Meet The VFA Accelerator Teams: Alyssa Gill of [Place] Market
The Venture for America Accelerator is a three-month program open to VFA alumni and Fellows at the conclusion of their two-year Fellowship. On August 1st, seven teams descended on Detroit to begin working full time on their companies. Thanks to generous support from the William Davidson Foundation and Quicken Loans and with help from the Venture for America team and a wide range of industry leaders, Accelerator teams have the time, space, and funding to focus solely on building their fledgling companies.
Meet Alyssa Gill, a 2015 Fellow and Founder of [Place] Market. [Place] Market creates modern clothing representing small and medium sized cities by collaborating with local designers. Here, Alyssa shares her experience building a business in Detroit, utilizing the community for support and the importance of prioritizing relationships.
What lessons learned during your Fellowship still impact the way you work today?
During my Fellowship I worked at the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE) as a School Partnerships Manager. Outside of work, I led a VFA resource group: Black Fellows for America (BFA). My ultimate takeaway from both of these roles was the importance of building and maintaining relationships. As a founder, replying to a client’s question or sending a strong follow up email to a mentor is always immediately bumped to the top of my to-do list.
What’s it like building a company in Detroit?
In the brief window of time that I’ve lived and worked in Detroit, the startup community has been incredibly inclusive and eager to be supportive. Peers and mentors alike have been generous with their time, resources, and networks. The network aspect has probably been the most apparent. Detroit is geographically large but has felt like a very small town. Everyone seems to be fewer than six degrees of separation away from each other, meaning that community leaders have been more accessible than they likely would be in a more crowded city.
How did you find your earliest customers?
As soon as I moved to Detroit, I just started finding and showing up to relevant events. I attended trade shows, conferences, fashion shows, pop-up shops, and street fairs to meet even one potential customer. However, none of these served as replacements for leveraging the small network I already had in Detroit – primarily through the VFA community. My fellow Fellows were instrumental in connecting me with my first customers.
What’s your mission and how do you plan to live it out every day?
At its core, my mission is to support entrepreneurs working to positively impact their communities. During the Accelerator, I’ve lived this out by iterating on my idea around the needs of fashion designers and other members of the fashion ecosystem in Detroit. If I am helping them grow their brands and businesses, they can continue to source materials locally, hire team members, and so on. I can also build a sustainable business laser focused on adding value in whatever form that takes.
What can readers do to help you get to your next step or milestone? (each team must answer this question)
I’m currently focused on supporting fashion designers building brands in cities like Detroit (e.g. Cleveland, Baltimore, etc.). As I continue to better understand how I might add value to startup brands looking to grow without having to relocate to the large (and expensive) fashion markets, as well as brands that are already well-established, I’d be so appreciative of any introductions to fashion designers based outside of New York or Los Angeles! Please feel free to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you’re toying with a fledgling idea, developing a side project, or preparing to launch a company, we have the resources, programming, and network to help you succeed once you’ve completed your two-year Fellowship. Our alumni have launched 41 companies that employ more than 195 people. Click here to find out how VFA can help you succeed.