In Detroit, Entrepreneurs Meet Success in Hard Times

Here’s some good news via entrepreneurs Joe Minock and Chris Xiromeritis and the New York Times.  This is as encouraging in 2013-14 during the Detroit bankruptcy as it was in 2010 when I originally posted this excerpt.

Young entrepreneurs have met with success starting new businesses in Detroit, and continue to do so.  Future articles about the Future Midwest conference at Eastern Market, Detroit and Entre-Slam, which recently moved to Detroit, feature a fierce 2014-facing entrepreneurial spirit in SouthEast Michigan.


Article by Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

DETROIT — With $6,000 and some Hollywood-style spunk, four friends opened this city’s only independent foreign movie house three months ago in an abandoned school auditorium on an unlighted stretch of the Cass Corridor near downtown.

COMMUNITY COMMITMENT Nathan Faustyn, left, helped start a foreign movie house, complete with a pool table in the men’s room. Part of the goal was to make the area more livable. “When you live in Detroit,” he said, “you ask, ‘What can I do for the city?’”


Nearby, a retro-themed hair salon that opened just a year ago counts 1,500 clients.


After the unlikely hoopla of an opening night, red-carpet-style event in an area known for drugs and prostitution, exactly four customers showed up to see a film.

….“Our business ideas are about taking ownership of where you are and what you have,” said Ms. Willemsen.   “We want to do right by our neighbors.”

…The Burton Theater has had a few profitable nights. But, the owners say, this adventure in entrepreneurship was never completely about making money. It was also about creating a more livable community.

…Despite the recession — and in some cases because of it — small businesses are budding around Detroit in one of the more surprising twists of the downturn.

Some new businesses like the Burton are scratching by. Others have already grown beyond the initial scope of their business plans, juggling hundreds of customers and expanding into new sites.


Across from the Burton, for instance, Jennifer Willemsen just celebrated the first anniversary of her shop, Curl Up and Dye, a retro-themed hair salon serving 1,500 clients. Not far away, Torya Blanchard, a former French teacher, recently opened the second location of Good Girls Go to Paris, a creperie. Next door, Greg Lenhoff, also a former teacher, opened a bookstore in August called Leopold’s.

And just down the street from Leopold’s, on Woodward Avenue, Victor Both runs Breezecab, …started with a severance package…  He uses rickshaws to ferry workers and conventioneers around downtown. …Mr. Both, 34, …picked up the pedicab idea while touring Las Vegas before his layoff.   …“I haven’t made much money, but the experience has been priceless. I had no idea Detroit had so much love.”

….Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate of any state, has been aggressive in offering support for start-up companies, particularly in Detroit.
The Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center, which offers support and counseling, counts 20 small businesses, and 400 new jobs, created last year in the three-county area around Detroit, and the center expects that tally to grow as it completes its accounting in the coming weeks.
That was down from 41 new businesses in 2008, but on par with the 23 such start-ups in 2007 and 24 in 2006.

The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center…counts 20 small businesses, and 400 new jobs, created last year…and…expects that tally to grow 



At Wayne State University’s business incubator, TechTown, housed in a former auto plant, 150 companies jostle for space — up from one when the building opened five years ago.”

….“Our business ideas are about taking ownership of where you are and what you have,” said Ms. Willemsen, 29, of Curl Up and Dye. “We want to do right by our neighbors.”

And some customers are going out of their way to support the new city businesses.

“I live in the suburbs where I used to get my hair cut until Jen opened a store,” said Dessa Cosma, a client at Curl Up and Dye. “I’d rather spend my money here. It’s a conscious decision for someone who cares about the city.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 10, 2010, on page A18 of the New York edition.

Read the full article via



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