Devita Davison, Chief Cultivator at FoodLab Detroit

evita Davison lived in New York for 17 years. She worked with her friends to run a small gourmet food store in Brooklyn and had a home in Long Island.

"The question was never, 'Was I going to leave New York?' The question was, 'Why would I ever leave New York?'"

It wasn't until Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012 that Davison's course changed.

"I lost my home. My neighborhood, of course, was devastated," she says. She decided to venture back to her hometown: Detroit. It wasn't hard to see the silver lining. She was welcomed with open arms. For her, there was a reason to be back in Detroit. "There was work to be done here," she says.

Davison remembered reading about the Green Garage, an organization in Midtown dedicated to helping develop businesses, and reached out to collaborate. Through the group, she was introduced to Jess Daniel of FoodLab Detroit, a nonprofit that supports small food businesses. The two discussed creating a commercial kitchen space in Detroit, something Davison says is all over New York. These give the entrepreneurs "a legal, licensed space to make their products," Davison says-since they'd otherwise work out of their homes, thus restricting both sales and distribution.

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After much legwork and a partnership with Eastern Market, Detroit Kitchen Connect came to be. Davison ran DKC for about a year, and in that time the group was able to repurpose two existing kitchens, create two additional spaces-plus there's another in the works in Eastern Market, she notes. This work led to more than a dozen new businesses obtaining licensing.

While the group is still up and running, Davison became co-director and chief cultivator at FoodLab Detroit in August 2014, where she's doing strategic planning and helping with programing-all with the goal of "sustainable business development and vibrant communities and revenue generation," she says.

"I really wanted to be more involved with entrepreneurs-helping them grow their business," she says of the move.

FoodLab Detroit supports its members-local food entrepreneurs-to grow and thrive. It runs programs, workshops and field trips. It even assists with licensing regulations. Members gain discounted access to DKC, and those members are able to connect. It's important, because as a small business run by one person responsible for multiple roles, "You really do need an ecosystem behind you," she says.

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