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Erin Patten: Promoting Detroit

By India Ogazi

Erin Patten

As director of retail and marketing for the Detroit nonprofit Ponyride, Erin Patten, BBA '07, leads promotional efforts for a wide-ranging band of creative small-business owners — from cabinet makers and metalsmiths to dance teachers and hairdressers. It's a dream job that she created for herself.

It began during a fellowship at the Detroit office of the Kresge Foundation, a $3.6 billion private foundation that works to expand opportunities in U.S. cities through grant-making and social investing. "As a Kresge fellow, I went on a fact-finding exploration of the city," says Patten.

She discovered Ponyride and approached Kresge with a proposal for a marketing position, which they accepted and funded.

Small business in Detroit, once on the verge of collapse, is now on the threshold of a renaissance, thanks in part to Ponyride. In an unusual business model, Ponyride provides space to more than 40 small businesses at minimal cost. The catch: Each business must have a social component and give back to the Detroit community.

"I want to be a voice for socially conscious entrepreneurs who don’t have the time or bandwidth to market themselves because they're so focused on getting that next product out the door," Patten says.

Patten holds bachelor's degrees in marketing and Plan II Honors from UT, as well as an MBA and a master's in public policy from Harvard. She is the chairwoman of the McCombs BBA Advisory Board and credits her education at the school for her growth and development, along with the entrepreneurial spirit that led to her self-envisioned role at Ponyride.

From the spring 2017 issue of McCombs, the magazine for alumni and friends of the McCombs School of Business.

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