In 2012, when Jennyfer Crawford hosted her very first small-business showcase called All Things Detroit, it was held in a one-bedroom apartment and it highlighted a lone startup that belonged to a friend of hers. The Motor City’s entrepreneurial resurgence was still in the early stages five years ago, but since then, her event has taken off.
Today, All Things Detroit, held three times per year at Eastern Market, spotlights roughly 250 different small businesses and food trucks, some even coming from outside the city, and draws up to 12,000 attendees each time. The events have been such a success that Crawford is planning to hold an Ann Arbor version for the first time at Briarwood Mall next month.
She created All Things Detroit after her realizing her job as a construction manager left her unfulfilled.
“I decided I wasn’t really happy and wanted a change, so I stepped out on faith with $1,500,” she recalls. “You have to learn to manage your fear, so I kept pushing forward, and that hard work and consistency have paid off.”
Crawford’s passion is working with small businesses to help them grow—she also runs a marketing and branding firm called Ask Jennyfer—and she’s hoping to replicate her local success at the national level with this week’s launch of All Things Marketplace, which aims to give small businesses that may not have much of an online presence a digital home where they can create profiles, sell their wares, and engage with customers.
A lot of the All Things Detroit attendees would e-mail her to find out how to reach the businesses at the events, she says, so she eventually developed a mobile app. That worked well for ventures with websites, but not for those that didn’t. That’s when Crawford hit on the idea of creating the All Things Marketplace.
“It essentially brings the event online, giving entrepreneurs a place to sell and highlight the people behind the business,” she says.
Because the site is still technically in beta, she says there is currently no fee for small businesses to set up their stores in the marketplace, but that will soon change. However, Crawford says she wants to keep the price low enough to be attractive to mom-and-pop operations, and she plans to charge a flat monthly fee as opposed to taking a percentage of sales.
“We want to make sure it’ll be worth it to them,” she adds.
So far, Crawford has bootstrapped her efforts, but she expects she’ll need to look for an outside investor to grow All Things Marketplace to the degree she envisions.
“I put all of what I make into this,” she says. “There’s always room to grow, and there are a lot more opportunities for small businesses now.”
There are a few upcoming opportunities to celebrate the launch of All Things Marketplace in Detroit: On Saturday, at a pop-up at Mama Coo’s; and at a new event called Night Market at Beacon Park on July 22. The next All Things Detroit event at Eastern Market will be held on Nov. 5.
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