Seeing Detroit Through an Entrepreneurial Lens

Katherine Kampf is a rising junior studying Computer Science with a Minor in Entrepreneurship. She is extremely interested in the relationship between people and technology and enjoys approaching life with an entrepreneurial mindset. Katherine is also the Operations Manager for a philanthropic and entrepreneurial student organization called MUSIC Matters and intends to launch a venture focused on presenting political information in a meaningful and humorous context this fall. 

Katherine reflects on her experience participating in CFE’s most recent student immersion trek to Detroit:

 

Growing up in Cleveland, the so-called “Mistake on the Lake,” I have always understood the passion of Detroiters. Loving a city that no one believes in, a city you defend because no one else will, a city you know will be incredible if you just give it a few years. And while I have always felt this towards Cleveland, I had yet to connect with Detroit in the way it deserves. This held true through two years in Ann Arbor at The University of Michigan until I had the opportunity to experience it through the lens of an entrepreneur.

When I read about The Center for Entrepreneurship’s Detroit Trek, my venture-centric mind saw it as an opportunity for in-depth look at a city that could benefit from my ideas and support. I took a leap of faith and decided to apply. I didn’t know anyone going on the trek, and I knew that it would be outside of my comfort zone to meet with students and alumni I had never met before, in a city I barely knew. I’m glad I took that leap.

From the first minute of our morning tour of Detroit, I began to feel the city’s entrepreneurial spirit. It quickly encapsulates you, not only because of the incredible variety of startups and innovators in Detroit, but also because the people of Detroit seem to nurture and grow a culture of hope through entrepreneurship. I was blown away at how many organizations and people are devoted to making space and resources available for entrepreneurs to thrive.

The most striking takeaway from the experience for me, however, is learning that Detroit is a shining example of what it means to pivot for impact. As a student innovator, I’ve seen that entrepreneurs are constantly struggling with the ability and guts to pivot. It’s hard accept that your original vision and deep-rooted passion might not be what the world wants or needs. Changing direction is scary. Detroit, however, has fearlessly embraced change after change after change with a desire to recover and grow.

Detroit started as a fur-trade shipping mecca, transitioning through the industrial revolution to a manufacturing leader; then grew into an architectural destination, and finally birthed the auto industry. This city has “owned” more things in its lifetime than many other geographies and now, has pivoted again with a budding technology and micro-manufacturing startup community. Going into the trek, I thought this flexibility came out of its need to survive many hardships. What I learned is that there is something much deeper that ties it all together:

A boundless passion for innovating.

I now understand that the city of Detroit has never strayed from its value of hard-work and dedication to building things to improve the future. This trip allowed me to better understand where this spirit came from, historically, socially and economically, and see the real impact that entrepreneurship has here. Becoming an entrepreneur in Detroit is like joining a family that supports you as you support them. I hope to join other young innovators investing their time and talent in Detroit, because I know I’ll get a positive return.

 

Look through the photos from CFE’s D-Trek on Flickr.