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Natural Strengths & Stresses

Strengths & Stresses


  • Trends are in favor of business, i.e. reclaimed wood, Detroit heritage
  • Abundant supply of materials with so many houses to be torn down
  • Unique product (combination of reclaimed wood and house history)
  • Community would support this business
  • Can sell for high margin because of story (history) attached to product, and the quality of old growth wood


  • Cost structure unknown
  • Quality of supply not consistent
  • Toxicity of material (lead?)
  • Demolition processes not necessarily green
  • Possible negative political climate
  • Competition with other reclaimed wood furniture sellers
  • How can mend keep from being "just furniture"

Grow Ideas/Awareness

Story and Product Ideas

Story Ideas: Story ideas can come from people who live in the neighborhood; focus on famous Detroiters (sports figures, Motown); history of the home's architecture; history of the neighborhood (ethnicity); connection to a local business/industry (stove manufacturer/auto company); schools; prohibition; connection to one's own family history.

Product Ideas: Coffee tables, side tables, outdoor furniture, pens, picture frames, mantles, spindles, toys/blocks, salt & pepper shakers, bowls, shelving, Christmas ornaments, coasters, door stops, wind chimes, book covers, iPhone covers, wine racks.

mend Research


Ideas for what research for a story might look like: Data Driven Detroit model, sports memorabilia, Habitat for Humanity/Reuse Centers (possibility of consulting for deconstruction methods) , the JL Hudson Building, Tiger Stadium, Woodward Dream Cruise, Google Books, internet questionnaire to determine interest.


Mend Ecosystem

mend is part of an existing ecosystem within the city of Detroit. This ecosystem includes: the City of Detroit, city organizations such as Rebuilt Detroit and Blight Busters, schools, churches, retail and commercial businesses, demolition and deconstruction contractors, incinerators, landfills, former Detroit residents and alumni, artists and designers, the media, libraries and historical societies. All of these entities overlap and intersect in a variety of ways.

Detroit Alumni

Detroit alumni

Detroit Alumni:

  • University and high school alumni groups
  • Detroit hometown Facebook pages
  • Michigan Corps.
  • Detroit Nation
  • Labor force/auto workers
  • Churches
  • Expatriate blogs
  • Detroit Yes
  • Blight Busters
  • Famous Detroiters
  • Detroit Foundation (social entrepreneur)

mend Ecosystem: Artists and Designers


  • Possibility of using 4 different Detroit-based designers to produce different lines (ex: Chad Dickenson)
  • Terrawood Designs, Inc. (Michigan City, IN)
  • Out-of-state furniture designers (i.e., North Carolina, Brazil)
  • Architects and interior designers
  • Custom mill works
  • Detroit history writers (possibly use WSU or EMU student interns)
  • Media
  • Corktown installation

mend Ecosystem: Commercial Businesses

Commercial Businesses

  • Bars and restaurants
  • Boutiques in hotels
  • DIA gift shop
  • Avalon Bakery
  • Office building lobbies
  • Professional office furniture (people can personalize)
  • Hospitals and universities

mend Ecosystem: Retail Businesses

Retail Business

  • Should mend make-to-order (like Dell)?
  • Include personal memories on mend product
  • Use brochures/catalogues
  • Sell at Eastern Market, Rustbelt Market, The Detroit Shoppe at Somerset Mall, Detroit Historical Museum gift shop, Pop-up Gallery
  • DEGC (Detroit Economic Growth Corporation)

mend Ecosystem: Community Groups

Community Groups

Idea seeds: Demo/Deconstruction, history of the neighborhood, creating safe neighborhoods when houses come down

  • Historic Commission
  • Southwest Solutions
  • City foundations
  • Grass roots organizations
  • Detroit Historic Neighborhood Coalition
  • Joy/Southfield CDC
  • Blight Busters
  • Build Detroit
  • Far Eastside Group

mend Ecosystem: City of Detroit

City of Detroit

Detroit needs some good news!

  • Need master list of homes to be demolished and need to develop a priority list of possible homes/neighborhoods
  • Green Task Force
  • List of demolition contractors
  • National business advocates
  • Deconstruction vs. demolition gap

mend Ecosystem: Demolition/Deconstruction Contractors

Demolition and Deconstruction Contractors

  • mend should be aware of liability issues when dealing with demo/decon contractors
  • Important for mend to develop a strategic relationship with these contractors
  • Tree cutters

mend Ecosystem: Schools


  • Develop a relationship with DPS early
  • Team with historical group(s)
  • Get list of schools to be taken down; they could be a great source for materials
  • 555 Gallery and Studios (Vernor in Southwest Detroit)

The Story

  • In telling the story of a home, mend should balance passion (for the history) vs. profit, recognizing that research can be time consuming and that the value of the stories will be varied.
  • Resources for historical research: Detroit Historical Society, The Henry Ford, Maritime Museum, Detroit Historical Museum, The Burton Historical Collection (Detroit Public Library), The Bentley Library (University of Michigan), Wayne State University, Cranbrook, Detroit Institute of Arts, genealogical societies, American Institute of Architects (AIA), Library of Congress (historical photos from the Detroit Publishing Company), churches,, Smithsonian, corporate historians, Motown Museum, Fort Wayne, Hartwick Pines State Park (logging industry museum), neighbors/homeowners.

