With its burgeoning entrepreneurial scene, Detroit continues to attract entrepreneurs from across various corporate entities and past experiences.
To wit, Kam Carman was a popular, long-time television reporter and news anchor in Detroit. After a twenty-three year career in the news business in the Motor City, Carman decided it was time for a change and chose to follow her passion by telling Detroit’s revitalization story through its growing food scene.
To this end, she started Kam Carman, Inc. and one of the products is designed to feature the city’s restaurants.
As she says, “I have always been a “foodie”…even before foodies were given a name!”
And by coming from a family where her mother was a great cook, going out for dinner at a great restaurant was truly a special occasion.
So she wanted to create a concept where consumers can not only just “read” restaurant reviews, but can actually “see” the food and service while experiencing the ambience through the eye of the camera.
As a result, she is launching Dine & Dish Nation which starts locally on September 10th, on PBS.
I recently talked to Carmen about her Detroit journalism career and her decision to pursue entrepreneurship.
Lee: You spent several years as a journalist and newscaster in Detroit. What drove your decision to start your own business?
Carman: News is a very tough business. I found that after two decades of reporting on what was ‘wrong’ in the world, I wanted to do something ‘right’. I wanted to take my love of storytelling and ‘flip the script’-by creating a program that not only gets the word out about the revitalization of Detroit, but to provide the inside scoop to anyone searching for their next favorite restaurant. There is no other TV show like Dine & Dish Nation in the Detroit market, so I made the decision to start my own business, and blaze the trail!
Lee: Why not stay in journalism?
Carman: Working for a corporation has its advantages. It’s very structured, and in many ways, secure. But I found that structure to be a bit stifling, in ways that set limits on my imagination. While striking out on my own has been a little scary, I have found that working for myself puts me in a far better place to achieve success.
With my new show, I’m finding the best of both worlds…I’m able to express myself with journalistic integrity, while showing a softer side that’s way more easy-going and fun.
Lee: Regarding starting a business, how has the transition been?
Carman: Not having a boss has been an absolute eye-opening experience. It’s like suddenly going from riding a bicycle, to riding a Harley. Completely different animals, with more responsibility and accountability, but the freedom to choose where you go.
It’s definitely been a learning curve, with a few potholes along the way. But, since I made the decision to become an entrepreneur, I’ve never looked back.
Lee: What process did you follow to determine your next opportunity?
Carman: Many people have asked me if I would ever do news again. It really would have been a safe decision, but I weighed the pros and cons of that daily grind, and it just wasn’t what I envisioned for the rest of my career.
I knew I had a great concept with this new show, and I knew if I wanted it done my way, I’d have to venture out on my own. Quite frankly, the serious role of a newscaster was taking its toll. The early hours were catching up to me, and I figured if I explored other opportunities where I could have creative control–and NOT have to get up at 3:00am– it would be an obvious choice.
Lee: What’s been the biggest “Aha” moment(s) for you?
Carman: I’ve formed a team of amazing people who are working with me in making this show a success. By all means, it’s a collaborative effort…but, having someone call me “Boss” for the first time was life changing!
Lee: What have been the most challenging aspects?
Carman: 99.9% of people I’ve talked to about this show have said–”What a great idea”!
However, because it is a groundbreaking concept in Detroit, and it’s not something that’s familiar, or that’s been done a hundred times before, I’ve had a few skeptics.
Some have asked “How can you set a new precedent on an idea that isn’t the norm?”
Lee: And conversely, the most rewarding aspects of becoming an entrepreneur?
Carman: I never would have been able to bring this idea to fruition had I stayed in the corporate world. My vision would have likely become someone else’s interpretation of ‘Good TV’.
This way, I reap the benefits of bringing my own thoughts “to the table”…so to speak.
Lee: You’re focusing on highlighting Metro Detroit restaurants. Why?
Carman: Beyond question, Detroit has been defined as “America’s Comeback City”.
It’s not just a few random, outside observations that we have “cleaned up our act” that have made us what we are today. The renaissance is real.
The city has gone from “gritty, cold, and crime-ridden” to a destination for culture and rebirth, and there are hundreds of new restaurants and “hot spots” across the entire Metro area that need to be recognized for their part in this rejuvenation. I so want to help the city continue to grow and be known as the “Best in the Midwest”.
It’s no secret restaurants come and go. That’s the case anywhere–whether it’s an established staple, or a brand new taco truck on the corner. I want to highlight the great places to eat in the city, and tell their back stories.
Lee: What advice would you give to someone considering starting a business after many years in a chosen field?
Carman: I took a huge leap of faith by ‘bucking the system’ and pursuing my passion.
If there’s a shred of hope that you can make it on your own, go with your gut. I’ve finally found my niche. I was afraid to ask for help, but I was surprised at how many people believe in me, and my ideas.
I’ll be honest–I’ve failed at many attempts to reestablish myself in my career. Failure is inevitable for everyone in one form or another, and nothing has been more difficult than picking up the pieces and starting over.
But just like the city of Detroit, I’m dusting myself off, and going in for another round.
Lee: Closing thoughts?
Carman: The journey of becoming an entrepreneur has been frightening, yet liberating.
Now I say to myself daily in the mirror is: ”Imagination is more important than knowledge.”-Albert Einstein.
We need to keep imagining.