Attorney channels inner fire to help nonprofits

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Tamira Chapman chose to study law because she knew it would give her the skills to be successful in her future undertakings and to combat social inequalities.

“As a child growing up in Detroit, it was not a rare occurrence for me to witness appalling injustice being served to my community,” said Chapman, a 2007 graduate of Wayne State University Law School. Her own family was dramatically affected by inequity in the health-care system, she said. For five years, her grandmother, the matriarch and lodestone of the family, was misdiagnosed with asthma when she actually suffered from cancer.

“She was swept aside by healthcare professionals as she fought for her life with limited resources against a cold system that appeared to be designed to work against her and other similarly situated individuals. When she was finally correctly diagnosed, the cancer had metastasized and it was too late. After enduring prolonged and considerable pain, my grandmother passed away from cancer.

“From that moment on, I knew I would join the fight against social and especially healthcare-related injustice, and I wanted to help to improve communities that are the most vulnerable.”

After law school, she worked as a commercial litigation associate attorney for Miller Canfield, with a focus in information technology, health information technology and entertainment law. The firm encouraged her outside professional activities, and her passion to help others was always foremost in her mind.

“This allowed my active participation as a board member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association,” Chapman said. “During my tenure as a board member, I championed and secured a three-year DMBA scholarship donation from Miller Canfield to support new students pursuing a career in law. This was a remarkable moment for me, the DMBA and the firm because it was the first time in the history of the program that any firm made a multi-year donation commitment, and as a result, the DMBA named the scholarship after the firm.

“This set off a wonderful chain of events that led to other law firms also providing donations for scholarships, and we were able to provide much more financial assistance to many more students in need. I was overjoyed to know that there were students who were on a mission to become a lawyer, just like I was, who now have another resource to help them attain their dreams.”

Chapman was honored as 2011 Barrister of the Year for her service with the scholarship project. She praises Miller Canfield for supporting her and advocating for her.

In 2012, Chapman joined Ford as a healthcare attorney, who was later appointed to special counsel to the general counsel. Among other things, she was tasked with helping the automaker comply with the then new Affordable Care Act, including negotiating and retooling the coverage offered under labor agreements with the UAW.

“This was an incredibly moving experience for me,” Chapman said. “Not because of the complex or esteemed nature of the work, but because I was able to craft a policy that not only benefited Ford, but improved the lives of employees at every level of the company, including the hourly workers.”

As Chapman thrived at Ford, they also made her responsible for the legal aspects of labor and UAW negotiations.

In 2015, Chapman founded Storehouse, a business that helps nonprofits fundraise sustainably by leveraging technology and strengths in e-commerce, international sourcing and logistics, and social data analytics.

Rapidly, the business took off and soon was gaining No. 1 market share.

In 2018, she was named to Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 honors list and to Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Rising Star list. Coincidentally, she came to the decision that she had to leave Ford to balance family and fully channel her inner fire into her new business helping nonprofits.

“It was time,” Chapman said. “Work has always been a balance for me of trying to do what I believe I need to do versus what I want to do. Working at an international law firm and a Fortune 10 company has without a doubt been an amazing experience. Professionally, that experience was everything.”

“Personally, as time passed I felt what I would describe as a kind of guilt or restlessness. Something inside me was telling me that it was time — time to rebalance the work of my life. With the greater financial independence that came with my flourishing career, I was fortunate to have the freedom to change my professional direction and focus my time on projects that aligned closer with my desire to help others.”

Storehouse solutions are turnkey and can include subscription and online store services. In other words, it provides various internet and technology-based platforms where members of an organization, or at times the public at large, can purchase products tailored to their interests and mission of their organization as a fundraising activity for the benefit of their organization.

“With Storehouse, I was able to rapidly turn this company into a global business that achieved 400 percent annual revenue growth,” Chapman said. “This would not have been possible, especially in the short timeframe it took, without my legal background.”

Beyond Storehouse, she also serves as a business consultant for select companies, helping to solve problems and develop them for growth.

“Quite frankly, my education and professional work experience coupled with my entrepreneurial spirit make me a very effective business person,” Chapman said. “When I look at a business, I’m able to view it through a lens that swiftly identifies both legal and business issues. Without a legal background, it would not be possible for me to do business as confidently, efficiently and in a nimble manner.

“Attending law school at Wayne State University was an important time for me. It symbolized a culmination of all my efforts as a student trying to gain the education I believed would arm me with the tools to be successful in my future endeavors for myself and for others.”

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