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S2: Amy Kaherl of Detroit Soup #59

 Amy Kaherl of Detroit Soup!

Romy interviews Amy Kaherl of the now famous Detroit Soup! Amy shares about how she started Detroit Soup, some of the barriers to success and grand plans for the people of Detroit. Amy is a visionary catalyst and passionate about people. Great song at the end by Tim Schumack of Assemble Sound.



Full Transcript

Romy: Welcome to the Bonfires of Social Enterprise, This is Romy and I am your host for this episode on Detroit Soup!  You will meet Amy Kaherl, Executive Director of Detroit Soup. Amy shares her very intimate thoughts and strong opinions about the kind of help Detroit entrepreneurs need.  At the end, of course, you will hear a full song by an artist curated by Detroit’s Assemble Sound.

Romy: Okay, before you meet Amy,  I want to welcome Jentzen back. He has been away for about 3 months and I have certainly missed his fun facts.  I think he has a little something about Soup…

Jentzen: Hey Guys, here with this episode’s fun fuel!

1) In 2014, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup celebrated its 80th anniversary.
2) It is believed that the first-ever soup was created around 6,000 B.C. and was made of hippopotamus.
3) Soup isn’t always hot! For those who live in warmer climates like Spain, cold soup alternatives, like tomato-based gazpacho, are popular.
4) Many soups that seem suitable for vegetarians actually aren’t. French onion soup, for example, is commonly made with a beef-broth base.
5) Though it has been linked to several origin stories, there are suggestions that the word “soup” can be traced back to the sixth-century Latin word “suppa,” meaning a piece of bread eaten in broth.


Romy: Thanks Jentzen!  So good to have you back on the podcast. I love fun facts.

Now let me set up the conversation I had with Amy. First of all, you will hear a bit of an echo as we were sitting sort of an industrial maker space called Pony Ride. Pony Ride is a maker space with, I think, about 50 manufacturing entrepreneurs. Many of our social enterprise clients have spaces in Pony Ride. That was just a little plug for Pony Ride.

I was drawn to Amy as a guest for the show because she is a social entrepreneur. Her organization has been the catalyst for many  of the businesses that exist today in Detroit. As you will hear, she is very brave about expressing herself and is passionate about helping others grow and succeed. Let’s drop in on my conversation with Amy…


Romy: Welcome Amy! I’ve been excited to interview you. You’re all over the news, a lot of people know about you at Detroit SOUP, but I want to give our listeners a chance to hear about it. Let’s talk about what Detroit SOUP is.

Amy: Sure. The simplest way to describe it is Detroit SOUP is a micro-granting dinner that is funding projects that are looking to make the city better. The ideas can come from any sector at any place of ideation. You don’t have to have a business; you don’t have to have a nonprofit around it. It can just be in the idea phase. You submit your idea through our website, and then all past winners and any volunteer then have the opportunity to vote on what project gets pitched at the dinner. Four ideas have four minutes to share, four questions back from the diners, and then the diners have a chance to eat then, share, connect, and vote on what project should win the $5 suggested donation from the door. The money’s the least interesting thing that gets exchanged. It’s about community connection, neighborhood engagement, people sharing resources, volunteering, giving maybe more money, but then also challenging each other as voters and diners on what project they think should win the money from the door.
Hopefully, through good conversations around dinner tables or waiting in line to either vote or grab food, you’ll come away with maybe being challenged the way that your values or ethos or ideas are of what makes something better, which is so subjective. It’s about you and where you come from and your family story and your family history. We’ve been doing that for about six and a half years and have raised over $125,000 from Detroiters back to Detroiters. We’re in about nine neighborhood geographies throughout the city plus a monthly city-wide soup starting in September that runs until June.

Amy: I just love this that it’s way more than business plans. It’s about all these ideas. How did you come up with that element of it? How did you come up with the idea to let it be so free?

