Blog: Kerry Doman

Kerry Doman is the Founder and CEO ofAfter 5 Detroit,a website that highlights events, hot spots and information targetedat young professionals who wish to fully experience the Detroitlifestyle. She also founded a spin-off business, Connect After 5,that develops after-work events and activities for local companiesthat seek to build morale, engage their employees within thecommunity and increase retention amongst their staff.

This summer, Kerry launched the new Summer Intern Program thatjoined together hundreds of interns and new hires in efforts toretain the area's top graduates by showcasing the availablelifestyle throughout downtown Detroit.

Throughout all that she does, Kerry is on a mission to help the region’s business community attract and retain young professionals, and she does this by engaging them in local cultural, sports, educational and entertainment opportunities.

Kerry is a 2008 winner of the Shining Light Regional Cooperation Award, specifically the Dave Bing Future Leader Award, as well as a 2007 recipient of the Crain’s Detroit Business "20 in their 20's" award.  She currently sits on the Board for The Collaborative Group, the Boll Family YMCA and The Parade Company’s Big Heads Corps Committee. She is a graduate of Detroit Country Day School and Denison University.

Kerry Doman - Most Recent Posts:

Post 3: The Honey Do-List for Downtown

Comparing Detroit to Chicago is not comparing apples to apples, and it never will be.  We are who we are and we like who we are. 

Of course we all want a more bustling city center, a prosperous economy, and a strong job market, but I will argue with anyone who says that we don't  have the resources, activities and culture to make up a great lifestyle.

I live downtown…So the number one question is: Where do you shop for groceries? 

Do you know that within a mile of my condo, I grocery shop where the suburban grocery stores shop?  Every Saturday morning I take my coffee and my oversized reusable bag to Eastern Market and join the nearly 40,000 visitors to get the best local product and prices.  To some, grocery shopping is a tedious task, but Eastern Market makes it more of an experience – especially when you tack on brunch at Russell Street Deli or karaoke at Bert's after your shopping.

Second question: Who else lives downtown?

Meet your neighbor, Sean Mann.  This past spring he started the Detroit City Futbol League in an effort to bring together the Detroit community, showcase the distinct neighborhoods within the city, and connect the people who live there.  With over 150 people participating on 11 teams every Monday night at Belle Isle, it's a pretty good start to meeting your city-wide neighbors.

Meet your other neighbor, Antonio "Shades" Agee.  If you have not already read about him, you soon will, as he continuously leaves his mark on this city…literally.  Graffiti artist is his profession and he's certainly making a name for himself, having just wrapped up 22 pieces within Quicken Loans' new downtown office. He is currently working on a mural on the side of Ann Arbor's Grizzly Peak Brewing Company.

Meet Liz Blondy, owner of the doggy day care, Canine to Five.  And Claire Nelson, owner of the chic home goods store in Midtown, Bureau of Urban Living.  And Andy and Emily Linn, the brother – sister duo that started and run the Midtown shop, City Bird.  And Julie Kouloumberis, who lives in New Center and oversees the new New Center Park that now houses weekly bands, performances, and activities.  And David Fike, the president of Detroit's own Marygrove College.  And Austin Black, who just started his own downtown real estate brokerage.  They're all here and they're all your neighbors!

And just food for thought – with newly developed condos and townhouses ranging as low as $20k – $80k, why would you not consider living downtown? 

Third question: What is there to do?

Ok, first off – go to After 5 for a current list of events!  This is a major market for concerts and festivals and events.  We have the Tigers, the Lions, the Red Wings. We have bars and restaurants and museums and music and parks and there is always something going on. Did you know that there is a driving range on Belle Isle? And free concerts at Campus Martius on the Fourth Fridays of the month? Have you ever been to a movie at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the DIA? Have you ever taken a class at CCS? Hung out at the Elwood Grill before a Tigers game? Run in the Free Press Marathon?  Kayaked the Detroit River?  Had brunch at Le Petit Zinc?  Feather bowled at Cadieux Café?

