A Young Entrepreneur Visits Detroit, Decides to Call It Home

Young people are critical to Detroit’s revitalization.

It’s a known fact this area has suffered from an” out-migration” and “brain drain” of young talent to other cities and regions across the country.

However, that may be changing.

According to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget and for 2010-2012 period, “The number of students from Michigan who attend college elsewhere is larger than the number of students from other states who attend college in Michigan. The state also lost a significant number of young adults over the past decade due to its recessions while it attracted very few young adults from other states. This element of population loss should decrease during the present decade…”

Recently, there was significant coverage of “Detroit Homecoming”–expatriates coming back to the Motor City to discover the good things which are happening and, as a result, have these individuals consider reconnecting with their Detroit roots by investing or relocating back to this area.

While reconnecting with ex-Detroiters is essential, attracting young people to this region is critical for the city’s future.

Zara Northover, 30, is part of the “in-migration” of entrepreneurs who are coming here to make a difference.

Northover, a 2008 Olympian turned entrepreneur, has set her sights on the Motor City with respect to planting her roots and growing her business.

She’s also a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and will be inducted Northeastern University’s Track & Field Hall of Fame, November 14, in Boston, where she holds the shot put record and is the first African American female to make the Olympic team from Northeastern, where she competed for her home country, Jamaica. In 2013, Northover earned a Master’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Sports Management.

Born in Florida, raised briefly in Jamaica before moving to New York, she relocated to Michigan to train for the 2012 Olympics–which she barely missed. This could have been a setback instead, it became an opportunity for her to discover Detroit and its potential.

In fact, after missing out on making the 2012 Olympic team, Northover decided to stay and move into Detroit. She says she’s “finding her niche in Detroit”. She continues, “Broken pieces always become masterpieces. However, I see what it was and what it’s going to be”.

And that’s how she views Detroit–a place where she can help make a difference, create a masterpiece and be a part of Detroit’s blossming revitalization.

Regarding Detroit’s spirit, Northover is inspired by the people’s grit and determination and believes it’s the driving force for her to come in and make a difference. In other words, she’s thriving off the will of the people and the city itself to work hard, grow, learn and inspire others.

While at a recent M1 rail event, she encountered Dan Gilbert who encouraged her to focus on providing energy focused on change. She says, “He’s looking for energy” and advised her to use it as she’s finding her place in revitalizing Detroit.

And as an entrepreneur, Northover launched the “Moving in Faith” clothing line which already has international breadth and appeal because many Olympians were wearing her apparel during the 2012 Olympics.

Northover’s now running her business in Detroit. Why? Because see its future as a small business center and believe in the city’s potential based on small business development and entrepreneurship.

While she’s uncertain about training for the 2014 Olympics, it’s clear she’s continuing the transition to focus on entrepreneurship. She has ambitious plans of moving her clothing line forward. In fact, she’s focused on inspiring youth and expanding her clothing line’s brand globally.

Simply stated, her business goal is to sponsor Olympians, artists and others because they have faith in their dream and her strategy is collaborate with different companies in developing and expanding her clothing line globally– from Detroit.

The key learning she uses from her Olympic experience as she focuses on business is this, “It starts with hard work and determination,” Northover says, “It’s a hustle (because) you have to be willing to go hard every day–whether you want to or not…”

Great advice for all of us as a city and region from a talented individual whose decided to make Detroit her home.