Amy: Well, one, it came from an art idea. It was a bunch of women who were celebrating an event in Pontiac called “Women: A Celebration of Art and Culture.” We loved working together. Our friend, Katie, had experienced a dinner like this in Chicago where you’re only voting on art ideas, so we pitched it that way in Detroit, but Detroiters came back and said, “Hey, I have this idea about land use.” “I have this idea about technology,” and what I found over time, is that when you put something around a silo, guess who you’re only attracting? People who are attracted to that silo. If you’re not interested in a topic, like I always say if this would have started with urban farming I would not be sitting across from you. I’m grateful that urban farming exists and because of SOUP I’ve learned so much about it, but it wasn’t something where I wake up in the morning, and I think about gardening and farming. A lot of people do, but I’m not one of them. I think about art where other people wouldn’t.
There’s permission with a sector-less-ness of it that folks feel welcome to participate, and they don’t have to be an expert in anything. They don’t even have to live in the neighborhood or the community. They just want to know what’s happening and what voices are being shared and what ideas are being shared. For me, if you don’t have user interaction, how do you know your idea’s good or bad? I know a lot of people who get in their little hole, they work night and day, the believe in their idea, and they start pitching it to folks, and they get negative feedback. They can’t change because they’re so grounded because they’ve worked tirelessly on this idea, that it doesn’t work this way then it shouldn’t work at all, where when you pitch at something like SOUP you’re getting people’s feedback. You’re getting peoples’ questions. I’ve heard more times than not, “I’ve never thought of it this way.” Or people will say, “I’m not looking to win the money, I’m looking to get the feedback,” because it’s people outside of your natural network. No one owes you anything who’s at this dinner, but generally care and generally want to see the community succeed, so they want to hear or find out the people who are willing to genuinely do something within the community.
Maybe it is a one-time project, like a clean-up or a garden project, but sometimes it’s something like the Empowerment Plan or Rebel Now or Detroit Food Academy that make long-lasting, broad systematic changes to the way that we think about engaging with the problems and the folks that are in need within the community. For me, it’s just a couple of hours, and you walk away feeling enlightened about how people are creative around solving problems within the community.

Romy: We had met so many people had told me about you. So many. One common theme, though, I remember thinking, “Man, I’ve got to meet her,” because you leave a trail of inspiration with these events. People end up going, “Man, I heard this idea, and it was a simple idea, and as I listened to that person talk about it, allowing me to lift my idea up a little further.” It’s giving people courage to get up and say, “You know what? I have an idea too,” and as I kept hearing this over and over again all I could think about was in society today we as humans can feel so undervalued, and I see this human valuation of their heart coming and, like, “Wow. Maybe my idea isn’t so kooky. Maybe I’m uniquely made for something.”

Amy: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I lived in LA for three years and the big thing that I learned about coming back to Michigan after my time in LA is LA, and New York people the creators of culture. Midwesterners are consumers of said culture. We rarely make the culture, so we always feel like there’s already one rung down where this isn’t for me or we didn’t make it, or I’m not good enough for this or I don’t have those access to resources. Well, most of those people either worked really hard, move cross country, left everything. That was the one thing about LA that I loved was everyone was there for the hustle. Everyone had a story. Your sob story didn’t matter because everyone’s sob story was the same. Everyone left a family. Everyone left something behind. Even listening to the Olympics, if anyone knew what I went through. Life is hard. All of us have a story. Let’s think about the people who had it “easy,” are the ones who often struggle the most because it got hard. Child actors are all hot messes right now as they become adults because so much was given that you didn’t have to work for it.
For me, you’ve got to work. None of this business just got off the ground. Donald Trump is showing what happens. You don’t have the work ethic, really in my opinion. He got inherited money and then failed at hundreds of companies and if he becomes president will fail at that too because he’s not a good leader. Being a business owner and leader in this community means it’s equitable, it’s sustainable, it cares about others, that you feel empowered. I look around a lot of people, and I hear so many people who don’t feel like their idea’s good, they don’t feel like they’re good, they don’t feel like they’re worthy, they don’t feel like they have anything to give, and I cry bull.

Romy: Yeah.

