Blog: Kerry Doman

Kerry Dolman is on a mission to break the "no jobs-no young people-nothing to do" myth of Detroit into tiny little pieces. As the Founder and CEO of After 5 Detroit, she'll be blogging about her efforts to change the doom and gloom narrative, bring together the region's top graduates and interns, and her involvement with The Collaborative Group. Don't be shy, read on...

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.