A core pillar at the Gilbert Family Foundation is our dedication to building economic mobility for Detroit residents. For far too long, many Detroiters have been unable to access employment opportunities due to systemic barriers that prevent them from building wealth and sustainable futures. This multifaceted issue contributes to a cycle of poverty and has led us to invest in programs and partnerships that create new opportunities for the historically disenfranchised – partnerships like we have with LifeLine Global Consulting, which operates the technical assistance program for our Motor City Contractor Fund.

Founded in 2010 by Dr. Nicole Parker, LifeLine Global Consulting is a Black and woman-owned full-service business planning and management consulting agency. They support entrepreneurs and small-to-medium sized businesses with the resources, coaching, strategy-building, and networking opportunities to help them see success in the competitive entrepreneurial ecosystem. Hear from Dr. Parker and learn more about how Lifeline supports small business owners in the video below.

A Personal Mission Turned Professional

“The reason I’m so passionate about being an advocate and a conduit for entrepreneurs is because I am a client. I am a LifeLiner first,” Dr. Parker said.  In 2006, Parker became the first Black woman to own a Tuffy Auto Repair Shop, where her husband worked as a mechanic. The previous owners encouraged her to buy it, Parker says, despite no formal business education and no experience, because they recognized in her a “tenacity… a will and fight.” The idea sounded crazy to her, as she was a young, struggling mother with no income. “I kept coming up with reasons about why I couldn’t have this,” she said. “But [the previous owners] believed in me. They saw something that I couldn’t – that the skills I was exhibiting trying to support my family were critical entrepreneurial skills.”

Still, the road to being a small business owner was far from easy. Parker’s lack of experience and credit made it nearly impossible to get the resources needed to purchase the business. She was finally able to buy it with the help of a CDFI, which also sent an accountant to teach her business fundamentals. Every day for six months, the accountant taught her everything she needed to know – and Parker wanted to know everything she possibly could about running a successful business. Her ability to learn quickly and put that knowledge to action presented her with a unique opportunity: The CDFI she worked with asked her to counsel other small business owners.

When she closed the auto repair shop in 2020, Parker was simultaneously helping other entrepreneurs with the resources she wished she had at the start of her journey. Just a few months later, Parker opened LifeLine Global Consulting, which empowers others to change their lives through entrepreneurship. “This all happened because for the first time in my life, someone believed in me,” Parker said. “I wanted to be able to do that for other people.”