Yolander Walker talks about starting a business, giving back to community

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Detroit-area has the fourth-most black-owned businesses in the country — following New York, Chicago and Houston, respectively. There are a total of just fewer than 2 million black-owned businesses across the country. This represents a 60 percent increase over the past five years.The three leading sectors are retail, health care and social care. The business segments comprise 27 percent of total revenues among black owned-businesses and employ nearly 1 million people nationally. This equates to more than $137 billion annually.Since Detroit is a leader, I reached out to Ms. Yolander Walker, a registered nurse, who’s been a practicing RN for 29 years and owns and operates a medical and vocational case management firm, for her perspective on starting a business, key challenges and what’s behind her decision to give back to young people.Her Southfield-based firm, founded in 1997, handles situations involving catastrophic auto no fault cases and provides medical care coordination to individuals who have sustained significant injures.
As an entrepreneur, what significant challenges did you encounter?

Marketing was a significant challenge for me. Although a great marketer, with great credentials, I did not receive contracts or accounts that a great deal of my counterparts or colleagues would receive; therefore, I had to be creative in my marketing approach and look for other non-traditional avenues to pursue business.

How did you overcome them?

I overcame the challenges by not giving up and relying on my spirituality to get me through the rough times and meditation. I also was open to taking cases that did not always yield immediate compensation but the person was badly injured and therefore down the road the compensation came as well as other referrals.

For aspiring business owners, what advice would you give for growth and sustainability?Networking is very important and you need to learn the art of it. You also have to network outside of your immediate group and be open minded because you never know who can help you and who that person may know and what resources they have to offer you. You also need to make continuing education a priority and utilize creativity and thinking out of the box to find ways to maintain sustainability. You may also need to diversify and take on projects that might not necessarily be in your realm of expertise to allow yourself to grow and learn new things that you can add to your portfolio and make you more marketable. You also need to build relationships because at the end of the day it is the relationships you have with others there will ultimately sustain you as well as your work ethic and work product and how you appeal to you client’s and customers.

 You operate your business out of a unique, historical location in Southfield. Please tell us about it.
Yes. I love old houses so five years ago I purchased the Historic McDonnell House, which was built in 1850. The home was designated historic after a previous owner, Jean McDonnell who was the first city council woman for the city of Southfield. The home is an old farm house and is representative of Greek Revival architect. Former Mayor Fracassi, city of Southfield has owned the home and I am the first African American to own it. It is a great environment for my administrative office as well as well as a great venue for other activities and services.

You have plans for the Historic McDonnell house. What are they?I have always had plans for the Historic McDonnell House. I have always seen it as some sort of center to share with community and to offer services of some sort to the community. I have in the past and continue to plan to hold and offer special events such as weddings, prom send offs, graduations and a host of other events. The facility is too beautiful and historic not to share it with the community. It is 2,600 square feet and my administrative office only utilizes about a third of the space. It’s too nice and too significant just to sit there and not be enjoyed. I want to hold and offer events that build healthy communities and contribute to the concept of family.

You’re a business owner but yet, your establishing a 501 (c) 3 as well to help young people. Please share what you’re doing.

I am establishing the 501 (c) 3 to help young people because I feel that in the spirit of saving, educating, and helping our youth become exemplary corporate citizens. I would like offer such programs to our youth which teach and build self-esteem, improving their behavior and outlook on life and how to effectively interact with their environment, including those around them and in different settings. I would like to offer educational scholarships and tools to help our youth achieve positive outcomes and be a support and resource center for them. Socialization is very important and charm school and etiquette classes fit very well with the historic theme. As a registered Nurse I also want to offer an array of wellness services to our youth to help them maintain their health because our health is our wealth!