When you think of tech booms in America, places like Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston immediately come to mind. But Detroit? Entrepreneur Jamie Kothe is determined to prove that The Motor City is not just about cars and music, but is also a hub for technological innovation.
When Kothe, owner of A Detroit School for Digital Technology (DSDT), first started her business, it was a school for film production and creative visual effects located in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Over the years, Kothe kept adding curricula that covered digital media, digital graphics and technology. According to Kothe, “DSDT was born through an idea to bridge the gap between gainful employment and the surge of technology-driven job demand.”
The Path to Success
As part of the metamorphosis, Kothe moved DSDT to southwest Detroit, where she says it’s now a “fast-paced ‘hands-on’ trade school” with a student body consisting 90% of Detroit locals.
Kothe’s mission is simple. It’s: “Employ * Train * Empower individuals in Technology, Digital Media and Digital Graphics.” She says, “We are dedicated to providing our students with an innovative curriculum, which prepares graduates for gainful employment. We strive to inspire individuals and help them implement their learned education, into a skilled and working professional.”
DSDT, says Kothe, “is especially sensitive to the needs of veterans, active-duty members of the military, low-income individuals, and formerly incarcerated individuals. The school gives Detroit locals the chance to pursue career paths they might not otherwise have access to, and ensures they will benefit from, rather than be displaced by, the surge in the tech industry in their city.”
How SCORE Helped
Kothe received mentoring from SCORE mentors David Broner, Kevin Kelley and Dan Brophy. She first sought out SCORE, she says, “for services I was not able to provide to my staff and organizational needs I wasn’t the best at training.”
“The advice and help SCORE offers are unlike any other organization I’ve worked with in the past,” says Kothe. “The services are free, and the SCORE mentors are passionate individuals who have run and served businesses from the ground up. They all come with a variety of knowledge most small business owners either lack or may not have the time to focus on.”
SCORE helped Kothe train her sales staff. She says one of her employees initially “lacked the soft-skills and the sales mentality,” but after being trained by SCORE, “has grown into one of my most valuable employees and student recruiters.”
When Kothe wanted to purchase DSDT’s existing location for almost $2 million, she says, “I felt I may not be bankable.” But Kothe and her mentors “did a deep dive into my financials and fine-tuned my projections.” And, she adds, “Dan Brophy, a former banker himself, reassured me he felt I was a lot stronger financially [than I thought] and had a good chance at securing a loan that size.” SCORE helped Kothe submit her loan package, “and we’re still waiting on the outcome,” she says.
Mentor David Broner strongly believes in DSDT’s cause, stating that, “There are just people out there that can learn, with good training … cybersecurity, website building, autonomous vehicles. All that technology is in high demand and the folks who graduate will be certified to go to work.”
Broner also believes firmly in Kothe’s passionate style of leadership. “Jamie has tenacity, brains and enthusiasm for her venture,” he says. “She keeps me on my toes.”
Kothe says of Broner, “Dave is wildly knowledgeable about sales and financials and has lots of connections in the city.” And those connections made a difference. “There are times I try to contact people who won’t respond, but when my SCORE mentor calls, they immediately get a response,” Kothe says. “They can push the needle for you if you ask.”
Ultimately, Kothe says, working with SCORE has enabled her to make great strides in her business. She says, “I was pretty much by myself on an island. Then slowly but surely, others have seen the power behind it and it’s just grown. I am so grateful to SCORE,” she adds, “so grateful.”
Since Kothe started working with SCORE, DSDT has tripled its revenues. Moreover, Kothe projects 94% of her students will find jobs or opportunities for further study in Detroit within six months of graduation.
Kothe takes a lot of pride in DSDT’s success rate. She says, “What helps me get up every morning is we help individuals and we see success in [those] individuals.”
DSDT is the 2018 SCORE Award winner for Outstanding Tech and Innovative Small Business, presented by FedEx.
Paying it Forward
Kothe advises startup business owners to, “Always take the advice and mentorship of others that are offering to help. They are knowledgeable and have most likely ‘been there done that.’ Never think you know it all and always seek to be better. Having a SCORE mentor can help you to recognize holes or gaps in your business. SCORE is free and the mentors all do this to help other small businesses become successful.”
Kothe continues to grow her own business with an eye toward showing the rest of the world just what Detroit is capable of. “They say Detroiters can’t do tech, but we prove them wrong every day,” she says.