Margarita Barry Leads Army Of Young Entrepreneurs To Detroit
[Corrected 7/12/11, 4:05 pm.See below.]Margarita Barry is throwing a party.
Who: Entrepreneurial, creative people in their 20s or 30s
Barry, 26, is the founder of I am Young Detroit, a web site [An earlier version mistakenly described the website as a social networking site. We regret the error.]that offers news, blogs, and videos about local professionals and artists under the age of 40 in the Motor City.
What began as a blog to counter negative media coverage of Detroit has morphed into a rallying cry for twenty and thirty-somethings across the country to revitalize the city. Launched in 2010, the site has attracted the notice of national media publications like the New York Times.
“The original goal with the site is to attract and retain young talent here,” she says.
“The second goal is wanting people to look from outside the region, and discover the opportunities that the city has to has to offer,” she says. “We have a lot of great talent and resources here.”
Barry certainly practices what she preaches. A graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit, Barry launched her first venture, a multicultural print and web magazine called Tint, when she was 18. She’s been hooked ever since.
“In the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘how can I positively impact the community and also create something that is potentially profitable?’” she says. “Being an entrepreneur, that’s something that’s always been a part of me.”
“Margarita always had lots of really good ideas,” says Delphia Simmons, a friend and former business partner.
The two met a few years ago when they both attended the same class at Bizdom U, a Detroit-based program that trains and assists entrepreneurs so they can launch successful businesses in the city. The two were working on creating an eBay-like site designed for children when Barry told Simmons about an idea she had for a blog geared to young Detroiters.
“The problem was that in the incubator they want you to come up with something scalable that can make money right away,” Simmons says.
But Ken Bloinks, another one of Barry’s Bizdom classmates, says Barry is not the type to sit on an idea.
“Her biggest asset is that she just goes out and gets things done,” Bloinks, a Detroit-area tech entrepreneur. “A lot of times we take too long thinking of an idea and trying to figure out every possible outcome, but she just does it and reacts to feedback.”
So far, I Am Young Detroit has done well enough for Barry to focus on it full time. She is also working to launch 71 POP, a space that will feature emerging Detroit artists and designers on a rotating basis.
“The difficult part is taking something that’s very niche and turning it into something that can sustain itself,” she says.
For innovative young people, Detroit is a place of opportunity, Barry says, an idea that might surprise people who read about the city’s woes. Detroit boasts cheap land, plenty of government and non-profit help, and a growing technology scene thanks to Compuware and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who’s creating an incubator and venture capital fund to support high tech startups.
“We’re going from this industrial based economy to something that’s more new and exciting,” Barry says. “Many entrepreneurs starting from scratch here, they feel like because of the collapsed automotive industry, you kind of are forced to take things upon yourself and create your own opportunities.”
Barry’s vision is starting to take hold, says Hajj Flemings,[An earlier version misspelled Flemings' last name. We regret the error.] the founder of Brand Camp University an organization that hopes to train entrepreneurs in personal branding.
Flemings, who initially connected with Barry via social networking sites, compared I am Young Detroit to the famed Chrysler 200 Super Bowl ad featuring rapper Eminem, saying both offered a genuine image the city could be proud of.
“She’s helping to create a different narrative for the city of Detroit,” Flemings says. “I think she’s able to connect to the community with an authentic story; it has the ability to be able to take flight because now the story is very sharable.”
He says the site gives voice to younger residents, an important demographic that’s often marginalized by older politicians in charge of the city’s revitalization.
“They want to attract and retain young talent, but you need young talent to be a part of that conversation,” he says. “She’s become a voice that people respect and there’s quality in terms of what she does.”