TechTown Detroit President & CEO Ned Staebler sat down with Tommey Walker Jr., creator of Detroit vs. Everybody. This spring 20% of proceeds from their Everybody vs. COVID sales supported TechTown’s emergency and ongoing efforts to help Detroit’s small businesses weather the pandemic.
So, first of all, I’m Ned Staebler. I’m the president CEO of TechTown Detroit. I’m the Vice President for Economic Development at Wayne State. And I have got Tommey Walker Jr. from Detroit vs. Everybody. Want to introduce yourself? Not that you need introduction.
Tommy Walker, creator of the iconic brand Versus Everybody, Detroit vs. Everybody. We launched in 2012. And, you know, nationally, globally recognized and just, you know, every day trying to push it further and further and further, as far as we can and, you know, I’m really, you know, thanks for allowing me to use this platform, you know, to work with you, especially with our latest project, Everybody vs. COVID-19 project, I’m sure we’re going to talk about. But you know, I just want to say, I you know, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for allowing me on your platform.
Absolutely. So you’re an entrepreneur, you know, TechTown, we’re all about entrepreneurs. Detroit is all about entrepreneurs. People always say, oh, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere” I call BS. You know, New York’s easy. If you can make it in Detroit, you can make it anywhere. So you’ve been doing this since 2012. Officially, that’s when you launched but, you know, my guess is it took you a while to get it up and going, how long were you working on it before the launch?
2012 is when we launched Detroit vs. Everybody, before that I had been doing design for maybe 10 to 12 years before. I started around 13, 14. I was doing freelance with Interscope, Def Jam, jobs at like major companies I was at. I was actually at Wayne State University where I opened up a printing company. My partner, who is also my partner right now, Detroit vs Everybody, Shawn Williams and so we already had a foundation set up for Detroit vs. Everybody when I had the lightbulb moment in 2012 off of a trip to California. So after that we came, I came back and I kind of was able to just drop that into our system that we had for all of our other customers and Detroit vs Everybody wound up just blowing up and kind of taking becoming our primary focus to where we stopped printing for outside customers and focused on ourselves.
That’s great though, but it was, you know, overnight success based on eight to 10 years of experience and work and learning. I think people sometimes forget that.
Yeah, like before Detroit vs. Everybody launched. We actually went under. Our company, Saluki Branding, we actually just opened up last year we got our stuff back together but we actually opened up to the public doing printing again, our company actually went under, or just maybe six months before Detroit vs. Everybody, came into my head. So that that’s, you know, it was a ride, you know. And it still is.
That’s, I think that’s great. That’s a entrepreneurial story. We had a wall at Tech down that we, we jokingly called it the failure wall. But it was it was sort of telling that story that everybody talks about the success, but they always forget the journey that usually has a lot of failures in it along the way. The true entrepreneur is willing to, you know, to understand that those failures are part of the process where you learn, and you don’t make those mistakes again the second time around. Well, that’s awesome. So we’re here because you reached out to us very early in the COVID situation, I think it was, you know, March 18, or something when people were still trying to understand what this all meant. It was before the governor had shut everything down. Because TechTown stepped up that weekend like the 15, 16th. You know? What do you call it? St. Patty’s Day weekend, we saw everybody at the bar, and we knew people were going to get shut down. And we said, all of our small businesses in Detroit were about to be in trouble. Because when we shut down, they were going to be out of revenue. And of course, they’re all living sort of hand to mouth. And, you know, more than half the small business in this country have less than two weeks of cash on hand, and you go into black communities, like in Detroit, and that number is 94%. So we started giving out money right away within that first week or two to helping those businesses and you were so generous, he reached out and said, you’re going to promote Everybody vs. COVID, which I think is a great message. And you offered up I think 20% of your proceeds, which I don’t even know if you know this, that ended up being $14,000. Directly to help our Small Business Stabilization Fund. And so we’ve been able to help more than 700 businesses thanks to supportive of people like you. So thank you very much. Tell me about Everybody vs. COVID. I mean, what is what does that mean to you? And why did you come up with that?
So Everybody vs. COVID. So, we also have a subsidiary of Detroit vs. Everybody, which is Everybody vs. Everybody vs. is the platform in which we use to attach the versus the, I’m sorry, to allow people to show their support. Like, it’s one of those things to where you might have the desire to give, you know, but you just don’t know how, and then not only that, you’ll know exactly who you’re giving to, you know, so that might deter some people from giving. So you just want to use our platform to allow others to donate to such a worthy cause and who other than, you know, people that we share the same DNA with. You know, it’s one of those things like we’re all fighting the same fight and this is one that is like was very quick, it came upon us very quick and it was heavy, you know. So it’s like, you know, along with us helping ourselves who we want to help our peers. And that’s why we, you know, felt as if it was the perfect partnership.