Amy: You do have things to give, and you are really smart. I have zero business background. I am a theologian. I went to seminary. Guess what classes I never took? Business, banking. We didn’t have those in seminary. For me all of this, that’s hard. The financial piece is hard because I came from a culture of giving to a culture where I think we want to give we just don’t know how to give, and I think we’re afraid of the unknown. We’re afraid that we might lose money. We’re afraid that they’ll be a failure. But we need to lose money. We need to fail. We need to try harder. Things are not okay in Detroit, so if we keep thinking that, “Oh, I’m a business person whose figured it all out,” you might be making money on money, but you’re only creating a larger gap in the system for more and more people to become impoverished. We need better access to resources.

Amy: Already, because this, that and the other, and we put up gigantic hoops. I keep jumping through them myself. As successful as this dinner has been, I don’t take a cut from the door because $5 needs to be accessible so that you feel welcome and ready to come. The risk is low, and the experience and the outcome are high. You know? We do our best, and there are some days we get donations and most days we don’t. I’m on a podcast because I stood up and I did something. I’m really good at telling my story; I’m really bad for asking for money.

Romy: I understand that.

Amy: Anyone who’s listening, it’s just like, I don’t have it all together, I don’t have it all figured out. I haven’t climbed the holy grail, and things aren’t mapped perfectly for me. This isn’t easy, but I’m willing to wake up everyday and go to the grind. Willing, for the last five years, to some months have a paycheck and most months not. I’m willing to forego my own physical health, which I’m not as much anymore, but things that I’ve chosen to do for the sake of this idea, and the sake of the other. Which I think is really unhealthy. I will say I’m learning how to grow from that, but-

Me too. Commentary, me too.

Amy: I think for the most part, though, is I don’t know what else to do because this is what I feel like I need to be doing. I love this community some days, and I hate this community some days. I love what I’ve been able to watch others accomplish, and then I get to accomplish as well.

Romy: Yeah. You know, as you’re talking, I just can’t help but think about some things that I have learned, too. We’ve been on a similar [inaudible [00:11:55] as to Grass Global, and doing this podcast, is the heart to serve has been somehow supernaturally given to me, because when everyone says “gosh, what are you doing?”, You know, no money. It’s like well there’s some other reason why we’re out serving day in and day out. You get caught in the passion of the community, of the people. One important lesson I’ve learned over these last six years is that I put a lot more value on the money when I first started this than I do now. I have less value on the money and more value on what people can do as a community-

Amy: Absolutely.

Romy: No question. Now, having said that we need money because we don’t live in a trading culture.

Amy: Yeah, right. I wish we did.

Romy: We have to do some of it with money, but I can tell you I’ve put more, I’ve watched people come together that are so under-resourced. Once you activate that inspiration, that brilliance together, oh my gosh, I’ve been amazed and astounded, and so humbled. Coming out of the financial industry, I’m thinking “okay, I learned the best of the best techniques for everything”-

Amy: Sure.

Romy: That’s what moves the market; that’s what I was taught for 25 years. Boy, what really moves the market is people coming together, and then money is just a tool.

Amy: Well, this year I’ve had an immense opportunity to go to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that President Obama puts on, and I was one of 5 Detroit delegates to go and represent. Mark Zuckerberg speak from Facebook, and he goes “you know how many times people said ‘well, no one outside of college will use Facebook.’ You know how many people said ‘This person won’t use it, and this person won’t use it.’” It’s that we’re always looking at today, as how people use things. I get it if you’re only looking at tomorrow’s dollar, I guess that’s fine, but for real lasting change, art that actually matters. Businesses that actually have creative change. Or real change within a culture. It’s not this quick fix; it’s a long-term investment. It’s a long term game. It’s not just about tomorrow; it’s about tomorrow’s tomorrow’s tomorrow.
When I moved here, the only grants I’ve received are one year. If we really want to create sustainable solutions for Detroit, we need to think 10 to 20 year. We need to not think 3-year turnaround; we need to think ten-year turnaround. Right now we’re at your 7 of soup, and I just really think it could be a 10-12 year project. It doesn’t need to be around in 45 years. If it should be around in 45 years, then we haven’t fixed the problems, right, of the ecosystem.
We continue to put more barriers of entry in, because for me, if people are coming to soup the way that they have, then they don’t know how to access the door into the ecosystem. They’re coming to us because we’re there, we’re present, we’re not an institution, it’s flexible, it’s fluid, it moves, it changes, the ideas are always different. There’s no one set pattern. It’s all these different ideas, and so because of that, it doesn’t fit in a box, and it doesn’t fit in this one solution. There’s a lot of different solutions, and it’s the people behind those solutions that we should-should hear their voices, and seeing how they’re filling the gaps. Maybe it does need to be around a little bit longer than that, but I think that that’s our own selfish need to root things, rather than letting it grow into an ecosystem that has better doors to enter into.

