• India N. Miles

Michael Cousins: Be The Change You Want To See In Detroit

On the bright side I've gotten the chance to meet and interview Michael Cousins Jr., the owner and founder of Detroit Cousin, an established business blog based here in Detroit that promotes and shares resources for black graphic designers. It's readership supports Micheal's graphic design business and his awareness campaign, "Be The Change You Want to See in Detroit".

I networked with Michael through Instagram and I'm sorry to disappoint you but the scoop on how we connected, if anything, in my opinion is not that unique. I left a comment on one of his threads offering to interview him for a feature on my site and he DM'd me right back and agreed. That's it. I've since discovered that the man behind the movement is dope and the, "Be The Change You Want To See In Detroit", campaign is even doper. ( if that's even a word )

Michael's fondness for Ghandi's quote is that it can be universally applied to almost anything. He recognized that change for a better Detroit must start on a 1 on 1 level - not from the top down. But, he wants to inspire the type of change where Detroit makes a stand for its city the way he has. His goal isn't just to throw around a feel-good message. It's to invest, with his time and skill. Instead of him taking his talent elsewhere Michael returned to home after college in Oak Park, Michigan, located on the outskirts of Detroit.

This is where the significance of his business comes from. Being born in but moving from Detroit to Oak Park as a kid, Michael positioned himself in the role of a cousin to the Detroit family.

Detroit Cousin started in 2011 as a blog and an outlet for Michael to put an otherwise positive spin on the negative and more prevalent narrative that was Detroit's image. Once his following began to build he later modified the 'be the change you want to see in the world" quote and added it to his blog and quickly discovered that it resonated with people..

One of his mentors, Charlie Wollborg, told him that it'd be a great idea to put his quote on a t-shirt, and so he did, and has since gotten orders from all over the country. Especially from former Detroiter's, who live elsewhere but champion their city and it's comeback.

What I liked most is the fact that Michael didn't have much adversity to speak on. His only set-back was being kicked out of graphic design school in his junior year. He was issued a letter by the graphic design department telling him the he needed to reapply when he was better technically. He ended up spending the summer working for a local advertisement agency in Niles, Michigan headed by his mentor Muta Mwenya& Glenn Roper.

Michael was immediately thrust into a leadership role which is how he learned how to run a business, book-keeping, design experience, how to interact with customers, and write contracts. It took him 5 years to complete his Bachelors of Arts in Graphic Design from Andrews University and he has been an entrepreneur ever since. Dope.

His parents and friends support him --- let's talk about support shall we? Support is not a wish you well or a "I'm strapped for cash too, hope someone else can help you" response like the ones I get, lol. It's the fact that his parents actually left him their house when they moved to TX. Or his 3 high school friends supporting him and his vision for his business and proving to him that they have his back by stepping in to help him grow business when he needed to take some time away to tend to family matters. But more importantly, his wife, Jessica Copeland-Cousins was his biggest supporter and partner.

This is how I would interpret "being the change" if I lived in Detroit. Seems like the people here know how to stick together. Michael is a minimalist, making roughly $40k a year and currently drives a Ford Focus since the previous car he inherited ( i.e. SUPPORT ) by his father was totaled. I wanted to mention this tidbit because it's important to me to depict the real image of success --- consistency & support. Which are words that Michael used over and over again.

He would advise anyone considering to take up graphic design as a career to stick to what they believe in, consistently refined your craft and keep learning, don't be afraid to ask for help when you don't know something.

There's a lot of people who make money for a short while and then close up shop. There's others who don't make any money at all but they make it seem as if their business is booming. Michael - the minimalist - didn't strike me as either of those people. I gave him a quick pep talk of viewing obstacles as opportunities after extending him an opportunity for B.E.S.T business membership. With the requirement that he think about and craft his value statement.

To contact Michael email him at detroitcousin@gmail.com P: 313-355-3096 W: detroitcousin.com

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