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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Food, Clothing and Jobs – Oh, My! 6 More Startups Helping to Resuscitate Detroit

In Detroit, a host of mission-driven entrepreneurs and nonprofits are finding innovative ways to serve the embattled city’s underserved communities, starting by meeting their most basic needs for food, clothing, cleanliness and employment (See part one for five more startups that are helping to revitalize Detroit):

  • Two startups are helping to solve the seemingly disparate problems of Detroit’s short food-growing season and the large number of abandoned houses and unsafe blocks: turning run-down buildings into temporary greenhouses. Hoping to curb her neighborhood’s deterioration three years ago, Burnside Farm founder Kate Daughdrill began buying up vandalized lots on her block and cultivating them as Burnside Farm, which runs weekly meals and a CSA.
  • University of Michigan architecture professor Steven Mankouche is now transforming one of those burnt-out houses into an underground greenhouse. The AfterHouse design (left) is inspired by walipini greenhouses used frequently in mountainous regions of South America, employing the heat of the earth to keep crops at a regulated temperature through hot days and cold nights. All that's needed is a ground-level covering or roof (preferably glass, to let sunshine in) and a sizeable pit — similar to your average basement. AfterHouse is creating an open-source design that is simple, flexible, and inexpensive — ideally, cheaper than the cost of a full-fledged professional demolition. Out of the 30 largest US cities, Detroit is the only one without a curbside recycling program. Detroit Greencycle, owned and operated in Corktown, was created solely to take residents’ recyclables to the recycling center and kitchen waste to compost at local gardens. Best of all, the company does it in a zero-emission way: They bike it there.
  • Located in the historic Harmonie Park area of downtown Detroit, new nonprofit lunch spot COLORS describes itself as a “diverse dining experience, dedicated to social justice, locally sourced ingredients, and engaging community events.” COLORS provides job training to unemployed community residents to equip them with the life and job skills, and work experience necessary to pursue careers in the hospitality and food-service industry, and boasts a lunch menu that is locally sourced and ethically prepared.
  • Out of the 50 largest cities in the US, Detroit experiences some of the chilliest winters, with average daily temperatures hovering just below freezing level. Designed in Detroit, Agent Outerwear makes stylish, high-quality snow sports coats and jackets, while supplying children in need with quality, warm coats for the winter. For every coat purchased, Agent Outerwear donates a brand new coat to a child in need. Taking a page out of TOMS’ “Buy One, Give One” playbook, Agent Outerwear hopes to give away as many coats as possible with their, "Get Warm. Give Warm" program.
  • Nonprofit The Empowerment Plan, founded by 24-year-old Veronika Scott (left), is also trying to make the cold more bearable for Detroiters, specifically the roughly 20,000 who are homeless. The Plan centers around convertible coats that transform into sleeping bags at night and a bag for easy transport, made with some help from GM, which for the last two years has donated scrap sound-absorption material from its Chevy Malibu and Buick Verano models for use as insulation for the coats. The Plan trains and hires women from homeless centers to become full-time seamstresses and the coats are distributed to people living on the streets.
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