Romy: You’re going back to the way non-profits were created to be. To get in and solve a solution.

Amy: Yeah.

Romy: You’re honoring the original-

Amy: Totally. As un-traditional as I am, this is so traditional. Then thinking about my theology background, of course, I would find a traditional model. Poverty can get solved in our lifetime.

Romy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Amy: If the 3 trillion or 5 trillion dollars are going to fight wars, we can find some of that money to get back into education, find a better loan system for housing for all people. Where they can continue to create equity, so that we’re all reaching at the same level, for the same thing. Now, not all of us have the same drive. That, we can get caught up in trauma and vulnerability to take us away from the things that give us joy, but some of us don’t want to work 10-15 hours a day. That just means you have to work longer at it.

Romy: Right.

Amy: Maybe you’re healthier about it.

Amy: We live in a culture that doesn’t value the self, doesn’t value the other, that we’re independent human beings that are independent of each other, but really we are wonderful humans, built with so many gifts and talents, that live in a space that are meant to draw on each other as support systems, and create healthy, safe communities, where if we really believe that our children can thrive, then we need to create really communities that our children can thrive, because they’re just mini adults.

Amy: Right? They’re adults longer than they are children, so let’s create safer, healthier communities for these little mini-adults to be better-thriving adult adults.

Romy: Right. You hit on something, too, this term “self-made”, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. People who brag about this, it becomes a prideful statement.

Here in Detroit, it is more community-made, and it’s more of what Detroit’s soup is.

Romy: Are you finding that the people who are now your regular attendees? Do you get a sense that they come back because of the community, they enjoy the community? I would think there’s some attraction-

Amy: I think they’re really inspired by the folks who are pitching. I think some of them are past winners that feel so supported and feel like they have, they want to give something back or be a part of the community for the next person that comes through. Yeah, that’s the point. We are always around. There’s always another dinner. There’s always the next thing. I have friends since the beginning of soup; they’re like “I’m so embarrassed, I still haven’t gone.” I go “Well, lucky for you; there’s another one.” Someday there’s not going to be the next one, but if you can take time out of a Sunday night to even come to a city-wide soup, I think you’ll walk away inspired. I think you’re going to walk away connected. You’re going to walk away that you weren’t entertained, but you were empowered to give your voice, to find your own power, to walk alongside each other. Not by giving your power away, but bringing other people’s power into equity. You know? I think that that’s something that you can’t put dollar amounts onto.

Amy: You can’t pay for that, and a lot of folks are trying to.

Amy: You just have to create it. Creating safe space is what we do. We’re not the funders of any of the projects. Right? You didn’t give the money to Detroit Soup Choose. You put your money in so you could choose.

Amy: It’s your responsibility to follow-up with these folks. We give so much power to institutions that we forget that the power lies within us.

Amy: We’ve got to bring our power back, and then we’ll speak truth to that power.

Romy: Right, right. Will you just dive a little deeper in that statement you said of empowering another’s equity? What is your definition of that?

Amy: I met with my dear friend, Yodit, who runs NEW nonprofit enterprises at work,

Romy: She was on our project [crosstalk [00:20:15] lips and hips.

