Creative space empowers Brightmoor young entrepreneurs

Scott Munekawa

We’ve all read the headlines and heard the conversations. The narrative has shifted and Detroit is being renewed. Detroit is resurging. Detroit has been resurrected. Thing is, the city never died. Everyday people, mostly without clout or celebrity status, live in, work in, attend school in, or just have a genuine, unapologetic love for the Motor City. Myself included.

I’m not originally from Detroit, but its Brightmoor neighborhood has adopted me as one of its own. I’ve spent a great deal of time in Brightmoor, where my wife used to teach at Detroit Community High School and I coached the school’s debate team.

This past fall I enrolled at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business as a part-time MBA student. As part of our orientation, we have an action-based project known as the Impact Challenge.

Ironically, our impact challenge included a major project in Brightmoor. The University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design and the Ross School of Business have teamed up to launch the Brightmoor Maker Space (BMS).

In the spirit of entrepreneurship, Ross and Stamps launched a crowdfunding campaign, through Michigan-based Patronicity, to fund the BMS so the students will have a physical hub to continue perfecting their skillsets. The goal is to raise $25,000 by July 10, and while we’re nearly halfway there, we still have a way to go.

This facility would be located in a 3,200-square-foot vacant building on the high school’s campus and would be an entrepreneurial and creative center for youth and adults. It would allow residents to get their business and creative juices flowing while ultimately launching successful ventures.

To the untrained eye, the Detroit Community High might not look like much from the front. But behind the high school exists a vibrant area full of potential. Every Saturday, dozens of high school students attend workshops to learn about metalwork, screen printing, multimedia tools and more.

They’ve built bikes, designed T-shirts and produced signs. As I picked up a hammer and chisel to build my own sign, I marveled at the ingenuity and creativity originating in the maker space. Here is a place that teaches students valuable skills and gives them an alternative to making poor choices.

The Brightmoor Maker Space is a brilliant and necessary concept would provide the essential resources for youth and adults to thrive and provide the neighborhood an economic lift.

The University of Michigan has answered Mayor Mike Duggan’s call to build out our neighborhoods and continues to build a strong and lasting relationship with the city of Detroit beyond downtown and Midtown. Stamps has been in partnership with the Brightmoor community for a few years now, working with the Michigan Economic Development Corps, Detroit Community Schools, Brightmoor Alliance and Neighbors Building Brightmoor. Michigan Ross in particular is dedicated to that goal as well.

Programs like the Impact Challenge allow the student body to make a social impact in Detroit while incorporating their business acumen. We want to connect with the neighborhoods that you don’t typically hear about when discussions regarding opportunity arise. My experience at Ross has given me the chance to do that.

It’s not about the short-term, feel-good moment. It’s about partnering with and preparing the next generation of budding entrepreneurs. Given the support needed, these students have the potential to become the next Henry Ford or start the next Shinola.

I write all of this to say that Detroit never left.

Detroiters, like the residents of Brightmoor, have always been here, working to make the city an even greater, livelier place to be. Along with the business leaders, politicians and well-known movers and shakers, they are invested in the city too. So am I.

Scott Munekawa is an MBA student at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.