'Young Detroit' founder tells stories of hope and progress
Entrepreneur Margarita Barry founded the blog 'I Am Young Detroit' to highlight small innovative businesses popping up in a city still facing stiff challenges.
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What were you doing before the site? Have you always been so entrepreneurial?
Before publishing I Am Young Detroit, I worked as a web and graphic designer and sometimes freelance writer. My last "regular" gig was working as a web & social media designer for a small advertising firm. Working there really inspired me, as the firm was owned by a female entrepreneur who's extremely successful in the traditional sense of the word. I've always been doing my own thing, dabbling in entrepreneurship. In my college days I started a multicultural women's magazine and social network called Tint and, before that, experimented with online retail, webzines, and 'zine-making.
You've been doing this blog for over a year now: What's your intent for the coming year? Are you doing any new programs or features that you're excited about for 2012?
I've been publishing I Am Young Detroit (IAYD) on my own for about two years now and to date have featured over 20 profiles of Detroit's young doers, many of which have gone on to receive substantial investments, support, and notoriety. As IAYD moves past its beta incarnation, I hope to publish more frequent and in-depth features and directly connect our readers with additional resources, funding, and growth opportunities.
If you could be the mayor of the city for a day, what would you do to improve it? Any grand ideas that you'd like to implement?
That's a loaded question. For starters, I'd want to address the major issues that were found in this survey. [The survey results indicate that while 55 percent of young people under the age of 25 would consider moving to Detroit, there are a few factors that need to be addressed first. The most important is the crime factor: 78 percent of respondents said that lower crime would compel them to think about living in the city, along with better neighborhoods and access to better schools for their children.]
Do you think small businesses, like the pop- up ones you featured on the blog, have a shot at surviving and competing with the big guns? Are you seeing the tide reverse?
That pop-up is my business! And I don't think the goal is to compete with the big guns, because quite frankly we don't really have any big guns. (Detroit doesn't have a Target, H&M, Meijer, or major big box, department, or retail store.) Detroiters appreciate smaller, unique, locally owned businesses, and many of us agree that we could use a lot more of them to create retail density. There's certainly a place in Detroit for the larger retail chains, but what we're not going to do is sit around and wait for them to come.... We're doers so we get out there and create our own where we see the need. The small businesses that are successful in Detroit are the ones that really know their communities and decide to put them first by providing relevant and valuable products and services.
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• To read more about Margarita's take on this new "pop-up" industry, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margarita-barry/detroit-pop-city-a-case-f_b_1115442.html.
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IN PICTURES: Detroit retooled