How to Make It in (The New) America

10/18/11Follow @XconomyDET

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Detroit’s automakers and workers. Yeoman isn’t sure exactly what happened—he imagines it has to do with the less-than-expected amount of money offered to Chrysler in the bailout combined with Fiat taking control of the company’s business decisions—but the deal never went through, and Yeoman was suddenly back at square one.

“My manager was exhausted after that, so we kind of drifted apart,” Yeoman says.

Enter James Feagin. Feagin had just lost his job managing community grants and business feasibility plans at the Warren Conner Development Coalition on Detroit’s east side. Feagin and Yeoman were introduced through a mutual friend, and began, as Yeoman describes, “swapping sob stories.” [Paragraph changed to clarify how Feagin and Yeoman were first introduced.]

When Feagin told Yeoman he lost his job after Chrysler went bankrupt and ended the charitable giving that paid for his position, the floodgates of conversation opened. They hatched one of those plans that often materialize after a few drinks—Feagin would become Yeoman’s new business manager and would try to sell his art using a non-traditional approach. They shook on it and Yeoman wondered if he’d ever hear from Feagin again.

“I went home and thought about it,” Feagin says. “Here I am, 28 years old, thinking I had a career in development. I mean, I was effective—I could pick up the phone and speak to the mayor if I wanted to. Then, suddenly, I’m laid off. But it’s all divine. I always wanted to own my own business. I had no kids and no wife, so I figured it’s now or never, especially in this job market.”

Feagin and Yeoman officially went into business together and BeloZro Visual Energy was born. The pair decided they wanted to sell Yeoman’s art outside of the traditional gallery system with social media, where they could target collectors and investors across the world, playing a crucial part in the startup’s business model. Their plans were innovative enough to warrant inclusion in the recent TEDxDetroit conference, which is where I first heard of them. … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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