Amy: Lips and hips, yeah. I just met with Yodit, and I’ve seen this on the internet before, but behind her desk was this photo. It was equality, which was a tall man, a middle-sized woman, and a child, all reaching for an apple. The tall man was the only one.
The apples were all there, but the tall man had the only reach tall enough to reach the apple. Equity is that all three are at the same height level if you will, to reach for that apple. The apple should be accessible to all, which means we’re all on the same footing. No matter how tall you are, what’s your race, what’s your gender or ethnicity. None of that stuff should matter. It’s about the work that you’re willing to do.

Romy: Right. Making sure that everyone has access to it but everybody still has to do their reaching for it.

Amy: Absolutely. One of those kids could say, “But I don’t want that apple.” Cool. At least that apple was available.

Amy: We see that in the school systems. If you have a lot of money for your school system, guess what kids do better? Oh. [inaudible [00:21:25] success. Communities that don’t have the same kind of accessible access to education often don’t do as well. You see this in Detroit too where we’ve got a lot of problems, and we’re trying to make that a better … children should never be commodified. Education should be the one safe space in all of our culture where you don’t get to be rich off of some kid’s poverty.

Romy: Let’s go to the other place that we talked about specific to the quick fixes that we’ve witnessed here in Detroit that we’re not judgmental of but I know that it’s something on your heart that you want to share specific how it relates to Detroit’s soup.
Let’s talk about that for a minute.

Amy: Yeah. I think a lot of times we feel like 6 months to a year, we should have solved the problem for X. What happens if we solve the problem for X in a year is that 4 new problems should be popping up because we see where the gaps are in the system because by closing one gap, it only clears the way to see another gap.
When we started Detroit Soup, A) I didn’t think it turned into what it’s turned into. B) The one thing I did have in my mind was time. There was time to build, there was a time to grow, there was time to make bad choices and a time to make good choices, and hopefully good choices will lead to failures that help us understand what we were doing right or wrong.
We needed just to jump in; we needed to do something. If we had it all figured out when I started here 6 … I would still be sitting here seven years later thinking we had it all figured out; there’s always a gap to be filled. There’s always something in somebody’s life that needs that place of access or for things to be combined. For resources to be shared. I think what the problem is downtown is revitalizing faster than anyone could ever imagine. Downtown sat vacant for 50 years, and within three years, it’s not anybody’s any longer.
It’s changed so fast that I don’t think there’s been enough time for people to catch up to the change, to the rapid growth that’s been happening. Folks who were finally just feeling stabilized with their rent got jacked up two times the amount.
Detroit was awesome because there was a community. Detroit was awesome. It still is awesome, it’s just a different kind of awesome maybe, but I just hope we are conscious of our choices that as we sit and pony ride which is 60 cents a square foot in a community that’s between 8 and 12 dollars a square foot that’s now downtown that’s 34 dollars a square foot to neighborhoods that could be down to 8 dollars a square foot, and I mean that by rental spaces. Are we ready for that? Do we have the same kind of type, that number of people living in neighborhoods on a Sunday afternoon to keep that business afloat as it does on a Friday night?
I think these businesses are important, I think change is important, I think revitalization that’s happening has been very important, and a lot of folks’ voices have been involved in it. Let’s not feel like you moving into town, or now you coming back into town is saving Detroit.
Let’s take that savior complex and never use it again. None of us are saviors to anything. We’re just humans just trying to solve for X. Or Y, or purple, and participate and give your dollars and let’s keep small businesses the core identity of what we’re doing in Detroit. I think we’ll have a city that we’ll really be proud of.
If it looks like N 59 and Chainer, where it’s all big box stores, then we’ve lost our voice, and we’ve lost our identity. We’ve now succumbed to just having what any suburban neighborhood all across America has. I love that we don’t have the same kind of crime. I like that the police have responded faster. I like that I have great restaurants to choose from and independent coffee shops. What I miss is when you only had seven really restaurants, that meant you’d often bump into the same people over and over and over again. That’s changed, but I digress.
I just remember when I first moved here there’d be groups from MIT or Harvard, and they’d do two-week workshops, and they’d give plans. They’d be like okay here’s how you change this problem. You’re like hey, did you bring money with it? No. Did you bring leadership with it? No. Did you make a home here? No. Then that project’s not going to stay because who’s going to run it? That’s something too, to think about.
I just see in the last six months to a year there’s a thousand small business conferences that are coming to Detroit. Okay, fine, but you start a small business. You open up shop. We have the resources here, and they’ve been on the ground, they’ve been grassroots, they’ve been access to neighborhoods, and they’ve been trusted.

