5 Questions with Love Travels Imports

Love Travels Imports is a Detroit-based social enterprise that connects fair-trade and local artisans to the Metro Detroit community. Founder Yvette Jenkins graduated from TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp in November 2013.

What’s your business?

Love Travels Imports is a Detroit social enterprise connecting artisans in underprivileged communities and their handmade women’s and home accessories with fashionable and socially conscience consumers. My mission is bring a fair trade, handmade option to female consumers who want to make sustainable, ethical buying decisions based on colors, themes and design. We support fair wages to artisans. We have artisan wares from places ranging from Madagascar to Mount Clemens.

Our goal is to get as many artisans employed as we can. We strive to get make a difference one handmade piece at a time.

Why are you proud of it?

I started out selling at farmer’s and artisan markets three years ago. Today, I have a small permanent space on Livernois Avenue.

The founder of Mielie, one of the groups I first started with, told me last winter that the work that I gave a group of women that live in Khayelitsha (a black township in South Africa with 80% unemployment) has made a huge difference and had a positive economic impact for them. I am so grateful to have given people viable work and shared such items of beauty with Metro Detroit and beyond.

I have been able to provide some source of income for a Mount Clemens artisan (who makes beautiful stained glass pieces). This woman is so amazing: She has no car and gets around via the bus and her bicycle. How can you not want to assist someone who regardless of the challenges keeps on trying?

I know I have made a positive difference in people’s lives through my work.

What’s your best advice for a fellow entrepreneur?

Be true to yourself, your vision and your passion. Be flexible and have fun. Develop a thick skin. Understand that resilience is not just necessary, but mandatory.

There is an entrepreneurial ecosystem in every community. Understand it, find it, connect with it somehow and learn about it. Develop and nurture friendships/relationships within that community of like-minded people. An entrepreneurial support system will make it so much easier to get through the ups and downs.

Understand that there will be challenges; however, celebrate every small victory that comes your way. I remind myself to be mindfully grateful. Because at the end of the day, I know I have so much to be grateful for.

What local entrepreneur do you look up to and why?

That would be Karen Brown, owner of Savvy Chic (near Eastern Market). She has such an open heart and generous spirit. In my mind, she is that unsung hero that many communities have. She is that person who is quick to reach out a helping hand without fanfare or notoriety. She has quietly helped so many people who are starting businesses, thinking about starting a business or have been in business a number of years. I love that she is so genuine and authentic. Also, she has such a great sense of style. Her shop is so welcoming (like her personality). Whenever you see her, she has a ready smile for you and an encouraging word.

I must, also, salute Sharon Yamoah, owner of Offin Rivers. When I was starting out, she kindly offered guidance and support to someone who had so much to learn. She is always helpful.

What do you do when you need a mental break?

Yoga. Exercise. Read. Since I was a child, books have been my escape and my window to the world’s adventures.

I am a big fan of looking at the water or the sky. It must be something about the color blue that I find soothing. I have a painting called “Little Cloud” by Michael Haykin that I purchased in Key West. It is all blue sky and blue water meeting together with a small white cloud floating across the sky. Whenever I can’t get to an actual body of water to look at and commune with, I sit and gaze at this painting, imagining the breeze and the soothing sound of the water. Oh, bliss.

19452 Livernois, Detroit, MI 48221 (located inside Art In Motion on second floor)

Yvette JenkinsComment