Nia Batts is changing the world one blowout at a time and is a total boss babe.
As Co-Founder and CEO of Detroit Blows, she’s also the Chair of its philanthropic arm, Detroit Grows which donates a percentage of the salon’s retail footprint and $1 from every blowout service to microgrants that support female entrepreneurs and local, women-focused organizations in the city.
EXP: You grew up in Detroit, left, and came back in 2017, what was the draw to come home?
NB: Do you ever really leave Detroit? Katy Cockrel and I, and probably six or seven other friends have a tiny star tattooed on our right hands marking the spot of Detroit on the mitten. Once you’re here it kind of stays with you, and you carry it wherever you go. That’s what we all love so much about it. While living and working in New York City, I kept finding a way to bring up the city in conversation; socially, at work with clients and partners, and eventually was able to create some professional alignment that brought me back to Detroit on a regular basis.
EXP: How did the idea to open Detroit Blows come about?
NB: Katy and I were ultimately solving for a business we wanted to patronize. There was no place in the city for quick and convenient beauty services. If you wanted a blowout, a quick manicure, makeup for an event; you had to travel your dollars outside of the city. For a city that lost a significant amount of its tax base over the preceding years, the economics of that didn’t feel right. Cities rebuild in part because of community, and we find it in the buildings we live in, the restaurants we eat at, the salons we visit to feel tended to and cared for. We’re grateful that we get to hold space for that.
EXP: Part of your business model includes a philanthropic give-back component – how has this initiative impacted the community?
NB: We’re strong believers in the “multiplier effect” — that by investing in women and young girls, we are investing in their families, in their communities; the dollars are proven to go further. A lot of people have invested in us, and we’re very proud to have built a business model that pays forward that investment via our philanthropic arm, Detroit Grows. Our first grant was made to Alternatives For Girls; in support of two young women interested in pursuing cosmetology, and the second was made to The Empowerment Plan; investing directly in the entrepreneurial pursuits of three women who work at the organization. We look forward to following their stories and learning more about the impact they’ll continue to have in the community.
EXP: What’s it like working with investors and business partners who are your best friends?
NB: You have to find partners and collaborators who are passionate about the work, but also willing to do the work. When one person has less bandwidth it’s nice to have someone that can be there to help pick up the slack. We’re in the beauty business, but it’s certainly not all glamorous. It’s a lot of long days, and quick problem solving; it’s nice to work with people with whom you have a shorthand.
EXP: You’re a jet-set entrepreneur – where are the last three place you’ve traveled and why?
NB: I endeavor to be on planes a little less for the rest of the year. Let’s see how it goes! A few weeks ago I was in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Auckland (New Zealand). In addition to Blows, our third co-founder Sophia Bush, and I consult in the entertainment, media and technology space, and we have clients in all of those markets. It’s a bit of a crazy travel schedule, but if I stack it all together, it actually allows me to spend the most uninterrupted time home in Detroit, and at Blows.
EXP: When out-of-towners come to visit Detroit where are your favorite places to bring them?
NB: In addition to blowouts, I love music, food and art — so usually we try and hit all three. I’m a huge fan of Library Street Collective, our neighbors and friends down the street, so we often view the show they currently have up, and then try to see some of the other installations and public art around the city; including all of the brilliant artists that are on display at the Shinola Hotel. We’re lucky to have so many incredible restaurants in this city, Selden Standard, Lady of the House, San Morello — we are really having a culinary moment here so I try and hit them all. But I always make sure we go and eat pasta at SheWolf. The owner and Chef Anthony Lombardo is a childhood friend, and he always sends us home with pancake mix that they mill in house!
EXP: What’s next for Detroit Blows?
NB: We’re in our groove and having a lot of fun over on Library Street, and are thrilled there’s excitement around expansion of the brand. In addition to our loyal clients in Detroit, we’re grateful for all of the supporters outside of the city who have been rooting for us. We launched our travel business this month, and it’s been so rewarding to bring the team and their stories to the new places we visit. I’m particularly excited about some of the brand and product collaborations that we have coming to market this year.