Amy: The one thing I learned when I started to do things in Detroit, you can do a one-time only event, that’s fine. Are you going to be around here a year later? Two years later? Because Soup is. So is Build. The name is known, people have stories from it, and they trust it. The word of mouth pays. Why we’re still here.

Romy: Right.

Amy: I’d like to have now, be a little more resourceful.

Romy: Yeah, let’s talk about that. Changing the norms. Thank you for that commentary because you have such a unique perspective.

Amy: It’s just my perspective. It’s not everybody’s; I don’t speak for all of Detroit. It’s my life that happens to be in Detroit.

Romy: That’s what this podcast is about.

Romy: You challenge the norms when it comes to fundraising and dollars. While you’ve self-selected into saying I’m not very good at it, I would disagree. I think probably …

Amy: I’m not good at fundraising for myself. I’m good at fundraising for others.

Romy: It is more awkward when you’re asking for yourself. We tend to undervalue our organization.

Amy: Totally.

Romy: By the very nature of what makes our organizations good, we’re highlighting others we can tend to dismiss ourselves too far. A word for everyone, don’t do that.

Amy: Yeah. Or, you’re asking for dollar amounts 17 times the dollar amount we’re asking for at the door, but that just shows the gap in the system yet again.

Romy: Primarily your funders have come from foundation type money.

Amy: Yup.

Romy: What do you see as your challenges and how are you challenging the norms by both your verbal commentary. You’re speaking the truth which is so so so important, but let’s talk about that a little bit. What your current situation is, what your current barriers you’re running into and anything ways to overcome it and break through.

Amy: I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned by running this project is that because it’s so big and so free. Not in the sense that it’s dollar amount free, but there is no rules or governance or laws or things around it that anybody at any point … it really it stops the giving thing in its track. Well, of course, it’s a great idea, of course, I want to give, but we’re only allowed to give to entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Okay, we fit a lot of that box, but not the whole box. People go oh, man. I’m really going to have to work hard at finding the right language that you could fit in the box for us. We fit in our box because we are artistic in the way that we have people interact, and it is you are this art project.

Amy: Have people interact, and it is you for this art project and you for this living breathing interaction that’s so fascinating, but because it’s entrepreneurial in a sense it’s not 100% art, so you don’t fit in that box.
We’re civic engagement because we’re really helping people practice democracy, but we’re not in the sense that we’re teaching people how to vote for particular candidates. It’s about going to the voting booth per se, so we’re civic engagement, but we’re not, so we don’t fit in that box.
What I’ve found is that there aren’t a lot of foundations out there or organizations that can wiggle outside of their own restriction. The way that the policy is made is that, because of their own governance from the federal law, because of the way that it’s set up in the federal government, I should’ve just picked the box. I didn’t know that I had to do that, but then I guess that’s the artist in me that’s like well, let’s pressure it until something changes because this is really important. Or we need to figure out a way that it lives within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, so it can fit in the entrepreneurial box by not having to give the same data though of x, y, z spheres.

Romy: Yeah, and how many jobs you create.

Amy: And how many jobs that we created because I’m not creating a job that day. It’s the three years later, but three years later is too long for most instant pleasure that we love in America that we can say oh, look what I did right now. Often the data is already two years too late.

Amy: So most of the barriers that you run into when you apply are for specific categories.

