When she was in elementary school, Madalyn already had aspirations to start an architecture firm. Her mom had once wanted to be an architect, but upon graduating college, architecture was a field women were extremely discouraged from. Because of her own barrier, she always encouraged Madalyn’s creative curiosity. Madalyn credits her mom with originally developing her sense of style.
After high school, she studied architecture for 3 years at Lawrence Technological University and then transferred to Detroit’s College of Creative Studies (CCS), one of the top design schools in the country. At this point, she moved away from architecture to a focus on product/industrial design. She was especially interested in a sustainable approach to furniture/housewares and fixtures for buildings.
Why did you choose to stay in Detroit? “Detroit had more opportunity for me to grow on a personal level. It has a very rich history but is also very misunderstood. I wanted to understand it from the inside out and be a part of the positive change”
Madalyn soon discovered that it was not leading her on the path she envisioned. She started working at Crain’s Detroit Business as a graphic designer for their marketing and events. It was a good launchpad for her, but it had very strict parameters. “I didn’t want to go back to school, but knew I didn’t have the business skills to run my own business.”
She was finally able to enroll in the spring 2015 Build Basics course, learning how to pitch herself to potential consumers. This was the boost she needed to build up a client base, and just a few months later, she took on Build Institute as a client. Her original dream job was fulfilled when she became a full time employee for Build this past January.
What’s your favorite part about Detroit? “It has allowed me to really push myself outside of my comfort zone, personally and professionally. The passion of people who are here, whether they’re native or not, is unlike every other city I’ve experienced [...] Detroit is like one big incubator.”
What’s it like to be an entrepreneur in Detroit? “Detroit is a little bit more collaborative and supportive than other cities. In the creative sector, design service needs are rising. It’s more competitive in other cities. This is the perfect place to define my worth and work out the kinks of my business.”
She works tirelessly as Build’s Brand Strategy Manager, while still developing Madalyn Knebel Design every day. She hopes to set herself up for success here and then launch herself in NYC or LA to take over the design world. Working at Build has helped her to gain confidence in networking, always challenging her to go outside of her comfort zone. First, though, she wants to stick around for the food revolution in Detroit and be a part of reviving the city.
How do you describe social entrepreneurship? “Someone who balances people and profit, or plant and profit, or all three together.”
Would you consider yourself one? “A little bit, not 100%, but that’s okay. I’ve always wanted my design work to have a positive impact on the world. I used to do a lot of volunteer work and really enjoyed giving back to people.”
Madalyn’s passions, skills, and aspirations continue to evolve. She’s found herself especially loving prop/product styling, and envisions starting a publication that focuses on food and design. “Food can be art, it’s all about appreciating quality products, whether its produce from a farm or beautiful homemade plates from a local business. I kind of want to be a Martha Stewart. I view myself as a Renaissance woman.” She’s proud to have pushed herself continually, and is confident in her ability to keep growing.
Favorite hobbies outside of design: I used to really love ballet. I really love gardening. It’s the best therapy in the world. I love cooking and dining and nourishing your body and growing with others.
Favorite food: I like figuring out how to make things that I normally can’t eat (as someone with Celiacs). I’ve been on a curry kick.
Fun fact: I collect vintage clothes from estate sales, garage sales, whoever will sell me stuff. I like to call it treasure hunting.
Favorite quote: “The more you see yourself as what you’d like to become, and act as if what you want is already there, the more you’ll activate those dormant forces that will collaborate to transform your dream into your reality.” — Wayne Dyer