All Posts in Rebrand Detroit

April 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Rebrand Detroit partners with WordPress to Launch Detroit Websites

The first nine businesses in the 100 Project to launch new websites went live today, March 9, 2017.

Nine Detroit small businesses have new websites created pro bono by developers from San Francisco-based Automattic (the for profit arm of WordPress), part of a citywide initiative to get 100 businesses online by 2nd quarter of this year. The new websites were created during a 48-hour Super Bowl Weekend blitz as part of the 100 Project, program of Detroit-based Brand Camp University in partnership with WordPress and TechTown Detroit.

Brand Camp University’s mission is to help businesses tell their story via brand strategy, workshops and mentoring. Brand Camp’s 100 Project seeks to eliminate the digital gap that exists in so many communities that the Super Bowl weekend pilot project aimed to establish a digital presence for neighborhood businesses increasing their accessibility and their bottom line. The genesis of this project was seeded by the Knight Foundation’s Knight Cities Challenge.

“Getting the privilege to partner and learn from Alicia* and Kay** and their Detroit-based businesses have made me rethink how the Web needs to work, for *their* work.”

– John Maeda Global Head of Design at Automattic

A talented WordPress team of developers flew in from around the country help put a diverse group of Detroit neighborhood businesses on the grid. The selections not only represented a variety of industries (arts, eateries, apparel, etc.), but also represented diverse ethnicities and economic levels. The Rebrand Detroit team facilitated a tour using a colorful art bus from The Detroit Bus Company, giving a glimpse of some Detroit landmarks. The developers then had the opportunity to tour the businesses and meet the business owners behind the websites they would craft to introduce or reintroduce them to the digital world. The next forty-eight hours were used to create websites, connect, exchange ideas and create a dialogue focused on ideas on how to continue to improve the presentation and reach of their brand.

“More than 2.4 billion people use the internet every day, and some 90% of those have purchased something, or contacted a company, online in the last 12 months,” says Hajj Flemings, founder of Brand Camp.” There is a digital divide that inhibits businesses without websites to benefit from this e-commerce reality. Forty-six (46%) of small businesses in underserved neighborhoods are disconnected digitally. We aim to change that.”

Websites debuting on March 9, 2017:

Seven of the nine businesses are clients in TechTown’s SWOT City program, which provides customized, one-on-one consulting for small businesses in Detroit’s neighborhoods.

The 100 Project will be scaling with the assistance of community partners to help more businesses get on the grid. If you would like to partner with this great effort, contact Hajj Flemings at speak[at]

*footnote or link to Alicia’s business “Motor City Java House” — a neighborhood coffee shop

**footnote or link to Kay’s business “Art in Motion” — a community ceramics studio

September 27, 2016 - No Comments!


All across America there is a revival of urban cities.  There a vibrancy that reverberates from the commercial corridors of the Midtown and downtown areas in cities like Detroit.  Once you get a mile or two away from the main corridor, the energy,opportunities, business density and access to capital dissipates. Can the city of Detroit expand economically and battle gentrification at the same time?  How can we ensure there is equitable development in neighborhoods with underserved commercial corridors, disconnected business owners and existing residences.  We believe it is possible.
Detroit’s future requires connecting the worlds of design,  

technology and innovation to neighborhoods.”

– Hajj Flemings Founder of Rebrand Detroit

Rebrand Detroit,  a civic design and brand project that is led by Brand Camp University, is looking to tackle this difficult problem.  The Knight Foundation launched the #KnightCities Challenge in 2015 and Hajj Flemings, Founder of Brand Camp University, was selected as 1 of 32 winners out of a pool of over 7,000 applicants to launch this big idea.  It is a multi-disciplinary collaboration with the residents, community stakeholders, and local government.

Why is Rebrand Detroit important to the future of city of Detroit?  We believe creative placemaking can’t be limited to one segment of the city but that every neighborhood could benefit if design, technology and innovation were integrated to the DNA of Detroit neighborhoods.  This initiative will help brand the great things that are already happening in neighborhoods.

The Four Elements of Rebrand Detroit

To help carry out the mission of Rebrand Detroit we have developed four basic elements of this project called SEEE.

