Lucy Dilley understands how to take an idea and grow it into something bigger.
That’s what she did in 2008 when she started Can-Do Kitchen, a supportive space for local food businesses. Fourteen years later, Can-Do Kitchen is changing its name to Can-Do Kalamazoo (CDK) as it grows into a hub for all kinds of business.
The nonprofit will continue its current types of support such as business planning, licensing and branding and marketing guidance. It will also step-up coordination with other local business support organizations like Sisters in Business, Black Wall Street Kalamazoo and El Concilio.
Can-Do Kalamazoo has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs at different parts of their journey. It’s difficult to sum up the cumulative impact. But, seeing business owners reach key milestones fuels the work.
“Our team loves watching years-long efforts become real,” Dilley says. “It’s exciting when people come to us with some of the pieces of the puzzle and they just need help putting it together. Seeing small steps add up to the hard work of building a business is rewarding.”
In it for the People
Business ownership is a path to building family wealth that can pass to the next generation. Yet, not all entrepreneurs have the same opportunities to own businesses. Can-Do Kalamazoo’s anti-racism commitment and accessible business supports are helping more entrepreneurs establish businesses in Kalamazoo.
“We want entrepreneurs to know CDK commits to supporting them. We are in this to knock down barriers. We’re in it for the people.”
CDK honors its commitment by understanding the unique challenges business owners of color face and finding ways to support. This support looks like having a diverse staff and independent contractor network for clients to connect to.
Financial barriers are also a huge obstacle. Without family money or connections, many business owners are on a more difficult journey. CDK makes business support accessible for white women, LGBTQ+ people and entrepreneurs of color who have lower incomes.
“Anti-racism wasn’t an afterthought for us. We knew we had a responsibility to approach the work through that lens," says Dilley.
When CDK prioritizes anti-racism, marginalized entrepreneurs aren't the only group that wins.
Reducing language barriers makes complex business terms and regulations easier for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds to understand.
Although Can-Do Kalamazoo is on its own entrepreneurial and anti-racism journey, the future excites Lucy and her team. They hope Kalamazoo can be more delicious, more supportive of local business and a more welcoming community for dreams of all kinds.
And she is grateful for how far they've come.
“It’s fun to be around people whose work excites them,” Dilley says. “You can tell when something bigger motivates someone."
Gifts to our Love Where You Live Fund support organizations like Can-Do Kalamazoo.
📣 Can-Do Kalamazoo is raising money for an expanded space. Support and spread the word!