Tell us about one of your favorite neighborhoods in Detroit and what makes it unique?

Easily, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Detroit is Palmer Woods. Long before I knew anything of the affluent suburbs within 30 minutes of the city, my mom labeled Palmer Woods as a standard for high society. When I was young, all I knew is that the houses were really big, very beautiful, and owned by people who looked like me. I credit the area with my love of tudors, large green lots, and looming trees.

This is one of the few pictures that I have of my parents. My father passed when I was really young, so being able to see how happy my mom was with him is pretty rare and really valued for me. It’s my favorite picture of my mom because she looks so happy. I’ve never seen her have that same twinkle in her eye, which is sad, but I’m super thankful that she felt love like that.

Tell us about the challenge project you’re working on now and what you’re learning from the experience.

Working with Slow Roll Detroit is unique because it helps me redefine what I think of when describing a non-profit organization. The way the organization evolved from “just a bike ride” to just having 3 employees challenges my understanding of what a non-profit is and how their mission develops. Being able to spark a larger mission from a seemingly small act is radical and revolutionizing.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.

My host company is Crestmark Bank in Troy, Michigan. Crestmark is a commercial lender with varying loan types and serves as an alternative to traditional banks and operates with a strong emphasis on customer service. For Crestmark, I am an Assistant Manager in Data Services—plainly, I support staff in our Lockbox operations by focusing on interviewing, team building, day-to-day processing support, and process review.

How do you share your Challenge Detroit experience with your host company and how do you hope to make an impact in your company?

Sharing my experience with Challenge Detroit can be challenging as I’m working with so many different people with varying degrees of interest in the renaissance that is Detroit. Being located in Troy, there is a sense of disconnect between the suburbs and the city, so I do my best to share information about the many facets of life in the city. My “out of office” messages often detail something about the current project or events I’m attending and often send out emails to individuals to invite them to some of the events I attend. I would like to think I have a future in offering “something new.” Whether this means looking for potential candidates with different educational backgrounds (than in traditional banking) or opening the company to new volunteer opportunities—pushing the boundaries of “the norm” will always be my focus.

You are halfway through your Fellowship year, what experience has been most rewarding and what experience has been most challenging.

Storytelling has been an amazing theme throughout my time with Challenge Detroit and the opportunities to hear stories from those who have lived through something in the city. The storytelling started on the interview trip (my favorite being from Eric Vaughn, owner of Eric’s I’ve Been Framed) really sparked my interest in taking more from this experience than a leadership opportunity, but a deep-dive into context. Understanding context, of any situation, is essential to proper idea synthesis and innovation.  A personal challenge is rooted in my own shyness so I have a tendency to stand back to take in the moment rather than just being in it. I have been happy to have various opportunities with Challenge Detroit to both standing within the spotlight and also just outside of it.

I like this picture of me because it’s a bit gritty and a bit more vulnerable than most of my other selfies. I don’t love pictures, but this is probably one of the better, less cliché ones that I’ve taken of myself.


How do you believe your fellowship will shape your career moving forward?

I believe this fellowship is helping me revisit qualities I believed as skills and those which were not at all on my radar or were underutilized. Various opportunities presented through Challenge are helping push me to my own edges of comfort and are helping me become better well-rounded. Working with Challenge Detroit is a confidence builder and furthering my ability to question what has always been—city, work, home. Look at all that is around you, think of what was there before, what is there now and what can be thereafter. Someone you admire as a visionary was probably once like you, living with a bunch of thoughts and dreams, but eventually honed in on one (or a few) and dug beneath the surface to come up with plans on how to proceed. Then their vision became the new normal.

To see more of Brani’s experiences as a Challenge Detroit Fellow check out her spotlight video!