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We’re back with a bonus episode! If you live in Detroit or have visited the city you’ve likely been told to go to Cafe d’Mongo’s Speakeasy in Capitol Park. Owner Larry Mongo is a longtime Detroit entrepreneur. We talk about how love and happiness made d’Mongo’s what it is and why he calls the creative class in Detroit “the pollinators.” He shares what he has experienced from the “Dan Gilbert effect” and reaffirms how Detroit is a city of people who support each other instead of compete. From his stories about Prince and Eminem to his business advice, Larry embodies what we’re all about. Make a drink, listen to this episode and then go say hello to Larry next time you’re out and about downtown.

Just like the city of Detroit, our guests have stories of perseverance and creativity. Why should you care? You’ll find motivation and inspiration to apply to your own life from listening to the dreamers, future leaders and risk-takers who are making a direct impact on the community. We talk about lessons learned the hard way, what it took to reach success, business advice and what makes Detroit special.

This season we’re partnering with Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit whose mission is co-creating independence and dignity through the power of personal and workforce development. Goodwill Detroit works to ensure that every neighborhood of Detroit experiences the kind of renaissance that we’re seeing in downtown and Midtown. We welcome Jessica McCall, the vice president of marketing and external affairs at Goodwill Detroit, as our special co-host. We’re asking listeners to use “#WhatsGoodDetroit“ when you come across something inspiring, notable or just plain good in the city.

We’re recording in the Foundation Studio at Detroit Foundation Hotel. Our official podcast studio is located within the beautiful boutique hotel which is the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters and Pontchartrain Wine Cellars.

Just a taste…

What were some of the biggest hurdles along the way in your career and how did you overcome them?

First, if you’re in a tough spot you gotta do two things: Stay true to your beliefs and at the same time you have to understand you just might have to change. You have to accept that. It’s not that I’m wrong, it’s just not the right time. It’s almost like with the Uniroyal [site.] People ask me, “How do you feel, Mongo? You didn’t do this.” I say, “Man, I’m still celebrating.” Because it tells me I was just 30 years too soon. I was right because it’s being done. My timing was wrong, but my train of thought was completely right so it didn’t defeat me. Hurdles are like anything. Practice jumping over them. You’re gonna have failure. Every great Olympic hurdler will probably tell you they knocked them down all the time before they learned how to jump them. You have to just be real and truly say to yourself, “It’s me who has to make this work.” You have to knock on different doors and different angles. You can’t let the word “no” stop you. I taught this to my grandkids. I said, “Do not let the word ‘no’ stop you.” Most people when they tell you, “No,” they feel bad. If you do a follow up question, “Could you tell me what I can do?” That’s the best time to catch a person. They want to help and they’ll go deep in their brain. You know, “Why don’t you try calling this person or do this because I know that person probably can help you.” You might be amazed. That person will help. Don’t just walk away when you hear, “No.” Don’t get emotional or angry. Follow it up. You had enough nerve to ask, now do a follow up and say, “Excuse me, is there any way you can help me?” They’ll dig. You normally get the help you need.

“Detroiters are rich.

They might not have money, but they are rich in spirit.”

 

Where do you see Detroit in ten years? 

Probably like Toronto. I really do. Let’s be real about this, when they say Detroit… God knows the naysayers are going to say, “Oh it’s all downtown.” Believe it or not, not far from here 1701 was a fort. It took 200 years to reach 8 Mile Road. How can we rebuild it overnight? Just like the early founders of the city, you start with the heart and that’s downtown and Woodward Avenue. You start with the old Indian trails, Michigan Avenue, Jefferson. People must believe and understand that from 1701 to 1900, Detroit was at the boulevard. That was our boundaries. You’re looking at 200 years just to make it from here to the boulevard. Then all of a sudden the industrial revolution was hitting full speed, all of the factories were going and we expanded. But it still took over 200 years to make it to 8 Mile. No Dan Gilbert or magic wand can come here and build this city overnight. But we can build confidence in this city overnight and that’s what they are doing. They are building the confidence of the future.

Photography by Derrick Busman

Listen to the full conversation on Apple Podcasts or SimpleCast.

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