Yeah, we really appreciate it and I, you know, when you guys reached out the light bulb went off we were like, this is just the checks all the boxes, you know, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re Detroiter, we’re helping Detroit entrepreneurs. We’re all struggling but, this is something we can come together on: Everybody vs COVID. I feel like that’s a really necessary message. Even today. There’s still people fussing and fighting about, you know, what’s the right thing to be doing? And I hear that it’s a difficult situation because, you know, I’ve heard people say where everybody’s in the same boat. No, we’re all in the same storm, but we all got different boats. You know, some people are in cruise ships and some people are in rubber dinghies, you know? So, I get it, it’s a hard thing, but it is something. We’re all facing the same storm. So, I appreciate that you follow that up with, you weren’t done there, because you know you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a Detroiter, you’re going to do more with a music festival. You partnered with the City of Detroit. Can you tell me about that? I know. My man, Eric Thomas, was a part of that, whom I love. So.
That was that was so large. Um, yeah. So we put it together, bringing the city together. Eric Thomas and we worked with Eric Thomas and the City of Detroit to put it together. It was a very successful event. If you ask me some crazy impressive, crazy numbers into the millions. And you know, I really think that, you know, we, I would like to say, partially, it was one of the most entertaining things that went on during that period of time. You know what I’m saying?
And we needed too! We needed something to look forward to and be entertained.
Yeah, and I was just really grateful that it came from our city, you know. But it was a very cool event. A lot of the people that supported we had a lot of people pop up, a lot of heavy hitters came through with either performances or a PSA, you know, just shouting us out, you know, it was a lot of fun. And this is a moment in time, it’s one of those moments in times.
Alright, I’m gonna ask who’s your favorite performance?
My very performance is Oba, Oba Roland.
Of course, he came out. He wasn’t like he was like this really, you know, majestic performance in front of– he was at Belle Isle, but he was in front of all these trees, you know, and the way that it was edited was really dope. It was really it was like a really a real performance. He put some thought into it.
Awesome. Well you I mean, look, you’re a creative problem solver. It was a perfect it was another perfect fit for you. So all right, but I know you ain’t done what’s next. What’s the next big step?
What’s Next is well, we’re in the process now of opening our stores up. So we’re looking to make a make an announcement. Well, we have a meeting within the next hour. So probably within the next we’re looking for probably Saturday, which is the 15th. So I’m thinking on the 15th were going to begin sales. I’m thinking only just Saturday, only Saturday at the market.
So this, uh, this probably won’t be out until after that. So you want to you want to go back and say, you know, we just announced or you know, something like that.
Tommey Walker 10:38
Yeah, so we just announced that we’re gonna be opening up on Saturdays for the month of August, down in our Eastern Market location. But you know, online is always available, you know, 24/7. We have a couple projects I can’t really discuss that are very exciting. Actually, we were working on them since 2019 COVID actually came in and and still stomped on them, you know, I’m saying like I’m hearing that story so much just how many people had this amazing things plan and this COVID came and said, “nah, not this year”, you know, so, but we but it’s still in the works we still have pushed dates back but you know, we’re not in control of that. So hopefully you’ll be able to put some things, some definite dates down and and get it going but we have a lot a lot in store, not to mention a lot of releases, you know, you know, we have our seasonal and cyclical you can always look for our fall releases as that’s coming up back to school, and then just releases that have meaning to me, you know, but we’re always working like you said, we’re never stopping. So if you want to keep in contact with us out there, just you can follow us at Detroit vs. Everybody LLC on Instagram and mine is @tommeywalker. Tommy with an “E-Y”.
That’s right. Yeah, don’t forget that folks T-O-M-M-E-Y. I like it, I like it. Okay, so, uh, not surprising you got a lot of stuff going on. Because, you know, that’s how you roll. So last lash out what’s your advice to people that are listening? They’re entrepreneurs that are trying to make it if they want to be an iconic Detroit brand like Detroit vs. Everybody
I’ll say just you know, understand that you sign up for a ride. You’re signing up for a ride. When I tell you like it’s like an it’s like a heartbeat. You know, the ups and downs it totally is worth it. And jump in, like I say, always say, you know, just jump in, you can put your foot in or you can just jump have faith jump in and the way will be shown to you as you go. You know, I always like to say, you know, you know, you know you got you got what you know and then you got what you what you know you know and stuff you don’t even know that you know, you know I mean? I mean sorry, stuff you don’t even know that you don’t know. I just to stay a student with at all, you know, just always stay learning and stay positive, you know, and when you’re feeling negative, just know that it’ll pass until your next you’re in the positive again, you know, and, you know, just keep going. That’s all I can say.
So absolutely. All right, well, Tommy Walker, Detroit legend, Detroit icon. We really appreciate you. Thank you for everything you do for Detroit and for Detroit small businesses, and for helping us out at TechTown Detroit. So we really appreciate it, man. Thank you very much. All right.
Yeah. Bye bye.