5 Takeaways About Life and Business From TEDxDetroit 2019

Presenters included voice actor Rob Paulsen, HGTV star Nicole Curtis, business owners, and doctors
Nicole Curtis - TEDXDetroit
Nicole Curtis photograph courtesy of TEDXDetroit

The Masonic Temple filled with excitement as the doors opened for TEDx Detroit on Nov. 6. TEDxDetroit is a locally organized version of the classic TED conference, aiming to bring community members and ideas together with Detroit as the focal point. With speakers such as voice actor Rob Paulsen, HGTV star Nicole Curtis, and Good Cakes & Bakes’ April Anderson, the event was a day full of “curiosity, skepticism, and action,” in the words of TEDx Detroit curator and Detroit entrepreneur Charlie Wollborg. Here are five takeaways from the conference.

  1. Learn From Your Past

Learning from your past can play a major role in having a successful future. April Anderson, owner of Good Cakes & Bakes, a Detroit business specializing in organic and vegan cupcakes and baked goods, would know. The entrepreneur shared details about her life as a “dark-skinned, gay, teenage mother, and a felon with mental illness,” in her talk “Unbox Your Boxes,” and how it’s important to move forward from your past. “Everybody has a past,” she said. “Don’t allow your past, or labels, stigma, or boxes that you put yourself in, box you in. Because I don’t – not anymore. The only thing I’m boxing now is my cupcakes and cookies.” Taking her favorite rapper Jeezy’s advice that “it’s not how you fall, but how you get back up,” she now has an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, is married, and owns a thriving business she’d dreamt about since she was nine.

  1. Ask More Questions

“Being miseducated is sometimes more harmful than being uneducated,” said Portia Powell, the vice president of Chemical Bank in Detroit. “When we’re uneducated, we pause, we ask questions, and we’re receptive to new information. When we’re miseducated, we act on wrong information.” The Detroit native had racked up over $6,000 of credit card debt by the time she was a freshman in college. She did what seemed logical: close out the cards. Powell didn’t know it at the time, but closing out credit cards poorly affects your credit. Her credit score tanked, and she was required to get a job to pay off the debt. Powell started working as a bank teller. With little grasp on how to handle her own money, she began asking questions and seeking out financial advice while in the role. Now, 16 years later, she’s found success in finance. In her talk at TedXDetroit, Powell encouraged the audience to ask more questions and reaffirmed that it’s OK to not know what’s going on.

  1. Practice Empathy

The experience of restarting a human heart with her hands as a critical care nurse at Sinai Hospital in Detroit changed Najah Bazzy’s life forever. “My hand [was] on this human heart, and I began to clap the heart,” she recalled during her talk at TedXDetroit. “Then the heart started to quiver.” Now the founder of Zaman International, a nonprofit focused on “breaking the cycle of poverty” in Detroit, Bazzy believes “if you see an injustice, you fix it with your hands.” She started working in poverty alleviation out of the back of her van with her children. 15 years later, she’s now familiar with the practice of putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. “This experience taught me that if we were to unzip ourselves and turn ourselves inside out, we would all be the same. And maybe, if once in a while we looked through that lens of our heart, maybe we would be kinder.”

  1. Follow Your Intuition

Living in Minneapolis in 2010, Lake Orion native Nicole Curtis left a lasting impression on producers after she did a television cameo about real estate. This led to the launch of HGTV’s Rehab Addict, which originally focused on flipping homes in Minneapolis. Even with stable success in Minnesota, Curtis followed her intuition and took a chance on her hometown. She wanted to cover a house on Campbell Street in Detroit for the show, but she didn’t know what opportunity would present itself in the city past that. “I had to decide: Play it safe and stay in Minneapolis? Or risk it all and come back to Detroit,” she said during her TEDXDetroit talk. Luckily, it payed off in the form of a spin-off, Rehab Addict: Detroit. Curtis left the audience with her biggest key to her success: “I’m not chasing the dollar. I’m chasing the dream.” Learn more about Curtis’ love for the city in her last interview with Hour Detroit.

  1. Don’t Lose your Laughter

Behind Jimmy Neutron’s Carl Wheezer, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s Raphael, Pinky and the Brain’s Pinky, and Animaniac’s Yakko, is self-titled voice actor Rob Paulsen. Paulsen was born in Detroit, and lived in Livonia, Rochester, Dearborn, before moving out to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. In February of 2016, he was diagnosed with Stage III throat cancer, putting his life and the voice of an entire generation at risk. Because he was able to see how his character’s brought joy and laughter to others, Paulsen used his connection with his fans to keep him going through treatment. “Even if the doctors had told me, ‘you’re done,’ I had nothing about which to be sad. I’d had a remarkable life.” His cancer is now in remission, and Paulsen credits his recovery to one of the most important lessons that he’s learned from his career: “Don’t lose your laughter.”