Nicole Bush

A Detroit startup experience

Detroit itself could be considered a startup.

It’s innovative. It has a business model. It knows its audience. It’s pumping out MVPs. It works hard to find streams of revenue. And it definitely has a few love matches.  

Love Matches

The Famer's HandThe Farmers Hand is one of these love matches for the city.

Rohani Foulkes and Kiki Louya talked to us about why The Farmer’s Hand came to be, and how.

What stood out most about the why? was Foulkes’s comment. She talk about how she’s lived in big cities (Sydney and NYC) and how she saw that Detroit was missing the small neighborhood grocers that she found common in those cities. She mentioned how parts of Detroit are a food desert and how The Farmer’s Hand helps to solve part of that problem for the Corktown neighborhood.

To relate this back to what we’ve learned about startups: Foulkes and Louya saw a problem and solved it in a meaningful way.

Problem: A lack of real-food options combined with poor public transit. With limited options, they said, oftentimes people have no other choice but to feed their families with what they can find at gas stations.

Meaningful solution: They bought fresh foods closer to people who needed them, making it easier for families in the Corktown neighborhood to feed their families better, healthier foods. The also give back to the farmers who grow the food, which deepens connections in the community all around them.

The Farmer’s Hand is a great example of not basing your business off an un-researched idea just because your think your idea is a good idea. It won’t just be willed into existence based on what only you think. You have to look into it, research it and be wise.

Foulkes and Louya took the time to make smart business decisions with their location, idea, realty and support staff. They’ve put in the time, the effort and the energy to find a good team that can see their vision and believes in and supports it.

And at the end of the (business) day they produce a really great product.


PonyrideWhile telling us about Ponyride, the director of curation and programming, Amy Kaherl (who is also the executive director of Detroit Soup), told us that Ponyride was built “out of responding to entrepreneurs.” Out of people saying “I want to do X and I want to do Y” but needing a space and the support to do it.

She told us Ponyride “helps entrepreneurs take the risk they want to take” when starting up a new business. A big part of this is because they are able to offer space to entrepreneurs at or around half the market rate.

Kaherl spoke to Ponyride’s innovation through its “sector-less” support.  Meaning, it puts a lot of different people from a lot of different businesses in one room and helps them help one another.

For reasons like this, Ponyride is a huge love match for Detroit and a lot Detroit startups.

A Takeaway

Kaherl gave us her best piece of advice for startups, telling us that there’s a lot noise out there. That we have to fight tooth and nail for our ideas because no one is waiting for us. No one has a check just waiting because it’s a good idea. And she told us not to fight our struggles, because they are there for a reason.

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