Detroit was one of the hardest-hit cities in America during the recession.
Its auto industry, which helped build America’s middle class, needed multiple government bailouts.
Unemployment rose to 20% in the city in 2011, but could have been as high as 50% if you include people who stopped looking for work.
But every bad situation has a silver lining. The lack of enterprise and abundance of failed businesses left great opportunities for newer and cooler businesses.
From restaurants and bars to bike shops and tech startups, these are the coolest businesses in Detroit.
What it is: A tech startup
Why it's cool: When submitting a form online, most websites often have a human verification step where you type in a series of numbers and letters. This technology is used to prevent bots from submitting the form over and over.
Are You A Human uses mini games to verify that you are in fact a human, which leads to 40% more submissions than the typical CAPTCHA technology.
What it is: A company that makes bicycles
Why it's cool: This isn't your average bicycle. Autobike has come up with a new feature that lets your bike change gears automatically.
Now you can ride without pressing levers, and you will always be in the perfect gear.
What it is: A restaurant that serves homemade comfort food made from sweet potatoes
Why it's cool: The Batata Shop makes all of its food from scratch using fresh, homemade ingredients. Batata means sweet potato, and the restaurant uses sweet potatoes in many of its recipes including in their waffles, pancakes, and biscuits.
What it is: An online retailer for school and office supplies
Why it's cool: Not only can you get all the school and office supplies you need, but 5% of your purchase goes to support teachers in your community.
What it is: A crafts store dedicated to Detroit
Why it's cool: This isn't your average crafts store.
Two siblings who are proud to be 'seventh-generation Detroiters' found a way to combine their love for the arts and Detroit by creating a store that simultaneously functions as a studio and gallery all in one. All of the products they sell--including housewares, accessories and paper goods--celebrate Detroit and feature artwork by hundreds of American artists.
What it is: A bicycle collective
Why it's cool: Detroit Bike City promotes biking as a clean and environmentally friendly way to get around in Detroit. The organisation leads bike tours throughout the city and hosts events that feature extreme sports and stunts with bicycles. The goal is to educate people all year round about substituting their cars for a more eco-friendly and fun alternative.
What it is: A specialty wallpaper company
Why it's cool: Artist Mary K Bazzi believes that no one needs permission to create and display art.
So she began to display her work in public spaces, beautifying the city and telling the story of Detroit neighborhoods in a creative way. Eventually, she decided to turn her artwork into a thriving business. Now she produces customisable specialty wallpapers from local artists, many of which are inspired by the city itself.
What it is: A mobile app that tracks credit card rewards
Why it's cool: Glyph is an app that helps you take advantage of your credit cards programs and makes sure that you collect all the rewards that you are entitled to.
It allows you to select the best credit card based on your purchasing habits and what you want to get out of the card. If you want certain perks or certain kinds of rewards, it will show you what your options are.
There is also a community aspect where people and experts can share tips to save and earn even more.
What it is: A bar where every item costs less than $3
Why it's cool: This bar has a comprehensive menu that serves everything from quinoa burgers and tempeh to fried chicken and corned beef sandwiches. There's also a large selection of beers and cocktails.
The best part is that everything on the menu is three dollars or less. Yes, every drink, and every food item is three dollars or less.
What it is: A search tool for Instagram.
Why it's cool: Hashgram lets you search Instagram, a photo sharing website, for hashtags or users. Searching within Instagram itself can be a bit difficult, and if you don't have your own Instagram account, you cannot search at all. Hashgram allows you to search, without creating your own Instagram account.
What it is: A vintage bed & breakfast
Why it's cool: This unique lodging is designed to evoke an inn from the early 1900s.
In keeping with that tradition, the hotel has a vintage vibe with furnishings that fit the era, like handmade quilts, wooden tables, and old suitcases that double as night stands.
The inn also hosts cooking classes by well-known local chefs.
What it is: A furniture and barware store that evokes 'classic bachelor pad style'
Why it's cool: Hugh sells furniture, barware, and accessories that pay homage to the Old Hollywood era.
The idea is to invite customers to live their very own version of Mad Men by purchasing household items that, as owner Joe Posch describes it, are inspired by 'classic bachelor pad style.' Customers can buy items like vintage champagne buckets, stainless steel cocktail shakers, and shaving brushes and razors.
What it is: A gadget company that sells universal remotes
Why it's cool: iRule sells universal remote controls available on the iPhone, iPad, and other devices that allow you to control everything with one remote.
All you need to do is use a computer to set up your account and design your remote. Then you download the app and it uses your Wi-Fi network to control the devices.
What it is: A coffee shop and arts space
Why it's cool: Alicia Marion-George had a mission when she started Motor City Java House: to revitalize her community and inspire other entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to Detroit. To make that a reality, she promised herself that she would not just open an average coffee shop. Instead, Alisha established what she calls, a 'creative café,' a vibrant community centre where people gather for open mic events, poetry readings and jazz nights.
What it is: An artist and printmakers' collective
Why it's cool: This print shop is all about giving back to the community. Besides selling prints made by local artists, they also offer printing courses for kids and adults, host printing parties, and provide rental space for anyone with temporary printing needs.
What it is: A collective that leases out space to local artists and entrepreneurs
Why it's cool: With a plan to revitalize Detroit and fight against the foreclosure crisis that struck the city, a group of socially-conscious artists and entrepreneurs purchased a 30,000-square-foot warehouse.
They rent out the space for well-below market rates to local entrepreneurs and artists looking to start businesses and put together projects that can help breathe new life into the community.
What it is: A real estate firm that focuses on acquiring multi-family projects
Why it's cool: Roco Real Estate focuses on the undervalued housing market in Detroit, a sector that most real estate investors have stayed away from. They specialize in acquiring multi-family projects.
It was started by three 20-somethings looking to revitalize Detroit. Today, their portfolio of properties is already valued over $100 million.
What it is: A French-American bistro, club, and wine bar
Why it's cool: When serial entrepreneur Torya Blanchard started this business venture she avoided creating just another French restaurant.
Instead it's a restaurant-cum-wine bar-cum-club with French-inspired cuisine and hot DJs spinning tunes at night. With posters of Luis Buñuel movies and a black, white, and red decor, the restaurant is clearly inspired by New Wave French cinema.
What it is: Restaurant turned community centre
Why it's cool: This restaurant is not just about serving soul food. It also comforts the soul by functioning as a community centre that aims to make Detroit a better place. They employ returning citizens looking to start a new life and host events to raise money for community projects.
What it is: Spa and healing centre
Why it's cool: This spa offers everything from massages and pedicures to tarot readings. The idea is to go beyond the spa experience by offering customers courses on spiritual healing. Tarot & Tea teaches several workshops including courses on sound and lessons on how to perform a tarot reading from the comfort of your own home.
What it is: A startup incubator
Why it's cool: TechTown Detroit allows people to get involved in two ways: as an entrepreneur or as a supporter.
As an entrepreneur, you get the resources and support to launch a venture. You have mentors and advisors, along with access to information that you wouldn't have on your own.
And as a supporter, you can be a mentor or investor, and can make a real difference with these early stage startups.
What it is: A wedding video company
Why it's cool: Instead of having cameramen at your wedding, Wedit will send you cameras so that you can have your guests record the events. Then you send the cameras back and they edit it into a continuous video that you can share. At $499, this is probably the most affordable wedding videographer service out there.
What it is: A men's designer store
Why it's cool: Wounds Menswear designs men's clothing that's inspired by the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in the imperfect. With that aesthetic in mind, each item is unique and intentionally slightly imperfect.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.