For our first challenge of the 2021-2022 program year, we were thrilled to partner with Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA), a recently launched nonprofit committed to advocacy, programming, and providing resources for Black businesses and entrepreneurs led by President/CEO Charity Dean and COO Kai Bowman. Eight teams of Fellows supported this project – learn more from the perspective of each team! 

Design Question: How might we create a one-stop-shop to respond to businesses’ needs?

During our work with the Metro Detroit Business Alliance as the BizWiz team (Aaron Jason, Kelly Ulrich, Zharia Terry, Kristen Chu, Mariam Makki), a common theme we heard from staff, members, volunteers and community stakeholders was how integral the human touch was to the work that MDBBA was doing. We heard this in our design thinking training when we learned about designing hand-in-hand with the user to ensure that the solution is as valuable and usable to them as it could be. We heard this on our project kickoff day when we listened to business leaders who were participating in the Capital Connect program. These members appreciated how they had a mentor leading them through every hurdle and staying by their side through the whole process. Finally, we heard it in our partner liaison meetings with MDBBA staff when they talked about how they were leveraging their personal networks and volunteering hours and hours per day to connect their members with the resources they needed to take their businesses to the next level.

Keeping in mind the importance of the human touch, we also saw that there was a desperate need for efficiency and process automation. Some of the most valuable services that MDBBA offered were riding totally on the backs of a small group of people who were extremely dedicated but unable to manage the sheer volume of requests and assistance needed. Our team talked about how we could increase efficiency without sacrificing that human touch.

Through listening, brainstorming, prototyping and iterating, we developed BHUB as the answer to MDBBA’s needs. BHUB is a full-service program offered only to members of MDBBA. It is made up of three distinct hubs:

  • BIZVANTAGE: Programs, classes and cohorts led by MDBBA staff and offered to members who want to learn about entrepreneurship, expand their business, network with other business owners, and learn specific skills.
  • BIZLUTIONS: Resource pages, job boards, FAQs and general assistance for members to find answers for themselves
  • BIZWIZ: Digital & in-person help center staffed with MDBBA staff members that can help with anything and everything members need

The BHUB program was built to respond to the need for efficiency while maximizing the connection between members and MDBBA staff. As a team, we appreciated how passionate and invested our partners and stakeholders were. Hearing them speak about MDBBA and the great work that has already been done was incredibly inspiring and we hope that our contribution with BHUB will enable the team to continue to do great work for entrepreneurs in Detroit and Michigan.