Are the things that we’ve protected to make ourselves feel like we could do the right thing. I talked to a couple of millennial leaders, twenty-six-year-olds today, and they’re in this unique experience of getting all these people starting projects throughout America to sit down and talk together. I was like how many sticky notes have you thrown away on this trip, and they’re like a lot. I’m like yeah, we can sit around, and we can plan plan plan, and as college educated people we want to make sure that everything’s aligned, but life isn’t that way. We see the way that if you want to walk into social services you have to fill out a fifty-page form. Right now I’m looking for health insurance, and I have to go through. I qualified for ninety-two different plans. Ninety-two! Now I just feel like I’m getting taken advantage of. Now I feel like what’s right for me? For us it’s just like we’re so afraid, I don’t know, like the boxes are so set up so that we’re protecting ourselves, but we’re protecting ourselves from what we could really achieve. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.

Romy: There’s this, I don’t know what you’d call it, I want to say an artificial wall in between the people who say they’d like to give some of the larger organizations. They tell a lot of stories about feeding a social mission, but I find somehow, it’s blocked coming into Detroit sometimes, and organizations like yours or others that I can think of that are having multiple arms of impact.

Amy: With such low budgets! I would like to say that we’ve done all this work with less than $150,000 a year.

Romy: That’s amazing.

Amy: And as people don’t know, most organizations that function on our level are at anywhere from $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year.

Romy: There is a little bit of a dismissal when you don’t have a big budget. There’s an assumption almost that you must not be getting it done somehow. All of a sudden the eyes go off the impact, and onto well there’s no way they could keep it going.

Amy: Yeah! If you don’t give to me, yeah we can’t keep it going, but I’m also so honest with myself. If we didn’t raise more than a hundred twenty-five last year, then how am I supposed to do this again and now double it? And now three years down the line double that again? I’m more realistic than that. I’m a better organizer than I am a fundraiser, but I’m also a white woman, and that can be a problem too. Or it can get me other things.
I’m just a bridge builder, and I just hope that people understand that as we start this I75 project. It’s going to take fourteen years to just widen the road. Imagine how long it takes to change systematic poverty. Right? If it’s going to take fourteen years, so I’ll be forty-nine. Let’s just say it’ll take a little bit longer too; I’ll be fifty years old. My nieces will be in college. They’re not babies anymore at that point; you know what I’m saying? A lot changes very quickly, and yet we look at old information, and it takes a long time for us to say yes. Just say yes and move on. Can we just say yes and maybe lose a little bit of money? The thing is that we’re not creating new jobs, and we’re not creating new markets, and we want to bring manufacturing back to Detroit, but we’re sitting on buildings. We’re not doing anything with them, and we’re not bringing industry into it. It needs to be all of us together that put it all in there. If you have money, give, because you’re going to get a lot back in return. If you want to see jobs created, help is a part of making that happen.

Romy: Right. What could this look like if the truth of what you know at this moment, what could this look like if you let yourself dream big about Detroit Soup?

Amy: Soup has been modeled in a hundred and twenty cities around the world. If I had the budget, I think we would’ve had an education component of teaching others how to start a Soup thoughtfully and equitably in their community. How not to skip steps, like a year long checking in. I think we are sitting on a global storytelling of entrepreneurs and ideators around the world who are solving problems and then can be connected to this Soup model. I think that in Detroit we could be building a fund where it’s slow repayment without the same checks and balances. Like, if you have a felony, well, that’s uninteresting to me. Are you passionate? Did you go through the steps? Are you changing your life? Are you changing your opportunities? Are you trying to make things better within your community? Are you working towards things? You should be able to get maybe a loan over a slow payback with low interest. I don’t think that’s that scary, because if you’re going through the ecosystem healthily, you’ll be ready, but we have to believe in the ecosystem.

Romy: Yeah, and this will take time because we’re not robots. I say if you’re working with plants or people or animals, things that are alive with their life, it’s going to take its natural organic steps and paths, and it’s not clear. It’s a little messy, but it’s wonderful and exciting. It takes a minute.

Amy: There are a lot of people who are outside your sphere of understanding who are creating things for their crew. We see that in media in a big way. My father and mother grew up with the five TV stations and were all watching the same things, and you get forty to fifty million people watching I Love Lucy, right? Right now you’re lucky. I think Big Bang Theory is the only TV show that has a lot of viewers. Everybody else, if you get a million, you’re doing a great job.

