Business leader Kai Bowman helps Detroit entrepreneurs rise


Source: Special to Michigan News

Kai Bowman. Photo by Sam Davis.

Kaiwan “Kai” Bowman loves being in service to his community by connecting people with new opportunities. As the chief operating officer of the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, he works to close the racial wealth gap for Black entrepreneurs.

A Brooklyn native, Bowman came to Michigan to attend the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor’s in sports management and communications. Bowman also holds an MBA from Indiana University and a master’s from NYU. He’s worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Italy, but Detroit is home.

What does the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance do?

We created MDBBA to help Black people navigate systems that traditionally have held them out, like the banking system, teach them to get access to capital, and advocate for policy. Since March 2021 we’ve built an organization of more than 1,300 members and put more than $10 million in the hands of Black entrepreneurs.  We also get involved in some of the large economic development projects in Detroit like the NFL Draft to make sure small businesses can take part. In 2024, we’re expanding into Flint and Lansing.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

The impact of watching a business owner who woke up one morning with a fresh idea of a business they want to build, then helping them grow it or expand it. I liken it to being that oasis in the desert, where you’ve been going for so long by yourself, just trying to find that oasis to feed you. We’re able to provide that. We’ve got folks who were told “no” by a major bank go through our program and go back and get $2 million, or a business who puts their name in the ring for a $10 million contract.

What brought you to the University of Michigan?

I was a big fan of the Fab Five. It was my dream school, so I was fortunate enough to get in and have an amazing four years. I met some of my closest friends at U-M. That’s probably the best memory: lifelong friends.

What brings you joy?

Travel is my number one passion. To date I’ve visited 52 countries across six continents.
I’ve also been able to influence my family and my friends to travel. My kids have been to 30 countries. When I was at Whirlpool, I got an assignment in Milan and was able to take my family over to experience living abroad. 

Who inspires you?

My family, my children. My son is a sophomore at Indiana University, and my daughter is a junior in high school. They’re the reason I go as hard as I go. Watching my friends from U-M succeed — Donald Rencher just became CEO for the Hudson-Webber Foundation. Another friend is a surgeon. I met him in the dorm at 17, and he knew he wanted to be a surgeon. When it comes to friends and family, I’m the biggest cheerleader. 

Back to News + Stories