10th annual TEDxDetroit sends message of inspiration, inclusion

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Kate Biberdorf breathes fire during her TEDxDetroit presentation on her love of science.

A magician, a fire-breathing chemist and "kidpreneurs" descended on Detroit Wednesday to inspire hundreds of attendees about technology, engineering and design.

More than 30 speakers and performers, most with connections to Michigan, brought short messages to motivate, entertain and advise both personally and professionally at the 10th annual TEDxDetroit conference in the Masonic Temple. 

Together, their message was: Just do it.

"You get to hear about the stories behind these successes," said Jonathan Wynn, a 57-year-old education consultant from Ann Arbor. "It gives you a sense of hope for where you want to go."

One of the success stories came from Alina Morse. The 13-year-old from West Bloomfield created Zollipop, a multimillion-dollar company that offers three types of vegan, sugar-free candy now available in Walmart, Whole Foods and Kroger.

When she was 7 years old, Morse said she took a trip to the bank with her father. She asked her father for a sucker from the teller, and her father warned her the candy was bad for her teeth.

Morse passed on the sweet treat that day, but it led her eventually to create a sucker that uses sugar alternatives that can reduce the acidity in the consumer's mouth and strengthen the teeth's enamel.

Alina Morse, founder of Zollipops talks about her product, a lollipop that cleans your teeth.

"After talking with my dad about what makes candy bad for my teeth, and what it does to my teeth, I decided I was going to be the one to make it happen," Morse said. "I wasn't going to let anything stop me, including fear."

After her presentation, Alina Morse said Wednesday her next appointments were dance class and then school the next day. The middle school student said she is writing a book about her story and working on creating new candy options.

"People often criticize Millennials," said her father, Tom. "But Millennials are dreamers, and they have a strong work ethic. We need to encourage that."

The support from her parents impressed Laurie Golden, 55, of Plymouth who came to the conference with colleagues from the Canton Public Library.

"They raised her to have that kind of mindset that success is available if you are willing to work for it the right way," Golden said. "That is something you can apply in your professional or personal life."

Sarah Mellema, who works in public relations on the west side of the state, said she liked a moment of Alina's presentation that showed a bunch of notes of all the ideas that she had.

"I think a lot of people as kids have these ideas that are crazy or silly," Mellema said, "but she went out and found why candy was bad for her teeth. I loved her message of just do it."

Speakers also focused on inclusion and diversity. Melissa Butler, CEO and founder of The Lip Bar, said she failed to obtain a business deal on the TV show "Shark Tank" in 2015. But the Detroit native has grown her lipstick collection that includes bright purples, blues and greens to stores across in the country, including Target.

"I didn't start making makeup in my kitchen sink because I was passionate about makeup, no," Butler said, "I was frustrated with linear beauty. ... I challenge each of you when you go home to look at yourself in the mirror, look at all the greatness you embody. Accept it and love it. And finally, when you leave the house tomorrow, try to spread that same love and acceptance to somebody else."

Lisette Reed of Bloomfield Hills said Butler's story was relevant and personal for her.

"It was something I feel like I can sit down with my daughter and talk about with her," the 46-year-old marketing consultant said. "I resonated with her comments about grandmothers making comments about your appearance and what you're eating and your size, so it was nice hearing that encouraging message."

Kirstin Kendall, 49, of Ferndale agreed: "It all felt very timely and opposed to what we're seeing in the world right now. It was all about kindness and inspiration."