DBG Founder and CEO Khali Sweeney Shares Trendsetting Ideas at ‘Trend Spark’ Symposium

DBG is a trendsetter and trailblazer in youth development, and it all started with our visionary leader, founder and CEO Khali Sweeney. Khali served as a guest speaker, drawing a standing ovation at the recent 2024 Sphere Trend Spark Symposium at Lawrence Technological University. He was interviewed live by our chief advancement officer Peter Fezzey about topics including DBG’s innovative approach, mentorship methodology, apprenticeship program, measured impact, sustainability initiatives, growth, and more. 

The event brought together industry leaders for a day of trend predictions, interactive futurist presentations, and idea sharing. Khali began by talking about what drove him to start DBG in 2007.

“My older brother came to me, I’ll never forget, he walked up to me said, ‘Man, bro, do you do understand the rest of the world don’t live like this right?’” Khali recalled. “He showed me a picture. He said, ‘All your friends are dead, in jail, dead, dead, dead. He said, what do you want to do with your life? And only thing I could think of that day was learn how to read.’”

In addition to sharing his personal story of triumph over a system that failed him and so many other students like him, Khali also talked about finding his purpose in helping young people succeed, and having “founders syndrome” when he first started DBG.

“I gotta be 100% honest, if it was just me, the organization would fail,” Khali said. “I had founder’s syndrome. I figured, this is my story, this is my struggle, this my community, I have to do this. But what I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have any network. I didn’t have any resources… But I had the mission in my heart.  I had to look at it in a different perspective and so I moved out the way and we’ve been growing ever since.”

Peter and Khali outlined DBG’s sustainability efforts that helped reduce energy costs by transforming our building on E. Vernor in Detroit into a net zero building, taking energy bills from $10,000 a month down to about $200 a month. They also discussed our apprenticeship program, designed to create the next generation of DBG leaders, and prioritizing DBG’s culture above all else.

“Early on, I identified the need and who was our target audience, which were the young people in our community, because they are the future,” Khali explained. “We have to give everything we have to put it all into them. So for me, that is the mission. We stay true to the mission. And we don’t compromise the mission for anything.” 

Khali told the crowd DBG’s biggest challenges revolve around continuing to raise the dollars needed to grow and reach more young people locally, nationally, and across the globe. If you’d like to support DBG, click this link.

Overall, the presentation showcased the transformative power of community, education, and support that DBG puts at the forefront of all we do. Khali’s journey from personal struggle to creating a beacon of hope for Detroit’s youth is a testament to the impact of his visionary leadership and the team’s unwavering commitment to our mission to inspire, uplift, and make a lasting difference in the lives of every student we serve.