In the early 1970s, just a few years after the landscape — and psyche — of Detroit was transformed by escalated racial tension, the United States and the People’s Republic of China found a common language in just two words: Ping-pong.
Through a shared love for the game, the two nations engaged in “ping-pong diplomacy,” using growing participation and the popularity of their national teams to ease tensions, smooth relations, and begin a dialogue between the two countries at Detroit’s Cobo Hall.
Diallo Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Life Remodeled, speaks that same language.
Born and raised in Detroit, Diallo is a graduate of Cass Technical High School. After graduation, he went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance at Wilberforce University in Ohio and then a master’s degree in divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
His financial expertise caught the attention of giants like ExxonMobil and IBM, where he spent years in corporate finance before his hometown beckoned.
He decided to return to Detroit and use that same expertise to start a small business in the burgeoning downtown: Drive Ping-Pong Bar & Grille. It was founded on a belief that the game could in fact bring a diverse mix of people together, creating opportunities for new conversations in a fun, casual, and safe atmosphere.
This experience inspired a passion for creating equity and opportunity where it’s not easily found, and ultimately led him to Life Remodeled, where Diallo oversees day-to-day operations with a focus on its fiscal health and its responsibilities to the growing communities the organization serves. Using ping-pong as his metaphor, he brings stakeholders together to engage in a healthy back-and-forth and find their common language.
With one son in college and a daughter finishing high school, Diallo and his wife (a pediatric psychologist) use their newfound free time to explore and support small businesses throughout Detroit — and bring his paddle out of retirement every now and then.