3D Margin Maps

3D Map

The 3D Margin Maps represent how the work done by mend can positively impact the three elements of the "triple bottom line": environmental sustainability, community/social justice, and economic viability. The members of mend's ecosystem that will be impacted by this 3D work are: the City of Detroit, community groups, deconstruction contractors, artists and writers, and commercial and retail businesses.

3D Map, Writers

Writers 3D:

  • Environment:
  • Community: mend work could keep writers in our community, build connections between writers, local historians, photographers, libraries
  • Economics: could attract more writers to our area and create more "green" writing jobs

3D Map, Commercial

Commercial 3D:

  • Environment: Businesses would be purchasing locally made products from mend, no long-distance shipping; product has low eco-footprint, no new material required - no trees are cut down
  • Community: mend can help connect businesses to local/neighborhood history, strengthening communities; can help connect businesses to each other; having mend products can help to connect the customer to the local business community; possibility of a mend "unveiling" event.
  • Economics: Unique product and high quality material (wood) increase revenue; lower cost for material and shipping

3D Map, City of Detroit

City of Detroit 3D:

  • Environment: City has an enormous amount of material from deconstructed houses that should be reused; keeps material out of landfills and incinerators; "great answer" for moving the city forward.
  • Community: mend can help to create a pro-business climate by supplying jobs, bringing neighborhoods together and connecting the past with an orientation to the future. Abandoned homes now have positive value for quality materials, jobs and community building. Preserving and teaching about local history creates connection to community. Community has opportunity to learn about sustainable practices
  • Economics: mend would use local labor and create jobs; deconstruction could be an event that brings people into the city/neighborhood; deconstruction costs could be reduced (less material going to landfill).

3D Map, Demo Contractors
  • Demolition Contractors 3D:
  • Environment: Contractors are sending less material to landfill
  • Community: Contractors would be more engaged with existing "ecosystem" members (city, mend, neighbors) in a mend deconstruction than in a conventional demolition.
  • Economics: Contractors save money by hauling less material to a landfill; good PR for being involved in a mend deconstruction could lead to more business.

Materials 3D Map

Original 3D Map developed during early discussions.

Natural Risks/Deep Roots

mend: Risks and Mitigating Actions

Natural risks to mend's business model and how these risks can be mitigated (Bad news early is good news; bad news late is bad news):

Risk: Supply of wood could be irregular due to a variety of circumstances:

  • The quality and/or quantity of wood may not be good at a particular house
  • The information provided by the city about homes to be torn down may not always be forthcoming or reliable
  • Deconstruction contractors may not be reliable or willing to participate in a sustainable deconstruction vs. conventional demolition model.

Mitigating Actions:

  • Evaluate the home for quality of material early in the process before deep history research is undertaken
  • Develop a strong personal and professional relationship with deconstruction contractor(s) and the City of Detroit
  • Work on developing a strategy (best practice) for harvesting the wood

Risk: Link can't be made to a "great story"

Mitigating Action:

  • Do a "first pass" on historical research to try and sift out the better story possibilities
  • Develop a best practice for research and story that is repeatable and efficient
  • Try to determine what kind of stories would be interesting to the market/community
  • The story of mend itself is creating the "new narrative" or "new story"

Risk: Revenue is uncertain (price, quantity, product mix)

Mitigating Actions:

  • Set pricing benchmark vs. other artisan furniture makers
  • Talk to retailers about products and pricing - find out what sells
  • Use focus groups to determine interest (Willis, Detroit Nation, Quicken)
  • Offer prototype pieces at local markets, i.e. Rust Belt

Risk: Community Relationships:

  • How to develop and maintain positive relationship and build trust with the neighborhood and contractors in a city where trust is so frequently broken?

Mitigating Actions:

  • mend needs to return to the neighborhood and follow through
  • Target neighborhoods and begin to build relationships within those neighborhoods
  • mend must be transparent - share history of past work, plans for moving forward. Nothing should be hidden.

mend DNA

mend DNA Diagram

The mend DNA diagram depicts the process involved in developing a product from the initial point of locating a house to the distribution of the final product. This includes determining if the material is usable, finding "the story", developing a design strategy, deconstruction, working with designers, writers and artists to arrive at the product design, making the product, selling and, finally, distributing the product.

