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Changing Detroit, one startup at a time

Entrepreneur creates website to highlight positives in city

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Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:40 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

At first click, might seem like an average website. A cityscape outline sits atop the vibrant, blue background with a shifting array of photos of young men and women. The design is sleek yet simple, but the message within the website is strong and filled with optimism.

In the midst of financial madness, many youngsters believe that leaving Detroit is the only route to success. But one resident sees the opportunities available in the area, and she has created I Am Young Detroit to convince Detroiters that there are plenty of reasons to stay. Born to a single mother on Detroit’s northwest side, Margarita Barry has felt the hardships happening throughout the area. After growing up in a family of artists and then connecting with local innovators in her early 20s, Barry recognizes the possibilities for success. She sees a city of progressive minds, doers and creators who are just as determined as she is to create a brighter future not only for themselves but for Detroit as well.

The word “movement” is used to describe the heightened presence of young go-getters who are working to renovate the city’s image with art projects, new businesses and resources for young people. These inventive individuals view Detroit’s vacancy as an opportunity for better things rather than the city’s death sentence.

Positive movements sparked by innovative young minds like Barry’s are beginning to write new headlines for Detroit’s news coverage. The 27-year-old Detroit native created I Am Young Detroit, a website dedicated to inspiring and promoting local doers, as well as three startups: Detroit Design Lab, a web design agency; Detroit Pop, a pop-up retail company; and Bohomodern, a collection for women combining modern and vintage elements. Through her companies, Barry strives to encompass the works of innovative, young doers while offering inspiration and knowledge to those with a passion for Detroit’s success.

“There’s just so much opportunity here right now, especially when it comes to affordable living, affordable work spaces, business support opportunities, access to capital, and of course there’s always something exciting to do and see,” Barry said. “Right now we’re seeing so many new businesses sprout up and creative movements take place that it can be overwhelming if you’re trying to take on all of it.”

*I am Young Detroit*

In a time when most of the nation was shining negative light on Detroit, Barry saw young change- makers in the area working to put their unique stamp on the city. After getting involved in various entrepreneurial programs, Barry questioned why she hadn’t heard about the positive city doers before. Two years ago, she created I Am Young Detroit to operate as a hub for them and those who want to join the movement. The website includes a motto — “Not just a blog, we’re a movement!” — that showcases the dedication of like-minded folks in the area.

Through IAYD, Barry has connected with and promoted progressive Detroiters, giving her the inspiration to create her own businesses. The website has even helped bring the positive happenings to the forefront of national coverage for Detroit.

“I think the nation knows that Detroit is struggling, but it’s great that these positives have been making headlines, too,” Barry said.

Barry recently gave I Am Young Detroit a facelift by overhauling the design, separating features and daily blogs and integrating a new element, CitySpotters. With the renovation came a title upgrade: I Am Young Detroit 2.0.

“CitySpotters users inform us whenever they spot a promising new business or movement led by a young citizen doer. Accepted contributions may appear on one of our city blogs and will be rewarded with cool gifts that encourage local spending with the young entrepreneurs we feature,” Barry said.

Barry is proud of the community vibe IAYD 2.0 has created in Detroit. Eventually, she hopes to branch out to cover cities across the nation with I Am Young Nation. However, she has ideas and goals for IAYD 2.0 that she has yet to reach.

“Just working on I Am Young Detroit, I continue to get this overwhelming feeling that I could be doing so much more,” Barry said.

*Detroit Pop*

Because of the economic hardships felt in Detroit, most big-box retailers refuse to open locations within the city limits. The financial commitment is too risky, but pop-up stores offer an affordable alternative. The temporary retail locations give businesses the chance to test the market while bringing attention to the otherwise empty buildings.

Last year, Barry raised more than $8,000 to open 71 Pop through Kickstarter, an online funding platform where users invest in creative projects. 71 Pop was a year-long, collaborative retail space that featured 71 local artists and designers in its Midtown location. The store was such a success that Barry recently opened a new version of the pop-up concept: D:Pop.

“This time around, we’re a hybrid of both static and pop-up retail, so it feels a bit more like a traditional retail setting,” Barry said.

The store is fully staffed, which allows brand creators to sell their items without the worry of the space’s upkeep and marketing expenses. Each season, installments in D:Pop change, introducing new brands to the store’s offerings.

The store is located inside the D:Hive headquarters at 1253 Woodward Ave. D:Hive serves as a resource hot spot for locals looking for information about anything Detroit, including housing, jobs and more. D:Hive and D:Pop work together to give creative Detroiters the resources necessary to succeed in the city.

“Some people will just focus on the financial and business aspect of Detroit. But with people like Margarita working to promote entrepreneurship within the arts, we can really do great things in this city,” said Judith Sallador, a D:Pop employee.

*A Bright Future Ahead*

Barry’s other businesses, Detroit Design Lab and Bohomodern, continue the positive energy felt by both IAYD 2.0 and D:Pop. The web-design company focuses on projects for small business while Bohomodern creates a collection for young, creative types. Barry plans to turn Bohomodern’s online presence into a brick-and-mortar location in the near future.

The collaboration of Detroit residents has sparked a movement; Barry has aided in getting that movement to the headlines. Projects like Woodward Windows, Grand River Creative Corridor and the Dequindre Cut are turning desolate spaces into vibrant art-covered destinations, and organizations like D:Hive and Bizdom are helping progressive folks like Barry make a difference. Together they can fill empty storefronts, decorate bare walls and change Detroit’s future.

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