Why Entrepreneurs Find the Opportunity to Reinvent Detroit So Compelling
The city that once embodied the assembly line of the American Dream is certainly in need of entrepreneurial help. While the bankruptcy trials are wrapping up, there are still many problems to address. It's this need for problem solving that is attracting entrepreneurs to Detroit.
I meet entrepreneurs all over the city. They're growing urban farms where land has long been abandoned, or running a co-op that re-ignites an entire neighborhood. Entrepreneurs in this city are driven by the hard-working Midwestern spirit and the necessity of their work. There’s dozens of technology startups, growing food companies like McClure's Pickles, or Shinola who’s made manufacturing local sexy again.
At our company, Bamboo Detroit, more than 60 entrepreneurs gather to collaborate. We share the mantra that Detroit is for Doers. It’s this spirit that brings us together at such a critical moment in history. It’s a spirit we have to maintain in order to reinvent again. It’s the core of entrepreneurship.
Here’s why entrepreneurs choose to come to Detroit to start a company.
Detroit attracts civic-minded entrepreneurs.
You probably couldn’t drive for two miles without seeing Detroit’s massive blight creep into your view. Startups like Loveland Technologies are helping you understand blight better. The company created a platform to better inform citizens of the data and land around them. They’ve coined the term “Blexting” empowering locals to report blight in their neighborhood. It’s a tool that can be used in cities around the world while making a needed impact in Detroit.
Leaders are listening in Detroit and across the world.
Leaders across nonprofits, corporations and governments are paying attention to those who have solutions to bring to the table. Private and public sectors come together to support Social Entrepreneurship Challenges. Foundations are shifting to invest in local startups. A billionaire, Dan Gilbert, is leading the technology scene and supporting bold initiaves. You cannot travel anywhere without someone asking you what it’s like in Detroit right now. It’s the boilerplate for urban reinvention. It’s a motivator to know that others are listening.
The rent is very affordable.
I’m currently living in little row of apartments in Midtown Detroit. Our neighborhood is clean, safe and diverse in residents. I’m a five-minute drive away from downtown, where I run my business. It’s very easy to drive or bike into work and I absolutely love it. I grew up in the suburbs, where I’d previously drive 45 minutes or an hour to get to work and back. Less commute time and lower overhead makes it easier for any entrepreneur to get started.
The talent and resources are plentiful.
Students graduating from Michigan State University, the University of Michigan (who graduated Google co-founder Larry Page), and Wayne State University are talented and ready to innovate. These graudates just need a business to match up with. There’s also plenty of helpful business resources like Detroit’s Biz Grid pointing entrepreneurs to classes, training, real estate help and funding. All you have to do is get started.
The community is small and supportive.
We may not be the size of Silicon Valley, or whatever major city is near you. That's okay. I personally feel more connected and more supported knowing that this small, tight-nit community is here to help. Customers recognize and support your new business. It's truly great to feel so connected to your business community. This feeling may get watered down in larger cities.
As the city reinvents itself and business leaders step up the plate to help, entrepreneurs are able to leverage the opportunity all around them. It’s certainly better than high rent, investors who see you as a dime a dozen or missing that great feeling when Eminem blares in your car and the car was made by the company right down your street.
We're at a time here when change is criticial and entrepreneurs have the chance to lead the way.
Related: The Real Demon of Detroit (Opinion)