Jevona Watson

2004 | Detroit, MI

“I wouldn’t know how to negotiate, understand the nature of contracts, or anything like that without my education from MSU. I really use knowledge from school daily.”

Jevona Watson, ’04, was working as a janitor in the College of Law while pursuing her undergraduate degree in James Madison College when she told herself that one day she would be attending school there.

“Years later, I ended up doing just that,” said Watson, “I was taking night classes while teaching social studies during the day, sure. But I did it.”

While studying in various coffee shops because the libraries were “too quiet” for her liking, the idea to open a coffee shop came about, although she never previously thought to own her own business.

“I always say working for someone else is hard,” said Watson, “But working for yourself is hard, too. Choose your hard.”

As a native Detroiter, Watson decided to open up her own coffee shop, Detroit Sip, in place of an old upholstery store. She notes her education at MSU Law was absolutely critical to her success and she uses skills developed in her courses daily.

“I was a work study student in the Tax Clinic,” said Watson, “I worked in a rental housing clinic and MSU really emphasized practicality and real-world experience. Textbook knowledge doesn’t really get you far, and they know that.”

Her alternative career path stemmed from exploring her options, she said. What necessarily falls under the terminology “career” doesn’t mean you have to pursue that.

“Get the experience you need in order to commit to something,” said Watson, “Don’t be afraid to change and evolve.”

Detroit Sip was partially crowdfunded and opened in Watson’s neighborhood November 2017. Her food and drink products are all locally-sourced food: Coffee from Ash Supply and Germack, Brooklyn’s Brownies with Love, Dutch Girls Donuts, Greenhouse Soups and A Team Cheesecakes.

The Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project (DNEP), a University of Michigan sponsored group, helped Watson with multiple facets of her business. Law students worked on her trademark/copyright, business students helped with marketing and price setting, and art students helped with the interior decoration as well as revising the logo.   

Local art is also scattered throughout the business, the brick walls featuring pieces from MINT, a nonprofit that helps Detroit teens. In addition, the café tables are painted with Watson’s favorite quotes and scriptures, something she hopes serve as “inspirational reminders” to her patrons. 

“It takes every waking moment to pursue your dream,” said Watson. “I wouldn’t know how to negotiate, understand the nature of contracts, or anything like that without my education from MSU. I really use knowledge from school daily.”

Eventually, Watson sees her shop being a focal point for her community, where people can come together and enjoy each other’s presences.

“I want to be a mind changer,” Watson said. “I want people to live, work and play in Detroit—and do that over a cup of coffee.”