But also keep your ear to the ground, because the most grassroots of events can provide some of the best experiences.  It wasn't until last month that I finally got the details for the Critical Mass Bike Ride before the event happened, and in time to actually participate.  It was by far one of my top 10 favorite experiences in Detroit.  Every major city does this ride on the last Friday of the month and with over 200 people taking over the streets of Detroit at last month's ride, the movement is certainly building steam here as well.

So, we may not have blocks full of bars and restaurants lined up one after the other as they do in Chicago, but if you're willing to look and sometimes be a little adventurous, Detroit will provide you with some amazing experiences that you'd never expect. 

Post 2: Detroit Tonight

Most people can be categorized under one of two mindsets when it comes to Detroit: It's a city without hope, or it's the land of opportunity.

When I moved back from Chicago, the very first question everyone would ask was, “Why”?  When I decided to start my business in Detroit, everyone asked, "Why?"  When I decided to move downtown, all of my suburban friends and family asked, "Why?" 

And they all received the same response: "Why not?"

At the age of 23, I had the crazy idea to invest my life savings and start After 5 Detroit, a new website and concept for the area that focused on what to do and where to go throughout Metro Detroit.  Ironically, at the time, the only place I really knew where to go was Dick O'Dows in Birmingham, because it was the only place I had gone during my short weekend trips home from Chicago. 

So I explored.  I went downtown.  I drove through the streets.  I walked around.  And I fell in love.

To know this city is to love this city.  We're a small big city with a tight-knit community of believers.  We have traits that you won't find in most major cities, but we have not yet learned to fully appreciate and cultivate these assets.

Without knowing it at the time, the smartest decision I ever made was to start my business in Detroit. 

I'm in a major city where the barriers to entry are low and the accessibility to people is incredibly high.  It's a forgiving city and a helpful community.  If you're doing positive things here, you'll get the recognition and the support needed to move your ideas forward.  These all equate to a golden opportunity in the business world.  So then you have to ask, how can you not see this as the land of opportunity?

I've heard people compare Detroit to the "Wild West" and I'm absolutely OK with that.  I actually think we should advertise that to the world.  I think we should target the artists, the creatives, the entrepreneurs, the business people, and the community activists and tell them – if you want to truly leave your mark on a major city, come to Detroit!

One such group plans to do just that – and that's all they had to say to get me involved.
The Collaborative Group is currently in the process of launching Challenge Detroit, a bold new initiative aimed at attracting and retaining young people to the region in a very exciting and interactive way.  The goal is to develop a program where current and future residents live and work throughout Detroit and contribute their time and talent to community-based and philanthropic initiatives in efforts to showcase the positive qualities of the region and show young people that southeast Michigan is a great place to live and work. 

We have the resources, we have the intelligence, we have the passion – now we just need to cultivate our assets.

John Hantz wants to do something about the continually growing vacant land and abandoned buildings, and his solution is Hantz Farms.  Tom Nardone, founder of the Mower Gang, discovered the abandoned Dorais Velodrome in northeast Detroit and brought out his buddies and their weed wackers out to clear it up and ride it.  Not too long ago the Dequindre Cut was merely a one mile stretch of an overgrown railroad line that served as the public gallery for graffiti artists.  Upon discovering its potential, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy transformed it into an urban recreational path for biking, walking, and admiring the art that still graces the walls.

So if you can think up the idea, you can probably make it happen in Detroit – you just may have to cut down a few weeds to see the full potential in this land of opportunity.

Kerry Doman - Post 1: Changing Perceptions

The three most common misperceptions that I hear about Detroit are that there are no jobs, there is no one here and there is nothing to do.
But in the past four years, since starting my ventures in Detroit, it has become my personal and professional mission to prove otherwise. If you ask me today what I want to accomplish with my companies and life, it is quite simple to sum up: I want to dispel those three misperceptions.

