In 2012, Detroit’s first ever brick-and-mortar visitor center, D:hive, opened. D:hive was designed as a three-year project to provide information on living, working and playing in the city. They offered countless resources, including tours to help people really experience Detroit and classes to help Detroit’s innovative entrepreneurs get their businesses started. In two years, D:hive had grown to be a staple to visitors and residents alike. But, last year, we heard that D:hive would be closing its doors on Woodward Avenue and two new organizations, Build Institute and Detroit Experience Factory (DXF), would spin out from the program.
Nearing the end of the program’s three-year run, members of the D:hive team regrouped and analyzed what they’d been doing. After this regroup, D:hive concluded that its strengths could be narrowed down into two categories: showing people what Detroit has to offer and assisting entrepreneurs with their businesses. While these two categories have some crossover, they’re very different.
So what are Build and DXF doing now? Are they still affiliated with D:hive? Where are they located now? How are they carrying the mission of D:hive forward? I met with Jeanette Pierce, executive director of DXF and April Boyle, executive director of Build Institute to answer those questions and find out what’s next for the organizations.
Boyle was a founding member of D:hive, and has done some consulting, research and development for the organization. In January of 2012, they launched their first Build program, which Boyle managed. When D:hive split, she moved over to Build Institute full time where she serves as executive director.
April describes this transition as “interesting.” Build Institute has moved from the hustle and bustle of downtown to the close-knit neighborhood of southwest Detroit. They don’t have the same support and budget they had when they were under the D:hive umbrella, but now they have the ability to really focus on their programs and help people turn their business ideas into reality.
Because D:hive was so well known in the community, it’s been difficult for the two new organizations to rebrand as separate entities. Despite this struggle, Build Institute just had their open house in the new location. More than 100 people came out to see the new space and hear about where Build is going.
Since 2012, 400 people have graduated from the Build program with many starting businesses in over 90 ZIP codes in and around metro Detroit. The organization just graduated their winter class, and they’re launching spring registration soon.
They still offer their Build Basics course, an eight-week business and project planning class for entrepreneurs. The Institute also plans to open an Etsy course in April, so all you craftsmen should keep an eye out for registration! As always, there are Open City networking events on the third Monday of every month from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Cliff Bell’s. This year, you can expect more local shopping opportunities, too! Build Bazaar pop-up marketplaces will happen frequently.
Detroit Experience Factory
Jeanette Pierce is a lifelong Detroiter. Growing up on the east side and living downtown for the last 12 years, Pierce knows quite a bit about Detroit and the Detroiters who make this city great. She co-founded Inside Detroit (a nonprofit that merged with D:hive in 2012), where she focused on attracting new people to Detroit while engaging the creative and talented citizens currently living in the city. When D:hive split into two entities, Pierce became executive director of Detroit Experience Factory.
DXF moved just a few blocks over to their new location on 123 Monroe Ave., which is just a few steps away from Campus Martius Park, at the doorway to Greektown.
Inside, visitors and long-time residents can find plenty of resources to find out where to live, work, and play in Detroit; DXF is essentially the city’s welcome center. If you’re looking for more than a suggestion, one way to really experience the city is with a DXF tour.
DXF offers public or custom tours you can book on their website. Every Saturday there are free downtown walking tours from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., and bus tours are offered on the first and third Saturday of each month for $10 – $20. They also offer bar tours that allow you to skip the crowds and hear the Detroit stories of the owners and bartenders whipping up your favorite drinks.
Custom tours can fit any situation. From recruiting and retaining talent, to fun scavenger hunts, there’s a tour for everyone and every need.
Governor Rick Snyder quoted Pierce recently, saying, “Detroit is big enough to matter in the world, but small enough that you can matter in it.” That’s exactly what these tours exemplify. Detroit is a unique metropolitan city, in that there’s still plenty of new ground and innovation to be discovered.
With the transition from D:hive, DXF plans to reach even more people and continue to share its love for Detroit.
Even though these two organizations have split from D:hive, they still work together. For both DXF and Build Institute, the neighborhoods and small businesses are critical.
“I believe it’s going to be the millions of little things that affect the city. Re-developing the commercial corridor and getting local businesses in those spaces stresses the importance of shopping local and keeping our culture,” says Boyle.
Both DXF and Build Institute are working together to keep that Detroit’s uniqueness and complexity. They draw new people here while letting current Detroiter’s dreams and talents grow.
Want to stay up to date on what DXF and Build Institute are doing? Follow them on social media and check out their websites to see how you can partner with them.
Detroit Experience Factory