Create & Cultivate 100 Philanthropy: Nia Batts

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She can't blow out her own hair, but Detroit native Nia Batts has one hell of an idea with Detroit Blows. 

The idea for Detroit Blows came together around 2010 when two friends, Nia Batts and Katy Cockrel, who have known each other since they were 4 and in the same dance class, were working together on a project in Detroit. 

(Shoutout to friends for life #FFL.) 

Nearly 7 years later, in October 2017, the #FFL opened Detroit Blows, the city’s first non-toxic blowdry salon, that features blowouts and beauty services like express manicures and pedicures. Talk about new adventures with old friends. They're also taking a new approach to the blow dry model. 

The philanthropic arm of the business, Detroit Grows, aims to reinvest in Detroit. The salon donates $1 of every blowout service and a percentage of the retail footprint to support Detroit-based female entrepreneurs through microgrants, and women entering and re-entering the workforce.

Name: Nia Lauryn Batts

Instagram Handle: @nialauryn

Business Instagram Handle: @detroitblows

Can you chat us through the inception of Detroit Blows?

My parter, Katy, and I are childhood friends, native Detroiters, and prior to this venture, frequent business collaborators. I was actually her client when I was living in New York and working for Viacom. And as she tells the story, I would land in yoga pants, juggling two phones, hair in a top knot, looking for the closest place to get a blowout, and she would regrettably inform me that we had to go out to the suburbs. There was an unsettling dichotomy in the conversations we were having with our Detroit-based partners; although young people were moving to the city, and making money in the city, they were still spending a signicant amount of their dollars outside of the community. The concept for Detroit Blows stemmed from a need we experienced first-hand and an exploration into filling that void -- cost-effective, high-quality blow dry services -- led to the development of a model with reinvestment in the city at its core.

And why the give-back model was an important part of the concept?

I think ultimately (like many others) we are guided by the belief that businesses have a responsibility to communities in the way that people do. We knew we wanted to use non-toxic products, retail conscious brands with stories (in partnership with Conscious Commerce), and reinvest a portion of our profits into female entrepreneurs and programs helping women enter or re-enter the workforce. We're unwavering believers in 'the multiplier effect' -- that by investing in women, you are investing in their families, in their communities, in every idea they touch.

Where do your drive and passion come from?

My parents. There are hard days when you're leaning into new chapters of your story. Their belief in me is contagious. And my best-friend/life-wife Sophia, who was one of the earliest champions of this project. She makes it all look so easy, but will be honest with you when it's not. People like her, that show the truth behind their process, make me feel my dreams are attainable

Philanthropy means the "love of humanity." It's so beautiful and simple. What does it mean to you?

In my previous role, we made an effort to reframe and root the concept of Philanthropy in the business strategy of Philanthropic Investment. If Philanthropy is a 'love of humanity' Philanthropic Investment is an informed and strategic effort to ensure the sustainability of it. It's loving humanity in the ways that help it evolve and continue.

If Philanthropy is a 'love of humanity' Philanthropic Investment is an informed and strategic effort to ensure the sustainability of it. It's loving humanity in the ways that help it evolve and continue.

How did you find yourself on this particular career journey?

That's funny, sometimes I do wonder if I've lost the plot, but it helps that it makes sense to me. I went to film school, so I've always been a storyteller at heart, but the way I've done it has often been non-traditional. In different ways I've told the stories of people, of movements, of brands, today I'm grateful to be telling the story of a beautiful and resilient city rebuilding, and the women who are strengthening it every day with their purchasing decisions.

Do you think you've found your true calling?

I don't think any of us have one true calling, but I do think this is one of mine. As I grow and get closer to myself I've fortunately become less afraid of pursuing what stirs me. Birth began to move me, and I felt very called to become a doula, so I had to just write it into my story.

"As I grow I've fortunately become less afraid of pursuing what stirs me."

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Are there any fears associated with your work? If yes, what are they?

The shift from a large corporation to small business comes with a learning curve for me as a CEO and I've definitely spent some time in moments of fear. But too much fear can be dangerous, so I try and catalyze it into something small I can do that day, that helps lessen the outcome I'm afraid of; almost like an offering an invitation to the universe to help a girl out a little bit.

What's something you'd like people to know about your job that they probably don’t?

I can't blowout my own hair, or anyone else's for that matter. But being a longtime consumer of the service allows me to approach our business in a different way and really focus on the client experience. You often have to lead from where you are, and hire other great people to do the same.

"You often have to lead from where you are, and hire other great people to do the same."

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What about your career makes you feel the most complete?

That I've been able to dene it on my own terms.

If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?

Shonda Rhimes, Ava Duvernay, Issa Rae -- any of these badass women who are writing, directing, producing, hiring and leading the teams that are centering women of color in their stories and have found ways to make them both colorful and colorless. Representation is important in the stories we tell. I think we're all enjoying the fruits of their labor.

At what point in your life did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?

After a heartbreak.

What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?

Always believe that something magical is about to happen.

When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road?

I take a long hot shower and I think to myself, this is going to get much worse if you don't pull it together before the water gets cold.

What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?

Beyoncé + Frank Ocean - "Superpower" -- The way it describes the inevitability of a love that has to exist so the world keeps revolving makes me really grateful to be alive again.