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"Detroit Sip" coffee shop startup aims to lead by example to revive neighborhood

Jevona Watson, founder of the coffee shop Detroit Sip
Shawn Lee
Motor City Match

Starting a business on your own brings plenty of challenges, but it takes a special kind of courage and vision – and a little bit of help – to set up shop in a struggling neighborhood. Jevona Watson is opening a coffee shop, Detroit Sip, in Northwest Detroit, near the campus of the University of Detroit-Mercy, and has received a helping hand from the Motor City Match program.

“[Motor City Match] is helping to fund the cost of the build-out and give me that extra push financially to make sure I get the doors open,” Watson told Stateside.

After graduating from law school at Michigan State University, where she spent a lot of time studying in coffee shops, Watson returned home to make a difference in her Northwest Detroit neighborhood where she plans to open Detroit Sip on McNichols Road, four blocks west of Livernois Avenue.

I can only hope by leading by example that other businesses will join in.

The idea of starting her own business was not something that came naturally to her, but now that the idea has become a reality, she is excited to be an inspiration for future generations.

“I was never taught to open my own business,” said Watson. “The message that I got growing up was go to school, get a good education and you’ll get a good job. It really wasn’t impressed upon me to create my own job. And I think it is inspiring to [my children] to see that you don’t have to work for someone else. You can pursue your dream and you can do something that you love.”

Watson is determined to make her business successful, but her big-picture approach to this project is to help improve the neighborhood. She hopes that other business owners and entrepreneurs will take notice and join the effort to help the community grow.

“I can only hope by leading by example that other businesses will join in,” said Watson. “Security is an issue … we just have to be honest. The crime rate in Detroit can be very intimidating in terms of bringing people there that wouldn’t ordinarily come there. I think we have to come together and make it safe. If we have all the businesses open, everyone is helping one another ... I don’t want the bulletproof glass barrier. I really want it to be welcoming to all.”

The promotional video that Watson produced for Detroit Sip sums up her vision for the area as she hopes people will watch “the neighborhood come back, one business at a time.”

Listen to the full interview below as Watson talks more about the Motor City Match program and her motivation for opening a coffee shop in her neighborhood. 

Josh Hakala, a lifelong Michigander (East Lansing & Edwardsburg), comes to Michigan Radio after nearly two decades of working in a variety of fields within broadcasting and digital media.
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