Jessica is the BUILD Resident at D:Hive, this means she is responsible for the management of the day to day tasks of the BUILD program, Pilot, Build Bazaar, and alumni programming.
How did you first end up here in Detroit?
I’m from Chicago originally, but came to Detroit about 3 years ago to participate in an Americorps program.
When did you start working at D:Hive?
February of this year. I actually took the BUILD class that started in January, and then was offered the job as Build resident in February (while still in the course). So I graduated with a job—which is epic!
You said you came here about 3 years ago. Do you think you’ve seen change really start to accelerate while you’ve been here, or do you think the environment has changed at a pretty consistent pace even before you arrived?
I definitely think things are accelerating. Opportunities are becoming more accessible to every day people. When I first moved here, it seemed like only those who were “in the know” or already had access to the networks and knowledge about the city could get the support and information needed. Now, it seems like the network of support here in Detroit now has grown significantly. I see people crossing into different sectors all the time to help others and to learn more. It’s an incredibly supportive environment that seems to be growing stronger every day.
What’s one thing you’ve learned as Build resident?
That businesses can have a significant social impact. I was in the nonprofit game for a while and many people didn’t know there was a space for business owners to have this social drive. Pretty much everyone who goes through the Build program has a social drive—even if they are trying to support themselves primarily, they also all care so much about the community. It’s been really cool to learn about existing enterprises as well as all the great ideas floating around out there.
Could you see yourself starting a social enterprise yourself?
Well, I actually already have. My build class idea is called 313-exchange. I originally wanted it to be a nonprofit, but [D:Hive Executive Director Jeff Aranoff] explained that my idea might be better off being a business. It was picked up recently by an organization called the Millenial Train Project, which is a 10 day train trip where you travel across the country and work on your project with everyone for 8 hours a day.
I talk to alumni all the time and when you’re in the build class (or any accelerator program, I’d imagine) you have this really supportive environment that reenergizes you. You have 3 hours to just vent and work on your project, but when it ends you may lose some of that focus or drive since our lives are consumed by so many other things. That’s why I’m so excited to go on the trip in August.
Detroit became what it once was primarily on the back of big industry—automobile manufacturing. Now, it seems economic revitalization is taking place much more at the smaller, grassroots effort. Do you think there is a place for both to work together, or that one will dominate the other in the years to come?
I think there’s a place for big business to come in here—obviously its not good to just have small mom and pop business or just big businesses. I think both have already started to come in recent years and will continue to do so. The unique thing about Detroit though, in my opinion, is the relationship these small and big businesses have with each other. At the end of the day if you’re coming here and opening up a business, you obviously care about the city. So the support network I mentioned earlier is not just among small-scale entrepreneurs, but really extends from big businesses to small and everywhere in between.