Last month, I had the pleasure of attending TEDx Detroit, where the motor city’s thought leaders gathered to generate positive ideas for our city and beyond. 

We met Anuja Rajendra, founder of Bollyfit, who created the form of fitness after suffering depression from the loss of her sister and weight gain from the birth of her two children.  Anuja energized the stage by describing how each of us has a spirit with cracks, much like Detroit.  These cracks, however, let the light in and can allow a new spirit to form.  She ended her presentation with an ensemble of her Bollyfit dancers igniting the stage.

After an introduction by Airfoil’s president Janet Tyler, Airfoil client Jim Scapa, chairman and CEO of Altair Engineering, inspired the crowd by describing how he made Detroit his home by starting a business and raising a family here after moving from New York.  Speaking on the underlying theme of innovation, he asked the crowd if their business maintains a high IIQ – Innovation Intelligence Quotient. This high IIQ is created through a strong culture, diversity and broad communications, all three components which lie within the cracks of Detroit’s city streets. Jim professed he believes Detroit is on the verge of something big and he’s excited to be a part of this movement. 

One of the final presenters, filmmaker Eric Proulx, shared his vision for Detroit and how we communicate about our hometown to others.  The media too often tear down the city — the crime, the homelessness, the dilapidation — leading us to defend our home.  Why aren’t we talking about the good that occurs?  The people who create pockets of hope; the organizations who help those in need; and the art that allows for inspiration.  He challenges each of us to be an ambassador of the city and represent it well.  He showed trailer for his next film “Lemonade: Detroit,” a documentary about the “disarming resilience of those who are moving Detroit beyond automobiles into an era of entrepreneurism.”

From Bollywood dancers to Texts from Last Night, the audience was captivated and realized the inspiration to do something can come from anywhere… the loss of a loved one; one drink too many with a close friend; even bonding with an in-law (does that actually ever happen?).  The point is, if you have an idea, and you think it’s a good one, what’s stopping you from acting on it? 

— Liz Pandzich