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Our Made Here series gets real with Detroit entrepreneurs and digs into the lessons and learnings behind the business plans.
Alex Fluegel is co-founder of Detroit Mama Hub, which began as a digital community offering support to urban mothers. They’ve been so successful growing their virtual network of inclusive and supportive moms that Fluegel and her partner are now prepping to launch a physical space. We talk about her growth experience as a founder and the lessons she learned from her audience.
Q: Tell us about the journey you’ve been on with Detroit Mama Hub, from ideation to signing a lease.
A: The Detroit Mama Hub journey actually started back in 2014. Jalyn [Spencer-Harris], my co-founder, launched a Facebook group and began dreaming of opening a space where moms could connect and thrive in Detroit. She was pregnant with her second child and frustrated with the lack of maternal support in the city. During her first pregnancy it Baltimore, she had a great network, so she set out to try and create that in Detroit.
She and I met in January 2017 in a Build Institute business plan class (where childcare is included!). We both were working on different ideas for spaces that would support mothers in some capacity. Our daughters are the same age too, so we talked a lot during the class. We decided our ideas would be stronger if we worked together. That was really when Mama Hub began to blossom. We started by hosting a number of listening sessions and events with local mothers to learn what their needs and wants were, and how we could best make that happen.
We began actively searching for a home after winning a Space Award from Motor City Match in late 2017, and signed a lease earlier this month after finding our perfect first home in northwest Detroit.
Q: What makes Detroit Mama Hub unique to the city? When you decided where to locate your organization, how did that speak to your priorities or beliefs as a community?
A: Detroit is already home to fantastic organizations dedicated to supporting families, and so when we were developing our vision for Mama Hub, we asked ourselves how we could best fit in to the larger ecosystem. We found that there were a lot of organizations dedicated to the well-being of children, but when it came to the well-being of mothers, there was something missing. That something was a place where women could find support for their minds, bodies, and spirits in a way that was culturally-inclusive and recognized every mother’s innate ability to guide her own journey. And so our aim is to hold space for women to connect — with one another, with their children and families, and most importantly with themselves.
Being located in a Detroit neighborhood has always been a non-negotiable for us, but figuring out where was a big challenge. The commercial real estate market for small businesses is kinda wild, and after nearly nine months of searching, we started looking in neighborhoods close to our own (Jalyn lives in Grandmont Rosedale and I’m in the Schaefer 7/8 Lodge neighborhood) — and boom, it happened. We found exactly what we’d been looking for (and what moms had been asking for) right under our noses.
Our new home is a 900-square-foot space right on the Lodge service drive between 6 and 7 mile: close to bus stops and a short commute from practically anywhere in the city. We love that it’s close to our homes because our BIG vision is to have a multiple Hubs in the city. So that no matter where a mom lives, she has a Hub nearby and the chance to connect with other mamas near her while also being part of a larger, connected network of moms across the city.
Building a community is a LOT harder than it looks. What’s the secret to your community’s success? How did you get through the early moments when it felt like you had something to say but no one was listening?
One of the keys to our success has been that we actively listen. There’s so much out there telling moms who they should be, what they ought to be doing and not doing, what they need, etc. We don’t want to add to that noise. We listen and seek to find ways to amplify a mother’s own voice and strengthen it through education, support, and connection. A lot of times that inner voice is drowned out, or we learn not to trust it, but it’s always there, and it’s when we start to listen to ourselves that true transformation can happen.
As far as the early days go, I think we saw the spark of what was possible just in the relationship we created with one other. Jalyn and I hit it off in part because we we both believe so strongly in the importance of supporting mothers. So, even if we had events and no one came (because that definitely happened!), we still had one another and that was really powerful.
On top of that, we’ve been lucky to have had a core group of moms who have really supported us from the get-go. Without them and their unending wells of encouragement and insight, it would have been a much harder journey.
Detroit Mama Hub will celebrate their new building with a soft opening in August followed by a month of free demo classes and open houses until the Sept. 10 grand opening slated for September 10th. Wanna find out more? Go to DetroitMamaHub.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram at Detroit Mama Hub.
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