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Interviews with entrepreneurs: Where serendipity meets business

Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

We are excited to celebrate local entrepreneurs as they share their stories and ongoing journeys. Listen to the EC team interview inspired and inspiring entrepreneurs as they share how serendipity played a part in their business success, and impart lessons learned along the way.

Celeste Green

Celeste Green - Spanish For Kids

“I feel like my voice was amplified through the whole Pitch competition and the Entrepreneurship Center, [and] it let me see that I could also amplify the voices of those who I'm teaching.”

Celeste Green is the founder of Spanish for Kids. Celeste has been teaching Spanish to young children for over 20 years. She began her career teaching kindergarten in a Spanish immersion school in southwest Detroit. She marveled at the ability of children to acquire a second language at a young age. She saw the spark in children’s eyes as they experimented with a new language and experienced different cultures. Celeste realized within her first year of teaching that this was her passion. She is also the winner of the 2021 Pitch @ WCC in the Grow category, andConcentrate featured her Ypsilanti billboard project in an article here!

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Brynn Cooksey

Brynn Cooksey - Air Doctors Heating and Cooling, LLC 

“Some of the benefits [of being an entrepreneur] is you get to directly impact your local community.”

Brynn Cooksey has been in the HVACR industry for more than 20 years. A true product of his environment, he started his career as an employee of his family’s heating, cooling, and refrigeration business. He is currently the Owner and General Manager of Air Doctors Heating and Cooling. Brynn specializes in industrial HVAC/R maintenance, service, equipment performance testing, and building science. Listen to Brynn as he shares his wisdom for entrepreneurs in all industries.

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Leslie Neal

Leslie Neal - True 2 You, LLC

“Start, even if its small, and grow it from there.”

Leslie Neal is an owner of True 2 You, LLC, and candle-making studio, and believes that you can have it all. Leslie took a leap of faith many times, and turned her love for art into a business. She encourages other entrepreneurs to take their first step, even if it means starting small. Hear her speak on past experiences, and how planning ahead helped her succeed.

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Giuseppe Del Giudice

Giuseppe Del Giudice - B-Posi+ive & Wheel Potential

“You have a vision, a mission, and then you can define that into a purpose.”

Giuseppe Del Giudice is the founder of Wheel Potential and B-Posi+ive. Listen to Giuseppe speak about his holistic approach to shifting mindsets and helping others heal from the inside out in order to reach their full potential.

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Leysi Palacio Mora

Elizabeth Levy - Essay Help for Colleges

“When you have a passion for something you believe in, it will take off.”
Elizabeth Levy has a passion for bridging the gap between high school and college for students. Hear about how her experience as a counselor inspired her to take her love for helping students to the next level.

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Leysi Palacio Mora

Leysi Palacio de Mora - Eden Bilingual Childcare

“Have patience.”

Listen to Leysi Palacio de Mora, owner of Eden Bilingual Childcare and WCC graduate, and her Assistant Director, Leah Duperon, talk about their experiences and lessons learned through the start, build, and growth stages of Leysi’s bilingual childcare center in Ypsilanti.

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Brassi co-founders

Jacqueline Sun - Brassi

“Don’t be afraid to take that initial first step forward.”

Business partners Jacqueline Sun and Taylor Hurley are recent University of Michigan graduates, bloggers, and co-founders of Brassi. Listen to Jacqueline share how two young college graduates used their healthy eating habits, local and college resources, and latest trends to help change the world one piece of cauliflower at a time.

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Rita Shelley

Rita Shelley - Cheeky Spices

“If you're going to invest in anything, invest in how your product reflects your soul.”

Rita Shelley strives to help bridge the gap between healthy eating and tasty food. Listen to her speak about how her background in consumer packaged goods helped her get her product on store shelves. 

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Bill Holmberg

Bill Holmberg - JGL Brands

“Don't be afraid of your dreams, explore it. It can morph into something that's really wonderful.”

Bill Holmberg is the owner of JGL Brands. His love of agriculture and his chicken farm led the way to egg-shaped soaps, puns, and personalized packaging. Listen to him share his story on how community support has kept him inspired. 

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Kristin Gapske

Kristin Gapske - Entrepreneurship Center/ International Imports

"You should absolutely have an exit strategy. Even if you're a solopreneur."

Kristin Gapske is the dynamic director of the Entrepreneurship Center at WCC, whose passion for helping shows in her work, and the work of the EC. Listen to how it all began as Kristin speaks about her own personal journey as an entrepreneur. 

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Anthony Terry

Anthony Terry - WCC Faculty and Ella Mae’s Place

“Everybody can give you some type of input and you have to be humble enough to take that information, utilize it for your good or to help you grow or expand.”

Anthony Terry shares the knowledge he was given by supporting the community as a youth mentor, instructor, and business owner. Listen to Anthony talk about running a restaurant, how one person made an impact early in his career, and how his mentorship has come full circle.

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Al Newman

Al Newman - Entrepreneur

"Think Big, Start Small, and Learn Fast."

Al is a seasoned business entrepreneur that has a passion for giving back. Listen to Al talk about his many ventures, failing forward and how mistakes can be the best teacher.

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Daisha - Trinkets and Such

Daisha McKenzie - Trinkets and Such and BPD Collective

"Just have confidence in what it is you're bringing to the table — how somebody else can believe in it? You never know that in the support that comes from being able to talk about yourself passionately, I feel like you'll be able to attract supporters that are outside of your normal core."

