What began as a cookie dough company ended up as a movement for Black Women entrepreneurs.
Never intending to be an entrepreneur, Autumn Kyles filled a niche in Detroit around a love for cookie dough, and in the process she began a movement and community of Black Women entrepreneurs she is now helping thrive.
EXP: How did the idea of Detroit Dough spark?
AK: I was really inspired by an edible cookie dough shop in NY called DO NYC. I absolutely love cookies and cookie dough, so I was really intrigued to know there’s an edible, safe-to-eat version out there. I brought the idea to my boyfriend and mentioned that someone should do it in Detroit. I never set out to be an entrepreneur (I’m super risk averse), but about a month later, my boyfriend, his siblings, and I started the business, and it was the best decision of my life.
EXP: What has been the biggest surprise launching a food company?
AK: Honestly, it’s the ability to see how broad your impact can be. It always shocks me when strangers know about Detroit Dough. Even though we’ve sold over 70,000 cups, it’s always a delight and surprise to hear people talk about my product like they talk about the big food brands.
EXP: How did you decide which dough flavors to offer, and which one is your favorite?
AK: Even though it’s not our best seller, I LOVEEEE our no-chip dough. It’s a chocolate chip cookie dough without the chocolate chips. As I’ve gotten older, I realized that chocolate chips can sometimes get in the way of the dough, so I’d just prefer to have everything in a chocolate chip cookie dough without the chocolate!
EXP: Will you expand the product line beyond dough?
AK: We’ll probably stick with just dough. Since we’re in the concessions industry, it’s best to keep one perfected product with multiple variants instead of trying to be a jack of all trades.
EXP: As a sweet connoisseur, where are your go-to Detroit spots for a mid-afternoon treat?
AK: In the summer, it’s always our friends at Milk & Froth. Their honeycomb ice cream is to die for!
EXP: What’s the connection between Detroit Dough’s give back to the NW Goldberg Neighborhood, infamously known from the 80s as Zone 8 coined from its zip code 48208?
AK: From the very beginning, we decided to donate 5% of all of our revenue to NW Goldberg Cares, a Community Development Organization that helps revitalize the NW Goldberg neighborhood. My co-founders Daniel and Victoria (siblings) were born and raised in this community, and it’s always been our goal to help bring back a predominately Black and historical neighborhood. To date, we’ve donated well over $12,000 to the community which has helped create safe spaces like the 6102 Art Park, Ferry Park Rest & Ride Park, and the Holland Maze, which is where we are today.
“As three millennial Black entrepreneurs, we knew that our success would mean nothing if we didn’t give back. We’re so proud to make a small but mighty impact in a community that means so much to us.”
EXP: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs interested in getting into the food space?
AK: I have two big pieces of advice. First, understand that your entrepreneurship journey will never be linear. You WILL have to pivot, you WILL have to take a step back, and you WILL have to try new things. The best companies have pivoted countless times! Change is always a good thing. The second is to invest in your branding. Food companies are a dime a dozen. Pay the extra money for a great designer and packaging consultant. You’ll thank yourself for it.
EXP: What was the impetus behind your recently founded platform Proxie, a resource that helps black women entrepreneurs to get their startup and business ideas off the ground?
AK: When the pandemic started, Detroit Dough was hit hard. In a matter of days, all our accounts were shut down, including our store at 12 Oaks Mall. While we were on pause, I noticed many of my friends taking steps to start businesses with their newfound free time. However, they didn’t know how and where to start. Using my network from Hampton University (a historically Black university), I learned that Black women entrepreneurs are starting businesses more than any other demographic, yet we’re the least funded. I realized that I had to do my part to ensure that Black women have the resources they need to grow their businesses and ultimately, close the revenue and funding gap for entrepreneurs who look like me. Proxie’s community is now 1600+ strong and we’ve partnered with national brands like HoneyBook, Honigman Law, and FloDesk.
EXP: If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
AK: I would love to trade places with Issa Rae! I feel like she’s truly walking in her passion and doing it with so much Black Girl Magic. I’d love to see how her life is in a week!
EXP: What has been the biggest silver lining of the pandemic for you?
AK: I think I’m finally starting to walk in my passion. I love entrepreneurship and I love helping others accomplish their goals. Before the pandemic, it was hard to truly find my passion because everyone is so caught up in the minutiae of living. For the first time, I had the opportunity to slow down, reconnect with myself, and do something completely built from my passion. Yes, closing my business indefinitely during the pandemic was scary and difficult, but through that stillness I birthed Proxie, which brings me so much happiness! I truly feel like I understand my passion and I know my path forward, something that every 20-something wants and desires.