Art in Motion is a ceramic studio and gallery located on Detroit’s famous Avenue of Fashion. After participating in Detroit Economic Growth Corporation’s REVOLVE Detroit program, which matched businesses with empty storefronts, owner Marlynne Kay Willingham became one of TechTown’s first SWOT City clients, where she gained the resources needed to further grow and sustain her business.…
Why did you choose popcorn?
I was looking to open a soul food restaurant, and as I was prepping to do that, I went to Chicago for another business, and that’s when I came across Garrett’s Popcorn. So I look at the line for Garrett’s, and it’s wrapped around the building. My friend and I jumped in line to get some, and it took us half an hour to get inside. And while my friend was excited about Garrett’s Popcorn, I was counting the amount of people and did the math for the cost of each bag.
How did TechTown help you?
I’d already been in business for several years by the time I came to TechTown. I had a retail location inside Cobo Center, so I was already in business. But Retail Boot Camp strengthened my skills and showed me what I can touch up on and improve that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It allowed for relationships and networking that I didn’t have before. I became a winner of two grant programs, Motor City Match and the NEIdeas Challenge, and it also pushed me to apply for Hatch Detroit, which awards $50K for brick and mortar entrepreneurs. I think my affiliation with TechTown helped me with these programs, and it really proved that I was involved. It gave me a stamp of approval that I was really about my business.
How do you deal with failure?
I became stressed when business got to the point where I felt it wasn’t going anywhere. So I had a conversation with Sarah Donnelly and Amy Draybuck from TechTown and they gave me a whole list of things to try out. Notably was developing my Detroit flavor blends, 8 Mile Mix and Belle Isle Blend. So Sarah introduced me to the 8 Mile Boulevard Association and the Belle Isle Conservancy, two organizations who were able to recommend the best flavor options related to Detroit. Sarah and Amy also guided me to gain wholesale accounts, pursue pop-up opportunities and even update my branding with social marketing. It calmed me down when they helped me, and it showed me that there’s always a way to move forward.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Either rich or in the crazy house [laughs]. But honestly, distribution is the focus now. Once we get a distributor then I can take that pressure off my back. From there I can expand in other areas where I can work on making my business successful.