Detroit: A City to Fall in Love With

December 11, 2014

Detroit: A City to Fall in Love With

By Amanda Knaebel

DETROIT — On a street where “COMING SOON” signs litter the store fronts and the sounds of construction echo from building to building like an orchestrated symphony of new energy and life, stands a storefront with a bright orange sign, D:Hive.

It is the welcome center where all the busy bees entering the city can come to for a hub of information on working, living and loving a city with a rich history and a transforming future. This is also where Jeanette Pierce can be found, a young entrepreneur that turned her adoration of her hometown into an experience she can share with the world.

We’re talking about Detroit. That’s right, the haven for small people who want to do big things. A born and raised Detroiter, Jeanette shares her passion and knowledge of the city at Detroit Experience Factory or DXF, the tour sector of D:Hive, through variations of tours that embrace and uncover the hidden gems in Detroit

Passion exuded through Jeanette’s voice as she narrated the tale of her love affair with Detroit city. “It started off as like a best friend kind of love,” said Jeanette, reminiscing on her relationship with Detroit. “From a very early age, I had to defend Detroit, like my friends from school weren’t allowed to come to my house just because I lived in the city.”

Jeanette was not discouraged though. She remained loyal to her misunderstood city and shared all of its positivity whenever she could. It wasn’t until after college that Jeanette began to see Detroit by a city-light setting. She moved downtown and began to explore
the city by foot, discovering places that she never knew existed. “That’s when I went from friends to like ‘in a relationship’ status because I just got to know it so much better, on such a deeper level,” said Jeanette.

As a former study abroad student in Spain and recent college graduate, she had tossed around the possibilities of staying in Detroit, going away to grad school or moving to Spain. Ultimately, her heart kept her home. “There were all these possibilities and it was like, no, Detroit’s the one, it’s the one for me and it was a full on commitment after that,” avowed Jeanette.

Her symbolic marriage to Detroit was recognized when she and Maureen Kearns officially launched Inside Detroit, the first brick and mortar Detroit welcome center, in January 2006. She also married her literal husband three years ago at Campus Martius so she could incorporate her first love, Detroit. “That’s when I became, like full-on committed,” said Jeanette. The purpose was to introduce people, both visitors and locals,to the misjudged city of Detroit.

With no money, few resources and a college dorm collection of furniture in a borrowed storefront on Woodward, Jeanette was running on passion and hope. In 2007, at age 26, Jeanette was congratulated for her efforts when she was awarded with Crain’s 20 in their 20s, honoring young professionals and entrepreneurs who make an impact in the metro Detroit area. “I wasn’t crazy,” Jeanette said was the biggest affirmation she got from the award, “you know, whenever you start something there’s a lot of people that think it’s a dumb idea.”

In 2012, Jeanette got more backing on her idea when InsideDetroit merged with D:Hive as a three-year experimental partnership that combined everything someone could possibly want to know about Detroit, and offered Jeanette’s non-profit a support system that she desperately needed.

Jeanette explained the hardest part about running her organization was the financial and business aspect of it, because it wasn’t something she wanted to do and not something she was particularly good at.

“It’s like if you’re making cupcakes, and then you start to do accounting, and then the accounting sucks, then the cupcakes are going to start to suck, too,” analogized Jeanette. “And that’s where D:Hive really helped, by bringing in a support system for all the back end kind of stuff.”

D:Hive continues to grow, with 12,000 people to date experiencing Detroit through Jeanette’s and other DXF tour guide’s excursions. Jeanette’s favorite part about each of her tours is seeing the transformation of people as they learn things they never knew about
Detroit. She explains that talking about Detroit, and seeing people react gives her a unique type of energy.

“I’m not allowed to have coffee and talk about Detroit at the same time,” joked Jeanette.

Jeanette is excited for the split of D:Hive, and explained that the split will mean more specialization, not a loss in resources. “As things grew within ... we were growing out of the D:Hive program,” said Jeanette.

She also explained that D:Hive was only meant to be a three-year project to give the process a sense of urgency and to stimulate experimentation.

Jeanette will continue to focus on DXF, the sector of D:Hive which includes tours, serves as the Welcome Center and gives information on how to work and live in Detroit. Jeanette continues to fall in love with Detroit each day, and has remained excited and optimistic for the future of her beloved city. She has made Detroit her life and wants others to fall in love with the city the way she has.

As Detroit has become media’s favorite underdog story, Jeanette could be considered the city’s modern day Cinderella. So how would Jeanette summarize her love story with Detroit? Probably with one of her favorite taglines, “You can’t make this shit up.”