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November Man of the Month: Raphael Wright

While many in and out of the city may speak negatively on Detroit, one resident is making it his mission to, “make the hood great again.” Raphael Wright, 32, is a lifelong Eastside Detroiter who is making it his mission to give back to the city that bred him. As a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, Wright started his first business after graduating from Marygrove with his Bachelor’s in Business Administration in 2012, but he says he was a “hustler,” much before then. Plug’d Media, founded in 2014, is a media company that publishes books, manufactures and distributes clothing, and manages marketing for several brands. Plug’d Media is the publisher of October 2021 Man of the Month, Jerjuan Howard’s book, “A Message to Black College Students.”

Since starting Plug’d Media, Wright has had a knack for being his own boss. He is an author of multiple books, publisher of several others, healthy food advocate, owner of an auto repair shop, garden and most notably, a crowdfunded grocery store on the city’s east side. Neighborhood Grocery will be the first Black-owned grocery store in Detroit since 2012. Located in Jefferson-Chalmers in the city’s District 4, Neighborhood Grocery is Wright’s plan to have a chain of community-owned grocery stores. As the former Manistique Market, Neighborhood Grocery will soon be a small format, full-service grocery store – and its investors are all Michiganders. For as little as $50, anyone can invest in the store to help battle poverty and displacement in the city. In return, investors receive an annual interest, product discounts and rights to vote on select decisions regarding the store.

Neighborhood Grocery has been in ideation since 2015, but like most businesses, 2020 impacted Neighborhood Grocery heavily. The purchase of the brick-and-mortar was in 2020, and Wright ironically credits the quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic for allowing people to learn about his works, online.

“So many people were able to take a deep dive into much of the work that I've been doing for many, many years now,” said Wright. “It started to pay off in 2020 because of the new gained exposure that I got because people were at home; and that momentum has rolled over into 2021.”

Neighborhood Grocery was birthed from what neighborhoods in Detroit, look like, to Wright. The reason for the crowdfunded concept, is simple: “we have to save ourselves,” said Wright. “I don’t look at the government as much of a help nor do I look at many organizations – for profits, nonprofits, etc. as much of a help. Until we, as a collective, put forth effort to make some type of change happen. This is my effort to bring about change.” This change, is to not look for others for constant help, but to essentially be self-reliant. When Wright sat back and thought about majority-Black Detroit and how most development doesn’t go into its neighborhoods, he knew that this business couldn’t be a traditional one funded by venture capital or large corporations.

Being a grassroot business in, and for Detroit and by Detroiters, Wright wants to teach others about healthy food, while granting opportunities to those who’d otherwise be told “no,” by large corporations to pursue a dream in a field such as investing.

While maintaining his many businesses, Wright is excited to be on schedule with the grand opening of neighborhood Grocery in late February to March 2022. With Neighborhood Grocery, Plug’d Media and Wright all working in separate and collectively, Wright continues to push his current and future businesses with one goal: to create a table that nobody had to beg to be at.

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