There’s been a lot of discussion regarding people moving downtown–whether companies relocating suburban employees into the city’s core or new businesses sprouting up along Woodward Avenue and other major thoroughfares within the Central District.
While it’s outstanding to see an influx of new people and businesses, there have been those whom have been downtown through “thick and thin”. They decided they wanted to be in Detroit to make a difference and flourish while others were skeptical.
For example, Veronica Adams, a successful entrepreneur whose accomplishments include founding and establishing Detroit Land Development & Holding Company (DLDH LLC) and A & H Financial Solutions, has been located downtown for 28 years and has not wavered regarding moving elsewhere. Her commitment stems from her love and belief in the city and now, its future.
Adams has earned the respect of both the small business world and the community at large by successfully expressing her commitment and dedication to the community through her professional accomplishments which spans over a 25-year period.
I recently asked Adams for her thoughts on starting a business in the mid-80’s and her decision to stay in Detroit through the difficult times.
Lee: What motivating factors drove you to become a business owner?
Adams: My first job after college graduation from Alabama State University was in the corporate finance office of a major retailer. This was in Baton Rouge, LA in the early 80’s. Very few women were in management positions at that time. I had a new degree in Business Management and Computer Science that I had worked very hard to attain. After working with this company and giving them many revenue generating ideas with no recognition or additional compensation, I decided to move on. I came to Detroit in the mid-80’s because I had several siblings here. I thought the opportunities in Detroit would be better suited for me to reach my goals. Someone here suggested I get into the Financial Planning arena, so I went through the process and became a Certified Financial Planner. I decided I could better serve my clients by establishing my own tax and financial planning business. My clients were all working-class Detroiters who needed help putting their financial house in order.
Lee: You now manage three businesses. At what point did you decide to diversify and what was the thought process for diversification?
Adams: My first business was the tax and financial planning business, A & H Financial Solutions was established in 1986. Because all of my clients were from the City of Detroit, I found there were some unique opportunities to expand my services to include churches and other non-profit organizations who were serving the community. I established Detroit Land Development & Holding Company, in 1998, to provide those clients with the help they needed with their development projects such as building low-income housing, shelters and supportive services for the needy. In 2012, I decided to try my hand at helping several of my clients who were small business owners with international trade opportunities, so I established Black Star Global Collaborative Corporation. We have a lot going on in my office on any given day, but all of these things go hand in hand.
Lee: What impact has diversification had on your overall portfolio’s profitability?
Adams:The three companies, A&H Financial, Detroit Land Development & Holding and Black Star Global Collaborative Corp. feed each other. As with most companies, we have our “seasons”. Right now, we’re gearing up for tax season. The Spring/Summer are prime-time for development projects. The international trade can be a year-round deal depending on what our customers are asking for. So, I feel it’s key to have more than one thing on the drawing board at all times to keep a consistent cash flow.
Lee: What were challenges did you have to overcome when you first became an entrepreneur and how do the challenges compare today?
Adams: To be frank, being an African-American woman in business 30-years ago was almost a novelty. Some of the “big-guys” in town didn’t take me seriously. I’m sure they thought I would be long gone by now. Things have gotten better for women in business, but there are still those biases hanging in the air.
Lee: You’re located in downtown Detroit. Why did you decide to locate your business there?
Adams: I have always had my office downtown, since 1986 when Trapper’s Alley (in Greektown) was just opening. I was lucky to get into prime locations in Bricktown, on Congress Ave near the old Wayne County Building and now on Fort Street. I never considered moving anywhere else. I live in Detroit, my children went to school in Detroit so why would I want to do business in the suburbs?
Lee: You’re one of the businesses who have seen the ups and downs being downtown. Yet, in its darkest days, you stayed. Why?
Adams: I’m an optimist. Things might have been bad but I never gave up hope that things wouldn’t turn around at some point. I am and always have been a cheerleader for the City.
Lee: And now, Detroit is becoming a haven for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Do you think you will see benefits with the influx of new people working and living downtown?
Adams: The more, the merrier. New people bring new ideas and new energy.
Lee: Because of the rising demand in office space and, in some cases, rent, has this affected your thought process regarding staying downtown?
Adams: We just got a new tenant in my building last week. It’s exciting and the opportunities are wide-open for those with the guts to make things happen. Of course, I’m in it for the long haul.
Lee: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Adams: My advice would be to do your due diligence on whatever it is you’re planning to do. Check out the competition and always be true to yourself. Don’t do something because everybody else is doing it. Be prepared for the naysayers, the things that don’t go as planned and the weeks and months that you may need to go without a salary. But, things will work out if you decide early on that you won’t give up.
Lee: Any regrets?