I won’t lie, at one point, upon my return to the Metro Detroit area 5 years ago, I feared those three things to be true. I myself was faced with the reality that in the five years I had been away -- four years of college in Ohio (don’t worry, I didn’t go to OSU) and one year of exploring the city life of Chicago – the seeming “rite of passage” for all young Michiganders – the familiar faces and childhood friends had disappeared.

We scattered for college and scattered even further when deciding on our new post-graduation city of residence. The world was our oyster and Detroit certainly did not seem like a pearl. So off to the big cities and bright lights we went.

But I only needed one year to realize that Chicago was simply not my home.
And while I had figured out that Chicago was not for me, I had yet to realize that Detroit would forever be my home. So with few friends still left in the area and no clue where to go out and what to do, I decided to take matters into my own hands. If I wanted to meet new people, find out what new restaurants were opening up and where the hot-spots were around town, then I couldn’t have been the only one looking for that same information - and therein lies the story of how After 5 Detroit began!

It was through many conversations and connections with top companies and executives that our next venture took life. 

Marketing Associates was making their move from Bloomfield Hills to Detroit, and with 150 skeptical employees expressing their doubts, their fearless leader and CEO, Mark Petroff, was determined to make the transition as smooth and exciting as possible. And we were pleased and thrilled to be involved in that process.

We had “Welcome to Detroit” gift bags on everyone’s desk for their first day downtown. We planned happy hours and events for their staff to learn more about their new neighborhood. We provided coupons and certificates to local shops, bars and restaurants to encourage exploration. And through it all, we had created the foundation of our second business, Connect After 5.

Ask any HR Department. Detroit is a hard place to recruit to. 

Couple that with the ever growing desire to be known as a “cool place to work”, companies are continuously trying to find new and innovative ways to showcase the things they do with and for their employees. So we created a turn-key program that develops fun and unique after-work events aimed at assisting local companies in attracting and retaining their employees. With events like Broomball in Campus Martius, Softball at Belle Isle and Floor Hockey at the Boll Family YMCA, our program helps companies build camaraderie, engage their employees in the community and connect them with colleagues at other companies in and around Detroit. 

And then the “aha” moment…

After two successful years of working with some of the region’s top companies through our Connect After 5 Program, our third venture came about when one of our company clients asked what we could do with their 200 incoming summer interns and co-ops.

The light bulb then went off.  We know that our region struggles to attract and retain recent college graduates. We also know that an essential ingredient in positioning Michigan for future success in a knowledge-driven economy is creating places where talent - particularly young mobile talent - wants to live. Lastly, we know that college graduates will decide where to live based on job opportunities and lifestyle.

The pieces of the puzzle were there - companies around town were preparing to welcome thousands of new interns to their offices this summer and we knew that they would showcase their staff, work-life and job opportunities. The only piece missing was a very big piece for any 21 year old deciding where to live - the lifestyle component: are there others here my age, what is there to do and can I see myself living here post-graduation.

To finish the puzzle, our solution involved alignment with the Hudson Webber Foundation and the Downtown Detroit Partnership to create the Summer Intern Program.

The program created opportunities that allowed the 450 participating interns and new hires to explore Detroit gems like Eastern Market, experience the downtown lifestyle in the form of a Loft Party, enjoy Detroit gift bags and t-shirts, network and meet others at happy hours and concert meet-ups.

It was a success. It was fun for the interns and beneficial for the companies. And based on the positive feedback and overwhelming interest, we are pleased to announce the continuation of the program for new hires, co-ops and/or interns joining Detroit companies this September through winter.

All in all, I’m a visual and experiential learner. So if it is my goal to showcase the job opportunities, people and great things to do here, then the best way I know how to do it is to go straight to the target demographic and to the companies throughout the region and say, “Come out to play Kickball at Belle Isle”. 

Because after you’ve spent an evening under the lights with hundreds of other young professionals reliving their glory days of grade school games, you won’t ask me if Belle Isle is safe after dark, you won’t ask me if there is anyone here your age, you won’t ask me who actually has a job and works downtown. You’ll just walk away with another positive and fun experience in Detroit! 

And that is what will start to change perceptions.