New nonprofit Oakland Thrive helps small businesses with an emphasis on diversity

"This is what a diversity, equity, inclusion initiative looks like in action - not just words, but action," said Sean Carlson.

Carlson is the chair of a new nonprofit called Oakland Thrive - working to help emerging and established small businesses prosper in Oakland County.

"Oakland County is a very prosperous county - 21 percent of the state of Michigan's GDP - over $110 billion is generated right here in Oakland County," he said.

But it's not prosperous everywhere - Carlson showed the difference in household incomes between Birmingham and Bloomfield - at the top - and Pontiac and Waterford - at the bottom.

"We've got a lot of businesses that are not being lifted up," he said. "And we want to make sure we're connecting them with resources."

Resources that could be in the form of legal assistance, accountants to help with tax issues, HR consultants, marketing firms - or loans.

"We have over $4.5 million of funding for small businesses to help them get started," he said. "We have a specialized focus on minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses. We are here to help all small businesses across the county but with a particular focus in those three categories."

It is already helping Cynthia Dane - owner and CEO of Recipes 4 a Reason -  specializing in clean,  healthy foods.

"They have access to resources that I don't have contacts for, so incredible follow through," she said.

It's the kind of access Shannon Steel wishes she would have had - but now has the chance to help others.

"Me being an African-American woman, I had a lot of challenges early in my career from a lack of support and resources," she said. "So the reason I'm excited to be a part of it, is because I'm able to give back and help those younger entrepreneurs."

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"The program is here and we're here to help and we'll be around for a long time," she said.