Six years ago Jennyfer Crawford set out to build a community of entrepreneurs and makers. From her one-bedroom apartment the self-taught entrepreneur began hosting tiny events for friends with small businesses. In 2012, Crawford founded the Detroit-based firm, Ask Jennyfer, which helps promote and brand Michigan-based retailers.
“I wanted to contribute to the growth and all of the great things that are happening in the city of Detroit,” she said. Within months she started hosting events at larger and larger venues. With just $1,500 in the bank she quit her job and said, “If I want something to happen for me, I have to create my own opportunities.”
Today, more than 250 businesses come together for her local event, All Things Detroit, which draws more than 12,000 shoppers to Eastern Market three times a year.
“I really love the community of the event. It’s all about building relationships with customers during that time,” said Crawford, a 2016 recipient of Crain’s Detroit Business’ 40 Under 40 honor.
And, it’s an opportunity for customers to “support people and feed families” by shopping local, she said.
Crawford works with vendors that craft a variety of products available for purchase from greeting cards to gourmet food to specialty artwork to knitted goods to upcycled home decor. Creating a platform for these businesses to network and showcase their products and services is a part of her vision.
“My mission in life is to promote other people’s talent. That’s what I want to do,” said Crawford. “My focus is on the actual people behind the businesses and hearing their stories.” Some of those stories, she said, are fun and exciting while others are deep and have become inspirational narratives of achievement from humble beginnings or even adversity.
For Amy and Brad Coffee, it’s all about giving new life to items with a refurbished twist.
“We use our imagination to come up with unique items which we repurpose for modern day living,” said Amy Coffee, creator and co-owner of Coffee Upcycle. The couple has been in business for a year and a half. They reached out to Crawford at Ask Jennyfer to get there name out there and expand their reach to help with selling their rustic industrial furniture, lighting, and home decor. Coffee Upcycle specializes in one-of-a-kind handmade recycled coffee bags and purses made from repurposed materials with various fabric interiors.
Coffee said the response to their military line of handbags at the Nov. 4 All Things Detroit show was “staggering.”
“We offer custom orders using the customers own military items such as duffel bags and fatigues. We also offer personalized custom bags,” she said. “A customer at a recent show requested a black bag with a Hello Kitty guitar strap that we are making specifically for her. This allows the consumer to be creative and we can continue to make one-of-a-kind bags that are as unique as the person wearing it.”
Crawford said the key to any brand is yourself. “The way they make it and advertise it will be different than anyone else.”
Embracing difference is important to Crawford, an LGBTQ ally, a woman and a minority business owner.
“In order for you to grow, you have to be diverse. You can’t just be geared towards one type of person. I want this to be open to everyone,” she said, adding that vendors come from all over the state of Michigan and as far away as Windsor, Ontario to participate. “This is very important to me. It wouldn’t be All Things Detroit or have grown the way it has if it wasn’t diverse.”After six years and many events, Crawford has expanded, creating an online community – All Things Marketplace – where shoppers can buy local all year around.
“It is so important for people to shop small local business because it boosts the community and supports the hard working people in your area,” said Nina DiMambro, creator and owner of Twistful Thinking. “People like myself and many other small business owners work every day to bring our dreams into reality. When you purchase from one of us it gives us so much fulfillment not to mention puts food on our tables, pays our bills, and supports our families.”
DiMambro started making jewelry a little over three years ago, but it wasn’t until recently she started selling her creations at the All Things Detroit event and online. For budget-friendly gifts ideas this year, DiMambro offers simply chic boho accessories like gemstone bracelets, crystal stud earrings, and necklaces featuring all types of crystals and stones. She also has affordable crystals and other metaphysical items like sage available for purchase. She said, “If you’re looking for some unique and special handcrafted jewelry for you or your loved one, I’m your girl.”
When asked what she enjoys about being apart of the All Things Detroit event, DiMambro said, “I truly enjoy being a part of something good in the Detroit community. It has been a great event for me to meet new customers and for my return customers to catch up with me again. A lot of people now know me as the crystal girl at All Things Detroit and that just makes me the happiest. I also love being part of such a well-run and well-publicized event. Jennyfer really puts a ton of effort into this event that is so great for the community. And to be a part of something that is bringing people together and boosting the local artist community is so special.”
Visit iloveallthingsdetroit.com or download the All Things Detroit mobile app – available at the Apple Store and on Google Play – to learn more about all vendors participating in All Things Detroit. Log onto the All Things Marketplace, at allthingsmarketplace.com, to connect with an online community of small business owners and shop locally-made wares.