It’s always amazing when people get together to find ways to improve their community, but it’s even more amazing when everyone also has a great time, while satisfying their creative hunger. Detroit SOUP does exactly just that.
Founded in 2010, Detroit SOUP describes themselves as “a microgranting dinner celebrating creative projects in Detroit”. Participants meet monthly and pays $5 to attend. In exchange, you get soup, salad, bread, and the right to vote for your favorite project. The proceeds go into production costs and a grant pool to be awarded to the winning project idea. The ideas presented can range from art, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology, and more.
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Kaherl, the Executive Director of Detroit SOUP. Here, we discuss the awesome ideas Detroit SOUP has seen since launching and the impact she feels that the organization has made in improving the city of Detroit.
Give us a brief introduction of yourself and your background
My name is Amy Kaherl and I am the Executive Director of Detroit SOUP. I have an MA in Theology that I received at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2008. While not running SOUP I am involved in planning after parties for the Detroit City Futbol League and as DJ Amy Dreamcatcher with the monthly party, Nothing Elegant. I am obsessed with pizza and PBR, Star Wars, and the Detroit Tigers.
From your recollection, why did the original founders start Detroit SOUP?
Kate Daughdrill had just moved here from Virginia to begin her MFA at Cranbrook and studying art as social practice. After meeting together while planning an event supporting women in the arts Kate experienced a loft above our friend Jessica’s family bakery. The loft set in motion that the dinner could be something that we could invite people to participate in. Giving people the freedom to gather, vote, practice democracy, be in a theatrical environment, experiment, play, etc.
Are their any rules when presenting your idea during the dinners?
There are only two rules at the dinner in general and they are focused at the presenters and not at the diners. They are (1) the idea must be about the 138 square miles of the city and (2) that you can not use technology to present. We have the second rule because in the beginning we didn’t have a projector and often times you waste so much time trying to get the technology to work that it takes away from the evening. It also levels the playing field.
It doesn’t seem like the projects presented has to be a non-profit. What are some interesting entrepreneurial ventures you guys have seen presented so far?
Any idea is welcome to submit at SOUP. We have had simple ideas like park cleanups to documentary films, business startups, social justice ideas, homeless outreach! One of our early stories is the idea of The Empowerment Plan, a coat that turns into a sleeping bag that turns for homeless made by women who are exiting shelters. This idea has given the foundation to a more recent winner, Rebel Nell. They make jewelry from graffiti that has fallen off of buildings while also hiring women from shelters. We have helped urban farms and gardens build solar panels for their greenhouse or hoop houses. SOUP supported the first comprehensive guide to the city called Belle Isle to 8 Mile.
What is the most memorable idea you’ve heard so far from Detroit SOUP?
We just hit our 52 dinner mark. We have heard so many thoughtful project ideas looking to make Detroit better. One of the most memorable is this Wayne State University student who created an LED light bulb that’s over $50 less expense than the competing bulb. It’s an interesting business concept: http://www.signaled.us/ that I loved and thought it was awesome that he would share it at SOUP.
In your opinion, how big of a impact has your organization made on improving Detroit as a city?
I think pretty large. Seven small businesses and have formed after winning soup, as well as five nonprofits have formed or collaborated with an existing 501(c)3, land has been cleaned, parks created, children empowered. We have had a couple meet and get married, people receive jobs, and collaborate on projects together. It’s been amazing to hear winners share how empowered they were with sharing their ideas and receiving feedback. I have made life changing friendships and have met some of the most caring, compassionate, kind people in this city!
What are the most important lesson(s) you or attendees have learn from Detroit SOUP?
How important it is to remove barriers of entries for all people. We all have gifts, resources, knowledge and skills we can share and I love watching people share that with others. I love how people fail and see that as a success rather than loss. I love watching old and young sit together on the floor and share stories together. I love that artists are still encouraged to share their work. I love that people share food from their own gardens and bring it to soup. Overall, I think it’s being together and sharing the road together. Nothing is perfect and we are all in process. We see the goodness, honesty, and kindness of people. It’s lovely.
Where do you see Detroit SOUP going in the next couple years?
We are expanding the model into neighborhoods throughout the city. It is being used as a model of a new town hall. Getting people together to talk about what they can do to not only inspire change but someone walks out with money to go and build that change. So in three years I would love for it to have expanded larger than I can only dream. I hope our neighborhoods are stronger and healthier because of it.
Photography by karpovthewreckedtrain