Sharing Ideas and Inspiration at TEDx Detroit
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Sharing Ideas and Inspiration at TEDx Detroit

Posted in Insights — October 3, 2011

The Big Daylight Team at TEDx Detroit.

Inspiration is the seed of great ideas. So what can you get out of a day *full* of inspiration? As we found out last week in Detroit, plenty.

The Big Daylight team attended TEDx Detroit to witness for ourselves the “ideas worth spreading.” In case you’re not aware, TED began as a single conference in 1984 with the purpose of gathering people from the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries in one place to share ideas. Independent TED events, like the one in Detroit, are now held all over the world and attended by people from virtually any professional background.

TEDx Detroit organizer, Charlie Wollborg, told us that he seeks out presenters and performers that have a direct connection to Detroit or to the state of Michigan. Both were well represented in virtually every presentation and were cleverly woven into the day’s overall message: Discover your passion, develop ideas and don’t wait to pursue them. To quote presenter, Josh Linkner, best-selling author and CEO of ePrize, “Playing it safe is the riskiest move of all. When you play it safe you rob yourself of potential.”

TEDx Detroit’s lineup featured a full spectrum of topics from children’s books to nuclear physics discussed by presenters from 10 years old to 80. Four musical acts added a unique element of creativity and expression. Here are a few highlights:

Age – or lack thereof – is no limitation for 10-year-old Sebastian Kuipers, founder of Sebastian’s Gourmet Lemonade. He runs his business guided by four simple principles, which he rattled off with no hesitation: Keep it simple, have a great product, be better than your competition and give back to the community. Sounds like a great foundation to build on, Sebastian.

TEDx Detroit Organizer, Charlie Wollborg, talks lemonade with 10-year-old entrepreneur, Sebastian Kuipers.

Tara Michener left her job in ‘the corporate world’ to pursue her passion of helping kids and teens overcome the challenges they face, specifically bullying – her own experiences with the latter providing both the knowledge and inspiration for a series of books and other educational materials. Michener also counts Detroit as a factor in her success: “I’ve been able to do some pretty great things, but at the heart of those great things is Detroit.”

Tara Michener, author and founder of Professionals Against Bullying, on stage at TEDx Detroit.

If you live in Michigan, you’ve undoubtedly heard of at least one of Rob Bliss‘ community projects in Grand Rapids promoted entirely through social media. This past spring’s lipdub video, shot in and around downtown Grand Rapids and produced with a cast of volunteers, was one of a now long list of events that Bliss says would not have been possible without the support of local officials, with whom he and others have worked to develop positive relationships: “This all happened because good people allowed us to bend the rules to make creative things happen.”

Rob Bliss has worked with community leaders in Grand Rapids to produce several large-scale public events.

Bobby Smith sought to teach the virtues found in the sport of fencing to kids in Detroit. To do this, he founded En Garde! Detroit, now the largest fencing school in the United States. “We need to look at our students, no matter what economic background they come from, as candles waiting to be lit,” Smith said. “You either let a kid fill his book bag with hope, or let a dealer fill it with blocks.”

Bobby Smith uses a foil to teach kids about more than fencing. Photo courtesy Sarah Cunningham.

Northern Michigan was represented at TEDx Detroit by Cherry Republic founder, Bob Sutherland. The popular retailer of cherry products began with Sutherland literally selling t-shirts out of the trunk of his car. The company now employees over 200 full-time and seasonal employees and sells products globally with a robust online business. “The cherry is like Michigan. It has some challenges but it has tons of potential,” Sutherland said.

To say the day ended on a high note would be an understatement. The choir from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences performed a new take on a popular Jay-Z – Alicia Keys collaboration. Their moving rendition of “Detroit State of Mind” had the house on its feet, and everyone in it still talking about the performance well after the event had concluded.

In addition to connecting with old friends and meeting lots of new ones, we came away from TEDx Detroit with renewed optimism and a seemingly limitless number of ideas. We were lucky enough to be invited to a post-event reception followed by dinner with several members of the organizing team, which gave us even more opportunity to ask questions and discuss the day’s events and inspirations. We’re already looking forward to next year. We’ll hope to see you there!

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