself as a technology hub. Thoughts?
KS: Technology is obviously the present and the future. Technology also takes a lot of innovation, creativity and passion to create something different and exciting. I think young people, the arts, music and entrepreneurship are going to take Detroit to the future tech capital of the world.
ST: You mention in a recent blog you would be willing to invest in the city. Why?
KS: I believe in investing in people not products, ideas or cities. Detroit has the people that I would be willin g to invest in. When you have been through what the city of Detroit has and you are filled with the people it is, you have the two most important ingredients to success — you are fighting for something much larger than yourself. I want to be a part of something that helps reshape our country and our world and Detroit is the place to make that happen.
You can reach Mark S. Lee at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Linked In.