Daisha McKenzie is a dynamic entrepreneur that runs multiple businesses. Listen to her speak about how she applies her educational and sales experience to the needs and wants of the consumer, and how it further led her to helping other Entrepreneurs with their goals.

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Danielle Milner

Danielle Milner - DO:BETTER

"It's so important to identify who your target audience is and if you can be successful serving them, meaning; Can you charge enough to make a living from this group of individuals in order to run a successful business?"

Danielle is a business owner that cares about and supports her community in various and creative ways. Hear about how her business has evolved, and the serendipitous encounters that led her to where she is today!

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Sandra Xenakis

Sandra Xenakis – Art Meets Business

"The biggest one for my clients is focus — that's my big challenge is to harness that, that energy and get them to focus on just a few things at a time..."

Sandra Xenakis is an artist, entrepreneur, and business coach. Listen to Sandra talk about being an entrepreneur from a very young age. Hear her talk about lessons learned while running a PR Agency, and how serendipity led her to become a successful business coach for artists today.

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Cheranissa Roach

Cheranissa Roach – My Coach Char

"Don't make the work harder, don't reinvent the wheel, just push it — go to the places that already have the people in place that are willing and ready to help you and glean from them..."

Cheranissa Roach does great work in the community and wears many hats. Listen to her speak about her journey as an entrepreneur, about the people who have had a positive impact on her life, and how she shaped her business in order to help others succeed in theirs.

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Entrepreneur Spotlight

See below for profiles on a few of our “spotlight” EC Entrepreneurs!

“I believe the journey of an entrepreneur is an original and unexpected path, sometimes not the straightest, direct line, but the idea is to learn along the path, empower others, and always enjoy the journey.”

Read more about Oana

 "Stay positive and network with as many people as you possibly can. As entrepreneurs, we will have nine failures for every one success. Getting it wrong is part of getting it right. The really great entrepreneurs write off their mistakes as experience, and cultivate a constant need to learn."

Read more about Jeff

 “You can’t have everything right away, you have to grow with your business, it is a very organic relationship. Make big goals, create projects and make small steps that move you forward.  You have to start somewhere and each day is an opportunity. Today is an opportunity!”

Read more about Rebecca

“Believe in yourself and what you are doing. If you don’t, no one else will. Investors and customers have to believe in you before they will work with you. Also, don’t give up. If you are doing the right things, for the right reasons, it will happen!”

Read more about Pete

“When you put your time and dedication into your business, thinking of even doing a small change is not something you may want to do or embrace because you feel so connected to what you are building as an entrepreneur. However, business is all about change and evolving – look at change as a positive thing and you will be amazed at how things can grow for you and your business!”

Read more about Shanell

“Talk to people about your idea! Don’t be afraid to tell people what it is you are planning to do. Seek people out who can give feedback on the idea followed by the design of a new product.”

Read more about Janet

“I love brainstorming new ideas, meeting people, and proving that successful entrepreneurship is possible regardless of age.”

Read more about Zach

“I love the fact that I can create and shape an environment designed to make me most productive … I’m happier and believe I am making a bigger impact to society by creating solutions that did not previously exist.”

Read more about Jason

“Consistency is key! Every day strive to be better, be a sponge within your industry and the biggest piece of advice I could give would be to never be afraid to take a risk, that’s why we are entrepreneurs, we are willing to take risks when others are more hesitant.”

Read more about Aaron

“Starting a business is just one long learning process. I had a mantra I said to myself when we were starting out: ‘Leap and the net will appear.’ I knew I just had to take the risk and now it’s paying off!”

Read more about Kristin

“Light Orange Bean is a food blog that I post recipes I developed along with eye-catching food photography I captured. My audiences are from every part of the world and they are lovers of healthy recipes (especially gluten-free and vegan). Besides running the food blog, I’m also a photographer providing photography services to local businesses, especially restaurants.”

Read more about Haiying

“The opportunity to support a healthy lifestyle for busy people (motivates me to be a business owner). I appreciate the income stream and the ability to be part of the community with this service.”

Read more about Karen

“I’m driven to be a business owner because I fervently believe in the positive power of business. I see a lot of negative stigma surrounding capitalism and big business– especially in my generation– and it’s warranted. I started Liv Buttons as a social enterprise; I wanted to use it as an example of how to break norms and conduct business differently.”

Read more about Liv

“Until people know your product or service exists and has value for them, there may be little or no demand. Be ready to put yourself out there in front of people!”

Read more about Betty

“Stepping into entrepreneurship has been a tremendous growth experience: I’m a better human being because of it and I’m looking forward to the life long journey this path is taking me on.”

Read more about George

“It’s great to have a passion you want to share, but businesses are 80-90% all the ‘other stuff’ and only 10-20% the fun stuff…Be aware of that and make sure you are willing to do all the hard work that gets your passion in the hands of those that will appreciate it.”

Read more about Kate and Jennifer

“Creativity is not only a great way to spend our time, it’s also a fantastic way to keep minds active and elastic.”

Read more about Mary Lou

“Don’t ever settle. It is possible to create a career and business that fulfills all of your goals, be they professional, artistic, economic or community impact related.”

Read more about Nathan

“Your character will develop right along with your business. You will start to learn new fascinating things about yourself as you dedicate your time to your dreams.”

Read more about Red

“When you have a business, the most important thing is filling a need that you’re passionate about. Because passion drives determination and having determination to do something right will lead you towards success.”

Read more about Alicia

“What drives me to become a business owner is the ability it gives me to serve my local community.”

Read more about Vardan

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