Finding a Way Forward: Strawberry Solar

Green Garage business-in-residence Strawberry Solar installs rooftop solar panels throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula. They mostly work on residential properties, but occasionally do small commercial projects as well (including the last two expansions of the Green Garage’s own solar array, which have helped us get ever closer to our net-zero energy goals). Strawberry’s managing partner, Will Held, says that during Michigan’s initial COVID19 shutdown in March, their seven person team decided to take three weeks off to “observe and do office work from home.” During that time, Strawberry successfully applied for a PPP loan. Will says that while the loan provided relief and allowed them not to lay off any employees, his team quickly grew concerned over lost revenue. “We’re a physical … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Detroit Food Academy

Detroit Food Academy (DFA) is a nonprofit organization that develops young leaders through good food and entrepreneurship training. They have typically done this through a mix of robust in-person activities for middle and high school students, including a year-long after school program and a summer leadership program, through which they explore concepts around nutrition, cooking, triple bottom line business leadership, local food systems, and food justice (among others). DFA’s remarkable success engaging young people has a great deal to do with their place-based, person-to-person approach. While the pandemic has made in-person gatherings impossible, they are working hard to continue shaping the next generation of leaders in Detroit. DFA’s program director Tiffany Brown says that as … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Great Lakes Environmental Law Center

Nick Leonard is the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC), an environmental justice organization based out of the Green Garage. GLELC advocates on behalf of local, often marginalized communities to ensure that they are able to enjoy the benefits of a healthy environment. They’re the organization that brought legal action against the now-closed Detroit Incinerator in 2019. Nick says that the COVID19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the nature of GLELC’s work, which is rooted in community meetings and interpersonal interactions. “All of our community meetings going virtual has made our work a lot harder,” he says. “It’s harder to reach the people we work with, who might not have Internet access or who might not be available to hop on a Zoom … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Eco Achievers

Lindsey Elton is the co-owner and President of Eco Achievers, a company that helps new and existing buildings achieve green certifications like LEED, ENERGY STAR, NGBS, and Passive House. Eco Achievers is based outside of Chicago, where Lindsey’s four colleagues live, and where about 75% of their business is. She began working remotely out of the Green Garage after she moved home in 2019 to open their Detroit office, which was a longtime dream of hers. This was also the same time that she and her colleagues purchased the business from its previous owner—a move that brought simultaneous excitement, opportunity, and a whole new set of anxieties. Lindsey says that as a small business “without a lot of backup,” her tight-knit team entered the COVID19 crisis prepared for the worst, … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: FoodLab Detroit

FoodLab Detroit is all about connecting food entrepreneurs to the resources they need to be successful. They’re a network-based nonprofit organization, having worked for more than eight years to cultivate nourishing relationships in support of a thriving good food ecosystem in and around Detroit. Currently, they do that work on two different tracks: the first provides “business 101”-type resources and technical assistance to more than 100 members, and the second convenes a twice-a-year fellowship that takes 10 food entrepreneurs on a more intensive journey to success. Photo by Val Waller When FoodLab’s executive director Devita Davison reflects on the pandemic’s effects on her work, she describes it as a profound upheaval. “Everything we do in the restaurant industry and in food … [Read more...]

Goodbye From Nicolas

Hello everyone, As you all may know by now, I have been working with the Green Garage throughout this school year. And, it is with a heavy heart that I tell you all that I will not be returning to the Green Garage next year. I have made many friendships and business connections during my time working here. And I want to thank each and every one of the people whom I’ve interacted with through my time here. From Gracie Xavier, to Curt Malouin, and Karen Chappelle, the conversations I’ve had with the amazing residents of the Green Garage, have been more than just significant to me. They have changed who I am, and the way I view the world. Though I may not be returning, it is my hope that Tuesday, June 12th, is not the last time you will see my face, or hear me crack an unfunny … [Read more...]

Green Garage Member Stories – Karen Chappelle

Meet Karen Chappelle, the Green Garage’s new Bradley Fellow! The Bradley Fellowship provides an opportunity for an entrepreneur to  develop their business out of the Green Garage for a season. It is sponsored by Green Garage co-founder Helen Bradley and is named in honor of her late husband Tom, who had a gift for making people feel welcome here.    Karen is the president and CEO of Casablanca Consultants, , which recently produced a brand-new theatre festival in town called the Detroit Heritage Theatre Festival.  Karen is a Detroit native who moved back to the city in 2016 after a nearly four-decade stint in Los Angeles in the Office of the Attorney General. Though she worked in the legal profession for several decades, Karen always maintained a passion for theatre. Near the end … [Read more...]

Green Garage Member Stories – Mike Shesterkin

Mike Shesterkin, owner of Green Garage businesses-in-residence What’s Next LLC, works on strategy development for small businesses, specifically focusing on a triple bottom line (3BL) approach. His involvement with the Green Garage began about two years before he joined us as a business-in-residence, when he began regularly attending our Thursday sustainable small business conversations.   Mike graduated from Lawrence Tech with a Bachelor’s in chemistry and worked for a number of years formulating coatings for automotive applications. After working in the automotive industry, he developed the desire to create his own business doing what he enjoyed the most. The Green Garage’s 3BL approach to business -- where environmental and social impact are valued alongside economic profit -- … [Read more...]

Green Garage Member Stories – Rainelle Burton

The Green Garage is well known for being a home to both small businesses and nonprofit organizations, but did you know that we are also home to a handful of creative professionals like novelists? Rainelle Burton is one such Green Garage member. After a career as a systems analyst, she turned full-time to writing and published her acclaimed novel The Root Worker in 2001. Burton wrote the book about a young girl in Detroit in the 1960s who faces the problems of the real world, while fighting her own demons and the thoughts that everybody around her has about her. Rainelle leased a desk space at the Green Garage for a year, but family obligations made it so that she wasn’t able to spend as much time here as she would have liked. Funnily enough, once her lease ended, she started to … [Read more...]

Green Garage Member Stories- Matt Dibble

Matt Dibble is the founder of Final5. Final5 is a company that uses videos to promote and tell the stories of businesses and nonprofits. Final5 started in 2007 with one short video that quickly gained popularity, and the second place spot in a film competition.It didn’t take long for Matt’s video production work to take off, and soon he was doing a brisk business. But something was missing, and Matt began to figure out what that was when he first met Tom Brennan, co-founder of the Green Garage. “In the beginning, we produced videos,” Matt says. “But it didn't take long for me to understand the power of story, and for me to shift the direction of the company. I realize now that the same way Tom used story to connect me to important things that he believed in, organizations can use story to … [Read more...]

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