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Leadership

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Five questions with the leadership team of TechTown Detroit….

 

LesliesFeet

Leslie Lynn Smith, president & CEO

 

 

What brought you to TechTown and what is your favorite part of working here? 

I was born in Detroit; the city is alive with possibility and I want to be a part of bringing it back to glory. The best part of working at TechTown is the people.  Our clients, partners and peers are the most creative, passionate people I’ve ever met and they give me faith that good will prevail in the D.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Detroit? Why?

Le Petit Zinc. French panache meets Detroit grit.

If you could start a business what would it be? 

I will start a business someday.  You can’t be connected to new business starts every day of your life and not feel an urging in your belly to do the same.  The business I start will focus on shifting the American academic foundation, strengths and achievement of excellence back to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), which is critical to our nation’s ability to innovate, compete and thrive in a global economy.

Describe yourself in 10 words or less. 

Woman. Wife. Mother. Friend. Partner. Detroiter. Runner. Alive. Joyful. Grateful.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs? 

Dream it. Believe it.  Build it.  Live it. Then, be willing to change it, adjust it, kill it and start over if that’s what the cards, experts and your discovery suggests. Your first rodeo may not be your best and it certainly will not be your last.

 

 

DarrinsFeet2

Derrin Leppek, managing director, place-based entrepreneurship

 

 

What brought you to TechTown and what is your favorite part of working here? 

I was part of the Big 3 downsizing in 2008. A local VC told me about TechTown, so I did some research and found it to be the perfect place for me to exercise my creative side, which had atrophied after nearly 14 years on the assembly line. I started by volunteering in 2009 then infected the place like a virus.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Detroit? Why?

I can’t answer that. I’ve helped many of the city’s restaurants launch, stabilize or grow, so it would be akin to asking me which of my two children is my favorite. Although, I have developed quite the affinity for soul food…

If you could start a business what would it be? 

My partner and I currently operate an e-commerce website that sells motocross-related parts and accessories. If I had to start a new business, it would be related to coral reef exploration or palm tree farming – only because you can’t do either of those in cold climates.

Describe yourself in 10 words or less. 

Father.  Husband.  Risk taker.  Easy going.  Motocrosser.  World-class napper.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Dream big.  Execute intelligently.  Apply heavy doses of passion and commitment.  Stay up late.  Get up early.  Repeat.

Oh, and understand the workings of the financial engine that powers your business.  From cost of goods sold to net profits – know what’s going on under the hood.  This is by far the biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make and it also is the number one cause of business failure in the U.S.  Nothing will handicap your business faster or more completely.

 

 

CharliesFeet

Michael O’Rourke, managing director, real estate programming & operations

 

 

What brought you to TechTown and what is your favorite part of working here? 

I was referred by a friend who thought it might be a good next step in my career. I like working with all sorts of different people.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Detroit? Why?

Slows BBQ. They have the best brisket outside of Texas.

If you could start a business what would it be? 

A brew pub. I’ve always wanted to be a brewmaster, or at least a taster.

Describe yourself in 10 words or less. 

Down-to-earth. Unfancy.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Starting a business costs money. Make sure you have enough for the first year or two.