The Spirit of Detroit statue downtown is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. But, the “true” spirit of Detroit is in the entrepreneurial nature of its citizens.
Modified: November 20, 2019
From Henry Ford to Berry Gordy, the Motor City is known for creative ingenuity. The city that brought the world both the automobile and Motown has plenty more up its sleeve. The resurgence of our city is seeing a rise in small and local businesses as well. Businesses like The Lip Bar are wildly successful national brands who got their start in, and remain rooted, in Detroit.
This holiday season, skip the mall and give your friends and family unique gifts from a Detroit entrepreneur. Choose from great products or cool services.
Anahi Holis and Jenaveve Biernat were inspired to open their wellness center in 2017 by their own personal passions. Jenaveve has been a massage therapist for 15 years and Anahi, an interior designer, did the complete renovations of the center which was once a two-bedroom apartment.
At Meta Physica, try the sauna intro special. For the first time, the session is only $20. The infrared chromotherapy sauna includes aromatherapy oils for relaxation, towels, and access to the center’s Spotify account so you can enjoy your favorite tunes while you sweat. The experience makes for an intoxicating and relaxing experience which is best followed by a hot, soapy shower.
Meta Physica Wellness Center has three saunas that can fit from 1-4 people, as well as a full-service juice bar when delicious healthy drinks that are themed after crystals with healing properties. After your sauna, try a smoothie or a shot of wheatgrass for the ultimate self-care treat.
Avenue of Fashion
Detroit’s only fiber arts studio is also a gallery, boutique, and learning space. As a Knight Arts Challenge recipient, Detroit Fiber Works is the only local ArtSpace with a bold plan to engage and enrich the community through public fiber art.
Founded by Rome Belanger of rural Quebec, Detroit Fiber Works is about creating art and fashion through leather by giving a delicate approach to texture. Detroit Fiber Works hosts fun and interesting workshops that can be gifted to others. Learn how to create a tote bag, or felted jewelry with your neighbors. Detroit Fiber Works has an art for body and home approach that is fun, playful, and engaging.
Images courtesy of Meta Physica Wellness Center and Detroit Fiber Works
For Andrea Williams, her business started casually from an Instagram post. “I posted something in my handwriting and got a lot of likes and comments,” Williams recalls, “friends started reaching out to have me write things for them.” From that simple social media post, Williams has built a side business that is successful and fun.
She is a self-proclaimed paper addict who has countless notebooks, both of her own creation and those that she enjoys purchasing. With Paisley Paper Company, she uses the same skills she applies to her day job as a Senior Art Director of an ad agency to her beautiful creations.
Paisley Paper Company products are whimsical, colorful, and unique. On the site, most greeting cards are buy four, get two free. Paisley Paper Company products are also available at Post, an open concept retail store on Detroit’s East side.
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Photos courtesy of Paisley Paper Company
Melissa Butler is one of Detroit’s favorite entrepreneurs. The story of her dismissal from the executives on Shark Tank remains the stuff of legend. Butler’s bright colored lipsticks would never be fashionable, the coaches decreed. If they were, the big companies would already be doing it. But they were wrong.
The success of The Lip Bar and other independent, urban-focused beauty brands and the advent of social media propelled the creative lip colors in a small batch market. This was ultimately embraced by the big brands who showed up late to the party. With her creative products and tenacious entrepreneurial spirit, Butler got a huge opportunity to sell her products in Target stores.
The Lip Bar’s flagship store is located in Parker’s Alley near Shinola Hotel. The store sells Lip Bar’s whole line of beauty products including the new Fast Face—which includes face and eye makeup that fit in a makeup case for a quick, but beautiful application.
Birthed from a dream he had in college, Detroiter Travis Wilder wanted to share his faith through a retail item. In the dream, Wilder says, the name, logo, and idea came to him clearly in a supernatural message from God. It was years later when Wilder would step out on faith and launch Spiritual Sports Socks. His brand is deeper than making cool socks with encouraging Biblical scriptures on them. “I want to impact the world through the word of Jesus Christ,” Wilder says.
Primarily available online, Spiritual Sport Socks offers ankle, crew, and custom socks. Wilder also creates socks to honor special months like Breast Cancer Awareness month. Spiritual Sport Socks also has artistic offerings, including a pair by local Detroit artist Kim Bell. These socks are unique gifts that are spiritually faithful, yet playful.
Pingree touts the first sneaker that is 100% designed and made in Detroit. As a worker-owned, social impact company, Pingree is focused on creating resiliency and living wage work for veterans and Detroiters while creating sustainable products that maximize well-being.
The Pingree “Mayor” is a sneaker that is made from luxurious leather reclaimed from the auto industry. These shoes are a lot like Detroit’s story–they are the start of something big that is being born from something that once was.
Pingree also has a line of totes, business card holders, work folios, and tees. The durable leather wear is distinctly Detroit and the story and mission of the store makes shopping with them feel like a gift in and of itself.
Detroiter Derrecka Ellis strives to capture personality and individuality in her custom fashion pieces. Having studied business and fashion merchandising at Central Michigan University, Ellis spent years in the retail industry before becoming inspired to create her own clothing.
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Ellis later found that her passion drew her toward children’s fashion and she creates beautiful, one-of-a-kind children’s items that make excellent gifts for new babies, or any special day for a special kid. In her online store, Ellis has custom tee shirts, headbands, and tutus.
While her merchandise is only available online, Ellis is proud that every piece in her online store is made in Detroit.
Founded in 2015 by Gregory Ducharme, Good Medicine is a collection of handmade and found objects that make up a line of small batch candles and leather goods. Made with high-quality fragrance oils and soy wax, Good Medicine candles are all made in Detroit and come in scents like patchouli and fig leaf. The Good Medicine website also features home goods, earrings, and other gorgeous vintage items. The brand hosts regular pop up shops around the city and are available at various day spas.
Detroit is a city where the entrepreneurial spirit has always lived. While there were always the manufacturing plants that fueled the mainstream economy, small businesses supported citizens of the city with unique and interesting goods. Entrepreneurship is about more than being a self-owned business–it is about creativity and a sense of autonomy that Detroiters crave. Small businesses are thriving in the city in both unique gift and craft ideas as well as in restaurants and retailers.