Mandisa Smith of Detroit Fiber Works is a Detroit native artist whose vision has brought an incredible corps of local artists together under one roof. DFW hosts classes, exhibitions, and events on top of being a working studio and boutique within the University District on Livernois. We chatted with Smith about her involvement with SWOTCity and her inspiration to launch DFW.
- What inspired you to launch your own business?
I was inspired by the Revolve Detroit project, sponsored by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. I always knew that I wanted to own my own business, but the Revolve project was the perfect opportunity. We were able to pop-up on Livernois for three months to test the market, and that experience convinced us that “Now is the time.”
- Given what you know now, how would you change things in the beginning?
Looking back, I wish that we had involved a social media expert from the start. Neither of us is particularly skilled in this area, and it would have helped to have someone on our team to help us market Detroit Fiber Works more effectively and efficiently.
- What has been the most surprising aspect of entrepreneurship?
The most surprising aspect, to me, is that there are so many amazing resources available to us that we didn’t even know existed until after we opened. BUILD, The Michigan Women’s Foundation, Revolve, DEGC, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and of course, TechTown. We have benefited tremendously from all of these organizations.
- Why did you choose the Avenue of Fashion?
We both grew up in this area and experienced The Avenue of Fashion in its heyday, when it was THE place in the city to shop for all things luxury. The Avenue of Fashion title is a bit of a misnomer, because back then it was home not only to couture shops, but also a piano store, a photography studio, a breakfast restaurant, and more. Really, the Avenue of Fashion chose US! It’s hard to imagine doing business anywhere else in the city. We are surrounded by stable neighborhoods, populated by people who appreciate our aesthetic. We think the Avenue of Fashion has nowhere to go but up.
- As part of #SWOTcity University District, what has your experience been as part of the program?
Our experience has been nothing but positive. We were assigned a mentor, Neil Hitz, who pushes and prods us, and really helps us to think strategically. Bonnie Fahoome has been a great asset, and has provided us with much needed accounting and merchandising assistance. We feel truly appreciative of the assistance we’ve received as part of the SWOTcity program.