  • Storytelling – Share stories of the neighborhood and its businesses, including their progress during Rebrand Detroit.
  • Experience – Creating a visual brand experience inside neighborhood commercial corridors.
  • Education – Provide brand training and education to neighborhood business owners, assisting with the execution phase. .
  • Engagement – Community engagement with residents and the business community

Can rebrand Detroit be a catalyst for the city of Detroit?  Can we help change the narrative of Detroit and help drive the economic development of Detroit into neighborhoods?  We know these ideas only work if residences and business owners have a say. This idea involves the residents, community stakeholders and local government.  Once proven that this idea can work in one neighborhood, it can be scaled for other Detroit neighborhoods and other cities around the world.

For more information:

June 1, 2016 - No Comments!


The idea of tech accelerators like Techstars and YCombinator is sexy but could it work for neighborhood businesses.  Y Combinator has 1,000+ companies with a valuation of $65B  and Techstars has 762 companies with market cap of $5B.  These accelerators attract highly educated founders who can move to Silicon Valley, Boulder or the various cities the accelerators exist in and dedicate 3 to 6 months to focus on their idea.

How do tech accelerators translate to neighborhood businesses? They don’t and they weren’t designed to. The retail brick and mortar businesses that exist in urban cities with underrepresented owners who are typically disconnected from the capital resources and the density that exist in midtown or downtown areas that drives sales. Their ideas as constructed aren’t scalable, there is no funding from family and friend’s and they don’t have teams (the business owner is usually the primary employee) with complementary skills, but their ideas are important to a city.  I am not throwing shade at Techstars or YCombinator I personally know partners and founders of these organizations and I love what they are doing.

Common Challenges for Local Neighborhood Businesses:

  • Limited Bandwidth: Oftentimes, owners are their only full-time employee working 10-12 hour days, so they spend the majority of their time on core business operations, such as finding & negotiating with suppliers.  They are also active in their community during non-work hours—renting out their space for community events, teaching around the community, etc.
  • No Financial Resources: Owners don’t have the resources to hire additional full-time or part-time employees or can’t justify the cost of specialized help (e.g. PR person, Corporate Accounts person).  Typically, owners do not have an in-house social media marketing manager, corporate accounts manager, publisher relations manager, etc. that are needed to drive branding & marketing operations
  • Automobile Traffic Challenge:  Traffic in commercial corridors like Grandmont/Rosedale, Livernois Avenue of Fashion and Corktown (all in Detroit) need traffic calming measures to help the businesses in their communities.   The cars are driving 35-55 mph and the businesses have more poor signage that don’t have a lot of visibility.
  • Lack of Foot traffic:  Foot traffic is a major barrier for sustainability with neighborhood businesses. Primarily because many neighborhood business corridors aren’t walkable, density of businesses, there is poor lighting and safety is an ongoing concern.

Design Thinking in Neighborhoods

Really interesting things can happen when empathy exist and a design thinking approach to complex problems is utilized.  We are tackling this problem as a part of my Rebrand Detroit project which is funded by the Knight Foundation’s –  Knight Cities Challenge.  We are working on a learning experience that infuses a mix of…

  • Collaborative and interactive learning
  • Minimal group sessions with business owners
  • One-on-one coaching (during their downtime)
  • Micro learning:  Digitally delivered content

The ultimate goal is to help business owners build awareness and drive revenue growth which is a challenge.

September 27, 2015 - No Comments!


DETROIT — The RE: Brand Detroit Initiative by Brand Camp University was selected as a 2015 recipient of the Knight Foundation’s City Challenge.

“We are so honored to be a winner and have the opportunity to work and have a lasting impact on Detroit,” says Hajj Flemings, CEO of Brand Camp University. “We’ve seen great success with our Brand Camp Summit, working with corporations, small businesses and non-profits and look forward to expanding to Detroit neighborhoods.”

The RE: Brand Detroit Initiative is one of 32 civic innovators who will share $5 million in civic projects.

To read the full article go to DBusiness:

September 27, 2015 - No Comments!


Every year, Knight Foundation awards creative solutions for urban challenges.  The ideas come from architects, city planners, and everyday folks. A mix of winners receive funding to get their ideas off the ground.  Today, the Foundation announced 32 more winners, amounting to $5 million in grants.

All the winning projects focus on one or more of three drivers of city success, according to Knight:

  1. Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest.
  2. Opportunity: Ideas that create economic prospects and break down divides.
  3. Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

To read the full article go to Forbes: