Blackstone LaunchPad hosted a mixer last Friday, where students listened to Kyle Bartell, Wayne State student and co-founder of Sit On It Detroit.
Sit In On It Detroit is a non-profit organization that builds benches for bus stops out of reclaimed wood from old houses and warehouses. Detroit lacks benches at many bus stops, and buses can take time to arrive at their stops, which means long waits. Bartell acknowledged this.
“People are waiting sometimes an hour, hour and a half, and you have more ‘aggressive riders’ or people who have to ride the bus everywhere they go.”
Sit On It benches serve a double purpose by acting as miniature libraries, shelved with books for citizens to read while they wait for the bus stop. This is a form of place making, or creating and improving public spaces.
Bartell and his co-founder Charles Molnar came up with the idea of making benches after working on interactive furniture such as spiral staircase wrapped around a tree.
“We played with the idea, and it took off… The bench doesn’t just stop there. The idea is to make it progressive,” said Bartell.
Bartell started the company with only $25.00 in his pocket, but it took almost $150 to finish the project. It raised the question of how to continue, said Bartell.
Aubrey Agee, senior program administrator at WSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad met Bartell a year ago.
“I asked him a few question, and asked him where he was at. He told me he was a Wayne State student, and he was studying urban planning. He was looking for a warehouse.”
Agee met with Bartell and Molnar more than once, and multiple business connections were made. Since then, Sit On It Detroit has built upwards of 25 benches for bus stops in the city. The organization raises profits needed for wood and other tools by raising sponsors.
“People can have a bench for their home or business, and that will go towards another bench being built.”
Sit On It Detroit is just one of many organizations that have been aided by Blackstone LaunchPad here at Wayne State. Businesses include EliTea, a natural tea bar, AskSupportNow, an IT Support company, and Girls With Guts, a non-profit support group for girls with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Each of these are student run.
Bartell is currently taking a break from school to focus on the work he and Molnar are doing. It’s encouraging, he says.
“We’re encouraging ourselves, and we’re also encouraging others.”