STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

One student's journey from court ward to business owner

Jada Davis

After writing about the latest KidsCount report last week, I was feeling pretty discouraged. It’s hard to get excited about the future of kids in Michigan when one in four is living in poverty.

This week I wanted to write about something a little bit lighter. This is a state of opportunity, after all. Michigan’s statistics don’t always reflect that, but Jada Davis’ story does. 

One of the first things you learn about Davis when you meet her is that she’s an entrepreneur. Originally from Detroit, she’s in her fourth year studying business at Saginaw Valley State University. Davis launched her own business – an online store called Knots n Tangles Crochet Works – back in December 2013. She’s also a self-described “foster care alumni striving to beat the odds.”

Did I mention she’s 21 years old?  

To understand Davis’ journey, we have to go back to the beginning: in foster care.

Davis can’t remember the number of foster homes she was in while going through Wayne County’s system. She does remember that the residential placement she was in as a teen was “awful” – which isn’t surprising, given what we know about group homes in Michigan.

There was one good thing that happened at the group home (which is now closed): A staff member taught Davis how to crochet. "I don’t even remember her name. I tried to erase that part of my life.”

It was difficult for her to learn at first because crocheting is all about being able to relax your wrists. Relaxation doesn’t come easy in foster care. The first thing Davis tried to crochet was a blanket, but her wrists were too tense, so it ended up as a “balled up pile of yarn”.

Today, Davis can crochet hats, scarves, clothing, ear warmers … you name it. She does custom orders and even crochets wire to make jewelry. After selling her designs around campus freshman year, she decided to transform her passion into something more sustainable – a business that could actually bring her some profit. Davis taught herself business basics through extensive Google searches and a lot of trial and error.

Managing her business and focusing on school can be tricky. “College puts restraints on what I can do with my business ventures. I have to ration out my time.” She’s in charge of advertisement, outreach, figuring out how to target different demographics, filling orders, and more. “It takes a lot of energy.”

She seems to have it down. Davis crochets while she’s in class (except for math and science courses, which require constant writing). She also sticks to a strict inventory schedule, which involves a lot of extra crocheting during summer and winter breaks. Though she also works part-time, crocheting is one of her main forms of income. Her revenue so far is over $3,000. It helps her pay her phone bill, and buy food, personal items, and more yarn.

Davis plans to expand her business in the future. Although she’s open to having a business partner who crochets, everyone has their own unique style. Her experiences are woven into her work. “It can be hard to find someone whose stitches match yours.”

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