Black-owned, Mother-Daughter Operated Businesses in Detroit

Some women see their mother as a queen, who can do no wrong.

Others suppress annoyance at their mother's common corrections and critiques.

But no matter what your mother-daughter relationship looks like, there's no doubt that working together would just make things a bit more, um, complicated.

The same could be said for the mothers who have to trade their innate mothering instincts for the friendly but firm countenance of a boss.

In celebration of Mother's Day on Sunday, May 11, we take a look at some local ladies who not only share the flesh and blood of family ties, but the sweat and tears of running a successful business together. Shockingly, they make it seem effortlessly easy.


Sweet Potato Sensations is christened the "Sweet Potato Lover's Heaven on Earth," and for owner Cassandra Thomas, a business that mixes food, family and fun is nirvana. "When we started the business, they were toddlers, so they have grown up in the business," says Thomas.

"And the business is like my third child. So this is their sibling."

Thomas explains that although her daughters may have differing dispositions-Jennifer being "detailed oriented" and Charice "creative"-one could say they are complementing flavors.

"They are an excellent blend for each other," Thomas says.

"I just smile because all the things that I taught them growing up I've seen come to fruition. And I have to remember that they are very capable of running everything."

Mother: Cassandra Thomas

I love working with my daughters because … it is rewarding. "I am very proud as a mother to see how they have developed into responsible business women."

They taught me… to be spontaneous.

Our bonding activity: "We're foodies. And we like to figure out different kinds of flavors, ingredients and that type of thing."

Workplace grievance: "Charice sometimes leaves stuff, and I have to pick up behind her, like my husband."

A mother means to me: "The most important job in the world. I always try to encourage young mothers when I see them-this time, when they are young, is the most important time in the world."

Daughters: Jennifer and Charice Thomas

I love working with my mom because … she is passionate. "Every pie, every little thing she makes, she puts a piece of her love in it," Charice says.

She taught us … to value friendships. "It's quality over quantity," Charice and Jennifer agree.

Workplace grievance: "She puts stuff on my desk all the time and it drives me crazy," says Charice. "And the stuff isn't mine!"

A daughter means to me: "To be responsible, independent, nice, caring, loving people," Jennifer says.
The ultimate Mother's Day gift: "Somewhere where she can go sit by the water and relax," says Jennifer. And, adds Charice, "Eat good food. Pray. Reflect."

Source Booksellers did not start with a dream or passion, explains owner Janet Jones. "I didn't start with all that stuff people talk about. But I started with an opportunity."

After a trip to Egypt, Jones was encouraged to recommend some books that could model her experience, and soon a book collection with a curated historical interest blossomed. Today, the bookstore has developed a niche in the community as a nonfiction book hub focused on subjects of culture, world history, spirituality and well-being. And Jones says daughter Alyson has been essential in figuring out the next steps in her business development.

"She has been really a part of the time period when I was in brick and mortar. I always tell people that she's the brain and I am the brawn," Jones says.

Mother: Janet Jones

I love working with my daughter because … of our dialogue. "We talk about everything and we can talk any time."

She taught me … to use technology. "She helps me with the computer. And sometimes I depend on her to know how to do things."

Our bonding activity: "All of life. We've been traveling this road together since she was born and that is what we do."

Workplace grievance: "She flies in here on the fly, and she drops her coat and purse."

A mother means to me: "Not trying to overdirect or overprotect," Janet says. "Everybody can practice being a mother. It doesn't matter your gender. It doesn't matter your age, because we all are people whose work is to bring the next generation along."

Daughter: Alyson Jones

I love working with my mom because … of the fulfillment. "The double success feels really good."

She taught me … to just start something. "See where it goes and keep it going."

Workplace grievance: "The purchase order! And remembering to do it."

A daughter means to me: "To make good, have a good contribution … to not disappoint."

The ultimate Mother's Day gift: "The ease of technology, so it doesn't feel so scary," Alyson says. "With the POS (point of sale) system and Facebook, it's a lot."

The first incarnation of Sharon Banks' Bankable Marketing Strategies began in 1998 as Banks Marketing Group. But upon accepting a series of high-demand positions-which included being press secretary to (then candidate) Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano-her business was put on the backburner. In 2009, after revamping her business plan, she became her own boss again and in no time found one of her most valuable employees-her daughter, Erica.

