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! 

Setting out to become the premier Black chamber of commerce in the state of Michigan is no small feat but is a goal that the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA) is well on its way to achieving. In doing so, developing a functioning Black business directory (The Hastings Street Index) is an invaluable step and is what our team, the Hastings Street Index team (Tasnia Chowdhury, Demitria Powell, Kaj Althaus, Adam Marszalek, Lara Harp), was tasked with. Our challenge was to answer one particular question – “How might we maximize and promote the use of the HSI?” Through a design thinking journey, we developed a comprehensive marketing strategy, key performance indicators (KPIs), and proposed website enhancements that would lay the foundation for an app framework. 

Each step of this project was awesome, yet none was more intriguing than the insights we heard in the empathy stage. Through interviews with business members, an important trend emerged. Several members described a desire for a Black business directory, but never considered the HSI as such a tool. A need was expressed for a place where they could share events, job postings, calls for catering, performance services, and much more. One member even mentioned that she just held an event in which she had trouble finding a Black-owned caterer. Only after briefly discussing the features of the HSI did she in hindsight say that would have been a perfect tool, except she just did not think of it. 

Moving into our ideation stage it became apparent that getting the word out about the HSI and its benefits was an absolute necessity. One board member, Joseph Bowman, provided us with a compelling idea by stating, “My vision for the Hastings Street Index is for it to become the next Green Book.” Turning the HSI into a universally known tool for businesses in the Black community, such as the Green Book, would be a tremendous accomplishment, but where could we begin? Naturally, we brainstormed a comprehensive social media rollout and a revamped website. 

We began by building out deliverables in Prezi, Google Slides, and Canva. In Prezi, we presented our four marketing recommendations which the staff were able to interact with. They tested it out by flipping through each recommendation which included a targeted HSI social media rollout, discounts for using the HSI to find a business, an events calendar, and a launch party.  We then created an app framework using Google Slides and Canva. We ideated several feature changes to the website to make the website more user friendly in both form and function and secured the handle for MDBBA to take over the new HSI Instagram page. Go check out @hastingsindex on IG! Our hope is to help MDBBA incorporate these new features into the HSI and launch the enhanced and improved Index to help get another step closer to accomplishing its mission.