For my 300-hour experience, I spent the summer on DukeEngage Detroit, practicing social innovation and entrepreneurship. I interned at ProsperUS, a micro-lending company for underserved, minority, and immigrant/refugee entrepreneurs. For two months this past summer, my partner and I would bike 30 minutes each day from Midtown Detroit to Mexicantown to our office at Southwest Solutions, the umbrella that houses ProsperUS.

We worked on a variety of projects during our time at ProsperUS. One project was a data input project into a GoogleMyMap of Lender Data, for internal use, and another was a research project to find resources for potential entrepreneurs to connect with for support in their business. However, our main project was a storytelling project where we interviewed and photographed graduates of ProsperUS’s entrepreneur training program who have received lending and technical assistance. We then crafted a story of quotes focused on four main areas: their business, starting a business, ProsperUS, and advice for entrepreneurs, attached a photo, and posted the compilation of the two on the ProsperUS Facebook page and website.

Here is an example of a post:

“This is the sixth post in “People of ProsperUS,” showcasing the incredible stories of entrepreneurs connected to ProsperUS.

This post features Jennifer Lyle, the owner of Lush Yummies Pie Company.

“[My business is] Lush Yummies Pie Co. I sell pie; my signature pie is my Lemon “Butta” pie.”

On Starting a Small Business:
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, I think. My grandmother started the first minority-owned business school in Detroit in 1973; it still stands today. She was the first female president of Booker T. Washington. She groomed me to do everything for myself. She always taught me about not taking handouts [and] pulling yourself up from your boot straps. I always knew I wanted to have my own business since I was a little girl. [Having a small business] means a lot to me. It means freedom; it means you get to do what you want. It means that your business is as big as you make it. You could be a small or a big business. I’m small now because I haven’t grown to where I know I can grow to, but I’m not going to be a small business forever.”

On ProsperUS:
“ProsperUS has helped me in a lot of different ways: from business training to helping me with financial advising. They helped me get a business coach; he’s been very instrumental in a lot of things I’ve done.The most helpful [resource] has been the business coach because I feel like he is the fountain of knowledge. I go to him for any questions I have. In business, a lot of times you will have questions you don’t know the answer to, but the coach does have the answer. Providing access to that person is a great help for me. ProsperUS has helped me by also giving me access to business services that they offer; I think that’s really important to take advantage of. [In] programs like ProsperUS, you qualify for business services [like] getting an attorney, branding, and social media help. I’ve used most of these.”

On Advice for Entrepreneurs:
“Try to find as many resources as possible– programs like ProsperUS, so that you don’t have to make as many mistakes. In business, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes that you can’t avoid, but to not have to experience as many of those mistakes will be a great help. Try to get help, talk to people, and use resources so that you don’t fall into those same pitfalls.”

You can visit the Lush Yummies Pie Co. Website athttps://www.lushyummiespie.co/”

I decided to participate in this program because I have always had a passion for non-profit, community service work, and loved entrepreneurship and innovation. I wanted to see the overlap between these two industries and experience a combination of two of my passions. I gained interview skills, research skills, and writing skills, among others. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, as it opened my eyes to an entirely new world of a need-based way to innovate and become an entrepreneur.