The Story

mend DNA: Story Research
  • One of the goals of mend is to preserve a piece of the history of Detroit, its people and its neighborhoods.
  • Once a home is located, a "first pass" of historical research should be done to identify about 20 homes with a potential story for possible deeper research.
  • Next, a physical inspection of the home, checking for usable material should be done to narrow the pool of homes to about 5.
  • Deep research into the history of the 5 homes should be done in an effort to find the "high value stories", narrowing the pool to 2-3 homes. Stories can also come from the community itself (shared stories). Research can be either proactive or reactive: locate a home to be torn down and research its history (reactive), look for homes of famous Detroiters and check to see it they are scheduled to be torn down (proactive).
  • mend needs to be exceptional at developing research practices and the ability to locate and identify the really great "high value" stories. This is what makes mend truly unique and valuable.

Conceptual 3D Design Strategy

mend DNA: Conceptual Design Strategy
  • First draft of the story can be produced: a low-level or average story will equate to lower product value, a high-level or highly interesting (from a historic point of view) story equates to a more high value product.
  • Determine the value blend (amount of material --> product mix --> revenue).
  • Create unique pieces based on the story associated the with house.
  • Driving toward zero waste with design.
  • Will bring in local designers who will be aware of history of home and of core design principles of mend.
  • Can have conceptual design available on a table at deconstruction time for locals to look at and comment on.
  • Decision will be made to go or no go at this point.

Deconstruction Light

mend DNA: Deconstruction
  • mend will not be the overall deconstruction contractor - wants to do "deconstruction light", taking only materials useful for product.
  • mend's presence in the neighborhood can be an educational and community-building event; advertise ("mend is coming to your neighborhood") and be transparent. mend presence is an event, engaging community, involving churches, community groups, sending out fliers to inform people ahead of time.
  • Work is done on site
  • Employ local people
  • Engage volunteers, to remove nails for example.
  • Identify the type and age of wood as well as the quality.
  • Home should be pre-1920's
  • mend should work as link between demo contractors and neighbors - improving relations between them. mend wants to change the way "deconstruction" looks in neighborhoods by making demo contractors more engaged with the neighborhood and respectful of the property.
  • wants mend employees on site to educate and inform of mend's work and history of house. People in neighborhood may be able to contribute to the history.
  • Develop a greening partnership to plant trees and leave the lot better than when we arrived.

Product/Story Design

mend DNA: Design
  • mend will use local designers, writers and makers to build product.
  • Product should have a "look" or "style" unique to mend.
  • Design should be clean and simple to build.
  • Each piece will use materials from one home only.
  • Possibility of custom design.
  • Use Final Five Productions to capture stories of neighborhood as told by local residents.
  • By purchasing a product, mend lets people know that they are honoring history and helping to support a new story for Detroit and its neighborhoods, helping to repair a lot, plant trees.
  • Bring together the "creative collective": images from research and story to formulate the final telling of the story - variety of media.
  • What will this story look like? Booklet? Laminated card? Link to website?
  • mend can catalogue (map) where it has work in the various communities.
  • Create a living wiki page for each address, posting pictures; people can comment on photos and contribute their knowledge and history.
  • Align with other entities working in neighborhoods (i.e. United Way) to share information about what's going on in neighborhoods.

Making the Product

mend DNA: Making the Product
  • mend products will be Made in Detroit
  • Designs will be simple requiring lesser skills
  • Possible customizable options
  • The story will be integrated into the piece
  • line of scaled products that maximizes wood and leverages story -
  • No waste goal - for economic reasons and sustainability reasons; provide different buy-in points - some can afford a table, others only a pen (product mix considerations)
  • Outsource manufacturing of smaller products/metal components providing work to local artists/manufacturing communities.
  • mend will build the furniture pieces


mend DNA: Sales
  • mend sales targeting people who have a connection to Detroit and people who are interested in local history (former residents, alumni, genealogists)
  • Products should be mid-priced, affordable
  • People might want to connect their own family history to the piece
  • Commercial (restaurants, businesses, interior designers)
  • Smaller products sold in retail shops (city bird, museum shops)
  • Internet (,
  • "What your support supports" - buying a mend product supports Detroit/Detroiters, greening of neighborhoods, improving environment, local artisans etc.


mend DNA: Distribution
  • Distribution can be multi-channel: web, retail, commercial
  • Products could be distributed nationally, or
  • Distribution could be focused on SE Michigan

mend Financials

mend Financials

Product Mix Sensitivity Analysis demonstrating product mix based on board feet and no-waste goal.

mend Financials

mend Financials

Breakdown analysis of direct cost per house of developing the story.

Current Homes