Business is booming in Detroit, and Dr. Nicole Farmer is the quarterback for minority entrepreneurs. Crime, corruption, bankruptcy, a failing school system and gentrification are many of the topics that keep Detroit front and center in the news. Although the city has had more than its fair share of bad news, there is a quiet storm of entrepreneurship brewing behind the scenes. Small businesses are growing exponentially, and Farmer is ensuring that minorities are financially in the game.
LifeLine, a partner with Detroit Micro-Loan Collaborative, is responsible for assisting loan applicants with the preparation of business plans and vetting their business before submitting loan applications. The collaborative oversees funds of more than 11 million dollars designated specifically for minority-owned businesses. In the year 2015 alone, LifeLine helped 25 entrepreneurs receive over $1.1 million in funding.
Rolling out got the chance to sit down with Dr. Nicole to talk about her success and her million-dollar vision, her humble beginnings, and overcoming obstacles as an entrepreneur.
How did you start LifeLine Business Consulting Services?
I was a teenage mom, with a baby by the age of 14 while a ward of the state. I gave birth while in a group home. I lived impoverished but I had a plan. I became the first African American owner of a Tuffy Auto Center in the United States, and after accomplishing such a great feat, I knew I had a responsibility to help other aspiring/budding entrepreneurs. The name LifeLine was contrived because every day as an entrepreneur I felt like I was having a heart attack and I felt like I needed resuscitation. I knew others felt the same way.
Tell us about the services LifeLine offers.
LifeLine serves as a conduit for entrepreneurs to assist primarily with business plan preparation and connecting with funding resources. We offer a 15-week course that covers the dynamics of entrepreneurship, one-on-one consultations, workshops, business plan preparation, financial projections, resource referrals, and networking events.
How did you overcome the obstacles of becoming a business owner?
You never overcome obstacles of being a business owner, you just learn to adjust accordingly. Being a business owner means you are the problem solver and there is always a problem, varying in different magnitudes. At the end of the day, being a business owner, one has to realize the stress associated with being an entrepreneur and find ways to deal with it. Too many people believe that once they have the funding or finally get their doors open it will be smooth sailing, when in essence that is the beginning to a journey of trials and hopefully triumphs.
Who or what has influenced you to help other entrepreneurs?
My own journey has been significantly instrumental in my desire to help other entrepreneurs. There are some great businesses drowning in the sea of life, so busy dealing with the issues they face they don’t have the courage or belief that they can own their own business and be successful at it.
What are some of the common traits you see in students/clients that you personally relate to?
The struggle. Most entrepreneurs start off struggling — not just financially — but struggling for real knowledge and information that will help them succeed. Entrepreneurship is a scary thing; you have everything to lose if it doesn’t work and that is a scary position to be in. However, even with the risks associated with entrepreneurship, true entrepreneurs will stay the course.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I think people would be surprised where I started. I have a story to tell that causes me to cry whenever I think about it. I was living an impoverished life as a teenage mom, battling homelessness and hunger, but my hunger for my success outweighed my circumstances.
Describe your creative process in your business. My creative process is being able to listen to business ideas and fine-tune them to help clients launch sustainable businesses.
Describe your collaborations and the importance of collaboration.
My collaborations are of the utmost importance. As a partner with the Detroit Microloan Collaborative, I have the ability to match my clients with the resources to fund their business when they are ready. I collaborate with a plethora of organizations that enhance my ability to provide exceptional service to my clients.