Detroit's Green Garage: Not Your Average Start-Up Incubator
BY Maeghan Ouimet
This incubator aims to cultivate start-ups' business ideas carefully... and for as long as it takes.
Participants have a lunch in the Green Alley
Amid Detroit's dilapidated warehouses--reminders of an automobile industry that once thrived--a new seed has been planted: start-up incubator the Green Garage.
With green in its name, the Garage's mission is clear--to grow start-ups with environmental and social missions at their core.
While a number of start-up incubators are making a splash in the Midwest, and in Detroit, Garage creator Tom Brennan tells The New York Times that his program isn’t a traditional accelerator. Rather than rush the companies who come through the Garage into the marketplace, he plans to help the entrepreneurs cultivate a lasting and profitable idea--no matter how long it takes.
“We have people who have an idea being told that they need to have a business plan,” Brennan explains to the Times about other, more traditional start-up accelerators. “They need to have an elevator pitch. They need to take out a loan. They need to create a legal entity. They need to pay for some marketing advice and an attorney. But the punch line of the thing is at the end of that, they’re broke. Because they have a legal entity, they have a business plan, they have a loan that has to be paid this month. But they don’t have a business.”
The 11,500 square-foot space, owned by Brennan and his wife Peggy, houses about 20 one-to-five person companies that pay anywhere from $50 to $1000 a month for their workspace. The start-ups help keep a community garden and have an open house every week to encourage collaboration. Brennan, who used to work at global consulting firm Accenture, discourages Garage start-ups from seeking loans and collecting debt. Instead, Brennan insists the look to the communities they serve for resources. For example, one start-up at the Garage, De-tread, removes hazerdous discarded tires from city streets and uses the rubber to make new, sellable products.
Jason Peet, founder of refurbished furniture company Mend, says the Garage's mission of prioritizing quality over speed has helped him save money and given him inspiration.
“The core needs to be real solid before you go forward,” Peet told the Times.