Community | Entrepreneurship

Detroit: Land of Opportunity

By Elizabeth Grabowski, Third Year Challenge Detroit Fellow

This generation has energetically been termed the “Millennials,” meaning we originate from the turn of the century. I’m not sure how my peers feel about this term, but I am excited about the association- it sounds like we should be doing something awesome with our lives, like a band of super heroes. We are new to our industries and to the workforce. We know a little, but not too much, and we have to make extra efforts to get people to listen to us, all the while figuring out how we fit into this world.

I recently encountered the first recognizable thing I had experienced created by my generation, which was a book written by a Millennial. This moment was influential because before this point, every goal I had was an abstract thought that would happen in the future. In a way, I had felt like I created that book myself. Writing a book is actually one of my future goals, and I had never realised that I could start tomorrow. Millennials are empowered by the opportunity to create things and shape the world around them because they are just starting to make things happen.

And at this age, where better to be than Detroit? Detroit is not a blank slate. There are people here doing all sorts of amazing things from neighborhood organizations who have lived here forever to fresh from school kids with big ideas. What Detroit provides is opportunity. Many describe it as a big-small town, meaning the city is small enough where an individual can make things happen, but big enough where little actions can affect a lot of things. The opportunities themselves are what draw most people to this great city, millennials included.

Even before I became involved in Challenge Detroit, this city has provided me with some amazing opportunities. Before the age of 22, I was fortunate enough to assist with hand constructing two pop-up stores in Detroit, where I had access to all sorts of high-profile design professionals. One such event was Light Up Livernois through Revolve Detroit, where I got to meet renowned artists from around the world. I was able to work with Year One Challenge Detroit Fellows, who played an influential role in the project’s development. As a young designer, having access to such impactful projects within the city limits proved to be a unique experience that could only happen in Detroit.

Millennials in Detroit have the opportunity to really make a difference because they have access to so many important people, places, and events. Not only do they take part in projects, they create organizations! Fellow architecture graduate, Rebecca Willis, started her own organization, Bleeding Heart Design, which inspires human altruism through acts of art, design and architecture. Many young people are able to explore their potential in this city because of the abundant opportunity created by openness to innovation and eagerness to make a meaningful impact. One of the main reasons I’m here is because I want to etch my own little niche in the city by starting a design business. And it’s possible. No matter how many crazy ideas I’ve heard and no matter how many I have myself, I have never heard anyone in Detroit say “it can’t happen.”

What draws many to Detroit is the thing that millennials are hungry for – opportunity to make something great happen. Detroit is forgiving and there’s more than enough room for new ideas and support for innovation. So people live here, and they create.