By Edward Cardenas

MACKINAC ISLAND (CBS Detroit) – Attendees at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference got a taste of home at the Building Bridges to Small Business at the Mission Point Resort.

The event, sponsored by Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) and Mission Point Resort, featured four Detroit start-ups at a pop-up market at the Mackinac Island resort.

“The small businesses of today are the big businesses of tomorrow, and when there’s robust civic and institutional support of small business, we remove barriers to retaining talent,” said S3 CEO Cynthia Pasky Pasky, in a release. “Small businesses have a real stake in the progress of the communities they serve and are critical to urban revitalization.

The shopping event was organized by Rachel Lutz, owner of the Peacock Room in midtown Detroit, who recruited Sweet Potato Sensations, Rebel Nell and Cyberoptix Tie Lab to join her in Mackinac.

Each of the businesses have a unique background, according to organizers.

  • The Peacock Room – Was founded by fourth-generation Detroit business owner, Rachel Lutz, who went from unemployment to providing jobs for seven people after establishing the women’s apparel boutique in the Park Shelton building in 2011. Tripling her projected revenue during her first year in business, the success of The Peacock Room allowed Lutz to open a second store within ten months at the Park Shelton.
  • Cyberoptix Tie Lab – Bethany Shorb, owner and lead designer, came to Michigan to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and after graduation chose to settle in Detroit, starting Cyberoptix in 2005. Fabricating scarves, ties and other accessories from silk, microfiber, leather and recycled materials, each item is individually hand-stitched and silkscreened to order by Shorb’s studio team. Cyberoptix was named one of the top ten performing handmade artists on Etsy.com, and their items can be found online and at over 250 retail locations.
  • Sweet Potato Sensations – Sweet Potato Sensations is a second-generation family-owned bakery and restaurant. It was created in 1987 when Cassandra and Jeffrey Thomas began producing sweet potato cookies at local events in northwest Detroit. Expanding from community kitchens to successful storefronts, Sweet Potato Sensations offers a variety of sweet treats six days a week at their bakery café on Lahser Road in Detroit, as well as local retail outlets.
  • Rebel Nell – Co-founders Amy Peterson and Diana Russell started their jewelry company with the sole purpose of employing, educating and empowering disadvantaged women in Detroit. Rebel Nell repurposes broken concrete chips of graffiti, and transforms them into unique, wearable art objects. The company’s stated goal is to help women move from a life of dependence to one of self-reliance, and they have helped several women successfully make the transition from homelessness to financial stability. Working directly with local homeless shelters, they identify women who are ready to overcome barriers to employment through the fruits of their own labor.

Representatives from the Peacock Room greeted conference attendees when they arrived on the island.

Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails were also provided by Detroit companies Our/Detroit, Batch Brewing Company, and Two James Spirits.

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