"It has been stellar, and I told her I never would have thought that," says Banks, whose son recently joined the business, too. "There are some things, personal mom-and-daughter things, but in terms of the business, we are on point together. We are very much in sync."

Says Erica, "Once we crunched the numbers, I realized the opportunities would be greater to join the family business rather than stay where I was. I don't think I could learn as much and really enjoy myself as much as I do with my mother. For all the fun we have, we still get a lot of work done."

Mother: Sharon Banks

I love working with my daughter because … I trust her. "And it just feels good to be able to say this was the right move for us to make."

She taught me … we can handle anything. "She can be even-keeled in those times where maybe I get a little frazzled."

Our bonding activity: "We dance at lunch time on a Tuesday. And (Erica) says, 'I can't believe it. Where else would I work and be dancing with my boss at lunch time?"

Workplace grievance: "She's junky. That's about it."

A mother means to me: "I think the balance is-and it's a balancing act-is that she is a grown woman. And she makes decisions based on her life and the things that she values and wants to do, even if they are not in concert with what I would think should be. The fact that she thinks them through, I have to be mother enough to let her be the woman she wants to be."

Daughter: Erica Banks

I love working with my mom because … we take risks. "We don't do what feels comfortable. So knowing that every day is going to be something different makes it fun and exciting."

She taught me … the gift of "the ask," Erica says. "Being able to know the right way to speak to people and build that relationship. So when you go back to ask for those things, they remember the rapport you had prior to 'the ask.'"

Workplace grievance: "(Mom is) not the best at making the coffee. That is why now we just bring in the coffee."

A daughter means to me: "Is she proud of me?" says Erica. "Now that I am a mom, 'Am I doing something that represents my daughter well?'"

The ultimate Mother's Day gift: "If there was a way for me to say 'poof, you get to relax.' To see her sit back with her feet up and say, 'Not bad, Banks.'"

When Sandra Allen's daughter, Missy, approached her about opening a clothing boutique, it was a matter of location, location. "I said, 'Well, you find me a proper space and we will consider doing this,'" recalls Allen. And The Black Dress Co. was born.

The clothing boutique is the realization of Allen's dream to have her handmade clothing featured in a store with other designers.

"It's worked out so far," says Allen, who is a retired customer service team lead at Blue Cross Blue Shield. "There's a lot of compromising with it. The idea of working with your daughter means that it is in consideration of her."

She adds, "At the most, I am hoping our business turns into something that she can take and move forward because I am not going to be here (forever). This is the foundation for something bigger. So I am hoping that this will turn out to be what she needs for the rest of her life."

Mother: Sandra Allen

I love working with my daughter because … of love. "She really loves me and I can feel it."

She taught me … to text. "Because I wasn't going to do it! But then she stopped answering the phone. So she forced me to text. That was just something I had to learn and she kind of pushed me into it."

Our bonding activity: "Outings and conversation. Because we can have good conversation, until I get tired."

Workplace grievance: "Missy has a messy desk situation. … She hoards papers and notes."

A mother means to me: "A blessing. You need to have that support system and to just see yourself in someone else. I have two daughters that I see myself in, and to me they are just beautiful people. I did spend a lot of time raising my kids, so I did put time into them. Then you try to formulate yourself and your beliefs into them."

Daughter: M. 'Missy' Lewis

I love working with my mom because … I can be me. "Whether she likes things or not, she just says, 'OK, that's Missy. Let her do her thing.' She will have her opinion, but it is still not trying to steer me away from me."

She taught me … organization. "I need organization to my busyness."

Workplace grievance: "She likes to touch my messiness. Don't move it. Don't touch it. If she moves it, then I am really lost."

A daughter means to me: "I've always thought that I have proven myself growing up and doing all the things that can make her proud. My decisions are based on being a good daughter."

The ultimate Mother's Day gift: "I feel like I am giving her what I wished for, which is to grow older and say she was able to do something that she really wanted to do through her daughter. And not feel like she could have never achieved it. Sometimes people have dreams and aspirations, but without family support, it doesn't happen."

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