Romy: Yeah, because there’re so many choices now.

Amy: They’re so many choices, and I think that that’s real, and that’s beautiful and exciting. Whatever those choices might be, we have to let them be that way, but we don’t live in a world anymore where there’s a singular voice what makes us laugh any longer. There’s a lot of different voices, and we all come at it, and we find things that excite us or are speaking to a place where we are in our life. I think that’s the same thing with business. They’re businesses being created that are totally outside of your sphere. Do you watch Grace and Frankie?

Amy: It’s on Netflix. It’s like older women, but the whole premise is they’re creating products for women in their sixties and seventies because no one’s doing it. You know? I think that that speaks to the truth to where we are in our lives right now. Any of us in any point of our lives can create something that can change the world. Or your world, right? I feel like I have a view of what can jostle an ecosystem? I think what we’re figuring out, I think in a couple of years we can give over to Grand Rapids. We can give to Flint; we can give to Cleveland. We can help on the south side of Chicago, Philly. Things that have large amounts of urban poverty but has foundations, we can help create a roadmap of this is how you can do this.

Romy: Right. Anything else that you want to say about any of the people that you’ve seen come through your program?

There’s so many, and they’re so many voices that I just get to see the tip of the iceberg of, because they live maybe in [Brightmore [00:40:14] or on the east side I don’t get to see on a daily basis. I just think that if you have an idea, I think the haters are there just to keep you going. That’s something at least for me to kind of rally for. They help me ask the questions about why not. No one has your passion, and no one has your vision. That’s what Mark Zuckerberg said. I kept waiting for somebody else to do it, and nobody else was doing it. I just kept moving forward with it. Right? Don’t mimic your product after something that already exists. You don’t know the rooted value of what they’ve done or the ecosystem behind it. Create your thing your way, and have your user vision. Then use Facebook or Twitter or whatever, but I can’t tell you how many times I heard people go I’m going to create the new Facebook of, and I go no, there’s one Facebook. They created it, and we use that one thing. We’re not using seventeen different platforms.


We do, we use a few now. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. There’s are some  risk takers using products that I don’t even know about. Snapchat, specifically. I feel like I’m outside of that, out of that world now. I didn’t learn how to communicate through video. I learned how to create through language and words, and yet the video is the way that a lot of people are communicating with now. Things are changing. Do it your way, or don’t do it. Do you, do what you feel is how you see the world, how you make sense out of it. Don’t be something that you’re not. Stick to your roots, stick to your truth. Knowledge is something that you can always obtain, but you trying to fit into how you think somebody. The biggest thing I’ve learned at Soup is when we do pitch practices. I hear this almost every time we do it, with every single person. This is what I thought this person would want to hear. I go, who is this person that you imagine you’re talking to? Let’s bring this back, what do you want to tell me, no, what do you want to tell yourself? If you were going to buy this thing. People are like whoa.

Romy: Permission.

Amy: We’re always looking for permission. You know who’s the only person who’s going to give you permission? Yourself. Period.

Romy: Such a good word. I want to stay talking to you. How would they reach you? Any website, social media?

Amy: Well, the easiest best comprehensive view of Detroit Soup is If you want to continue to follow past winners, and hearing about future events, Facebook and Twitter are the best places to do that. If you want to follow us on Instagram, we’re on that. All of that is Detroit Soup. If you want to contact me, you’re more than welcome to shoot me an email at Just because you heard me on a podcast doesn’t mean that you can’t email me, and I will get back to you. Maybe not in two hours, but I’ll get back to you.

Thank you, Amy, for everything you’re doing.

Amy: Thank you!

Romy: I know we’re going to keep talking about some other things because you and I are working on potentially trying to get some funding together, and an investment fund for what you’re doing and growing your capacity.

Romy: Thank you, Amy, for the great conversation and your courageous leadership in Detroit – indeed a catalyst.

Well, it’s that time again, to close with a song. As you know, our songs are curated out of Assemble Sound in Detroit. This song is by artist, Tim Schumack and the song title is “You.”

End of Transcript


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