DETROIT, Mich. (WXYZ) - On a recent Saturday night, Nicole Farmer was helping entrepreneurs visualize their dreams by creating vision boards. The thinking behind it is simple.
“You need to identify what that vision is going to be,” Farmer says. “So now you have something to work towards.”
There was a time though when Farmer couldn’t visualize anything but a dead end future.
“It was a dismal reality that truly my life was just almost over.”
At 14 years old, she gave birth to her first son. At 16, she lived here without him, at a group home on the city’s east side.
“I was here 6 months going to high school and trying to finish my education but again just being depressed, not really loving myself, not having the confidence, not having the self-esteem, really very doubtful of what my future was going to be. Would I be able to take care of my son, will I ever receive custody again?”
She did get her son back, but would still face homelessness and hunger through the years.
So how did she go from there to a beautiful corner office in the former Crain’s building downtown, in the shadow of the a that exemplifies rebirth…
“It really was changing my mindset,” she explains.
She needed to believe in herself and the possibility of a bright future. And that started with the owners of a Tuffy Auto Center in Detroit, where her then-husband worked.
“They saw something in me and they kept coming to me and saying ‘you can own this, you can own this.’ I kept coming up with reasons why I couldn’t do it. I told them it was because of my skin color, it’s because I was young, I was 26 at the time, I only have a GED, I’m on welfare, I kept coming up with reasons why I couldn’t do it."
But eventually she did the hard work and at 26 years old, Farmer became the first African American woman in the United States to own a Tuffy Auto Center. And while the business failed after five years, it opened a door for Farmer to help others through a new business, Lifeline Business Consulting, that she started with her new husband in 2013.
“I wanted to become a lifeline for people. I wanted to let them know there’s someone to hold their hand during the process, so that if you want to start this journey, you have someone on your team."
Since launching, LifeLine has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs through classes and help with writing business plans, securing loans and realizing their dreams. All the while she’s living a life her younger self didn’t dare dream about. She has a picture of herself as a little girl in her office, and every day on her way home from work, she drives by that group home.
“I’m doing it not just for me, but for that 14 year old little girl,” she says. “Because she went through a lot in order for me to be where I am today. So I owe that to her.”
Nicole is now working with the young women at that group home to help inspire them to see what they can be someday.