Heroes, hard work and hope

Change is hard, and enforced change that is beyond our control is the hardest of all. But nature abhors a vacuum. Something else will eventually take the place of what was there before, and you never know, it could be even better.

I was very moved to read about the story of Detroit recently.

Detroit has lost half its population in the past 50 years, fuelled by a sharp decline in automotive manufacturing, the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, and a huge wave of mortgage foreclosures during the global financial crisis. When people could no longer afford to stay in their homes, they simply left them; one-fifth of the central municipal area is returning to nature, in neighbourhoods now known as “urban prairie”.  In 2013, Detroit experienced the USA’s largest municipal bankruptcy with $18 billion in debt.

But some in Detroit aren’t going to sit by and see their city crumble.

National Geographic magazine tells the story of Erika Boyd and Kirsten Ussery-Boyd, who invested $45,000 to open successful restaurant Vegan Soul on one Detroit’s many deserted streets, seeing an opportunity in a city with a huge obesity problem.

Financial services entrepreneur John Hantz has spent $4m buying 1,700 properties, clearing 500 lots and planting 15,000 trees – an investment that he says pays him back in “psychic income”.

Now new businesses are opening in Detroit every day, fuelled by a wave of young people priced out of other US cities and excited by the opportunity to own property and build a future there.

“Most people wanna save Detroit”, says former graffiti tagger Antonio “Shades” Agee, whose street art now adorns the buildings of Reebok, Quicken and Fiat Chrysler. “But you can’t save Detroit. You gotta BE Detroit”.

Slowly, Detroit is reinventing itself. It won’t be easy. But it already has the makings of a great comeback story.

We all have that opportunity. Loss is part of life, and is not always preventable. But we can choose not to let the loss define us, and making that choice generates its own power. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.