When Manal Kahi moved to New York City from a small town in Lebanon four years ago, she wasn’t happy with the options at her local grocery store.
“I was a bit disappointed with the hummus,” she admits. So she started making her own special recipe, which sparked an idea from her brother, Wissam, a graduate of Columbia Business School.
Having left Lebanon, where they witnessed people fleeing from the civil war in Syria, the siblings had a though: Why not sell hummus and other authentic food made by refugees?
“I came here as a student, but it was in the midst of the refugee crisis in Lebanon,” explains the WeWork Soho West member. “I wanted to do something about the situation, bring great food to New Yorkers, and bring good job opportunities to refugees.”
In 2015, Kahi founded Eat Offbeat, which delivers home-style meals made and delivered by refugees living in New York. The chefs are referred by the International Refugee Committee, a nonprofit that helps displaced people resettle and rebuild their lives.
“The chefs suggest the dishes, which Chef Juan Suarez de Lezo helps them develop,” Kahi says. “It’s what they cook at home.”
Together they work out of a commercial kitchen in Long Island City, Queens. Eat Offbeat then delivers meals to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
What started with chefs from three countries—Eritrea, Iraq, and Nepal—has blossomed into a food delivery service with full-time chefs from 11 countries, including Syria, Guinea and the Ivory Coast. All but one are women.
Dishes include potato kibbeh, an Iraqi dish made from potato croquettes with beef and onion stuffing; veggie momos, savory dumplings from Nepal; and chicken shawarma, a Syrian-style chicken in a rich, tangy sauce.
Now Eat Offbeat is raising money to create a cookbook as a way to reach people outside New York.
“We want people to see them as chefs first, refugees second, and see it doesn’t matter what type of visa you have,” says Kahi.
Eat Offbeat launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the writing of the cookbook. The campaign easily surpassed its goal of $50,000.
“Our motto is ‘where adventurous eaters find refuge,’” Kahi says. “The way we see it, refugees are helping us New Yorkers discover something new, not the other way around.”
Made in Detroit: Why the Motor City is a Great Place for Creators
After filing for bankruptcy in 2013, Detroit famously rolled up its sleeves, and got back to work. This “can do” attitude is what you’ll find behind its booming startup culture and efforts to rebuild one business at a time.
“‘Made in Detroit’ has become a brand in itself,” says Ryan Landau, founder of Detroit startup re:purpose, which matches people with jobs by finding the right culture fit.
“It’s a rare opportunity to be part of the comeback story,” he says. “I think you can see it in the retail, the restaurants, the new businesses, and technology scene that is popping up. In the last five years, each year, the rate of change is exponential.
If you ask Landau, the reason Detroit is so attractive right now is the talent, the resources, and the fact that it’s affordable. Home to one of the country’s most skilled workforces, the 29 colleges and universities graduate more engineers per capita than any city in North America.
“From a talent perspective, there is a real hustle,” says the Merchant’s Row member, who launched the first business out of WeWork’s new space in Detroit. “People are loyal to this city and trying to make things happen, not only for their individual company, but for everyone. We are all a part of a collective effort to rebuild.”’
From a resources perspective, Detroit is still a big city, but compared with San Francisco or New York, people here, especially in technology, have a bigger piece of the pie.
“From a customer standpoint, you’re not getting lost in the buzz of competition,” Landau explains. “Every new business is a win for the city.”
That means entrepreneurs have access to more capital and more customers than in saturated markets. And that has attracted new brands like Warby Parker, Shinola, and Bonobos, all of whom have made big bets on Detroit.
One of the first people to make that bet was Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, who moved his headquarters and 1,700 employees to downtown Detroit in 2010, in effect jump starting the urban revitalization.
Today, Gilbert’s businesses employ over 17,000 people. That includes Bedrock, which has invested several billion dollars in local real estate, a major driver behind the city’s ability to attract talent. With new lofts and apartments opening every day, employers are finding the cost of living is much lower than other major U.S. tech hubs.
Historically Detroit’s economy was powered by aviation, defense, and the car industry. The new Detroit continues to build upon its manufacturing roots, while diversifying into a next-generation hub for technology, creators and makers.
Take Shinola, which has helped put Detroit back on the map as a place for high quality, American-made goods with its signature watches, leather products, and bicycles.
“The mission of the brand is to create jobs, and we were 100 percent ready to hire local people and provide that training,” says Bridget Russo, chief marketing officer at Shinola, which opened in 2011 with just a handful of people. “From a people perspective, there is a good vibe here,” says Russo. “They are still open to collaborating and being supportive of new businesses coming in and being helpful.”
That kind of collaboration is also evident in Detroit’s thriving artistic community.
“When we opened our gallery over four years ago, we wanted to make an impact beyond these walls, with a public art component,” says Anthony Curis, owner of the Library Street Collective, a contemporary gallery located in the heart of downtown.
Curis, and his wife JJ, have been instrumental in Detroit’s downtown public arts scene, supporting the installation of large and small sculptures, paintings, and large scale murals.
“When we heard there was going to be a new, massive parking garage, we were concerned how it may affect the neighborhood,” says Curis. He came up with a plan which would be a game changer for Detroit.
Curis worked with garage developer, Bedrock, to create large scale murals on every floor of the Z Garage, bringing in 27 artists from Detroit to Kiev. Once that was built, Curis pitched the idea for a pedestrian alleyway called at The BELT, a public space that is home to murals and art by local, national and international artists including Nina Chanel Abney, Shepard Fairey and Cleon Peterson.
Today, the BELT attracts visitors from all over the world and boasts a James Beard nominated restaurant, the Standby, and a seasonal cocktail bar, The Skip.
Russo thinks what’s happening in Detroit resonates with many people because “it’s an emblem of hope that if things can turn around here, they can in place like Baltimore or Pittsburgh.”
On May 25, Detroit will host the Creator Awards, a global initiative by WeWork to “recognize and reward the creators of the world.” Finalists from the Midwest and Canada will compete for $1.5 million in grants. Over the course of the year, WeWork will be giving out more than $20 million at a series of events taking place in cities spanning the globe.
With two WeWork locations, at Merchant’s Row and soon at Campus Martius, Detroit is the second city to host the Creator Awards, after Washington, D.C.
“Simply put: If you want to be part of the rebirth of a great American city, there’s no better place to live, work, and have an impact,” says Landau. “This isn’t just something we believe. It’s something we’re betting on by locating our headquarters here.”
Photos by Sal Rodriguez
At New WeWork Services Store, One-Stop Shopping for Businesses
Everyone knows WeWork provides workspace for creators of all types, from solo entrepreneurs to teams from global corporations. But Co-Founder Miguel McKelvey says it’s always been more than that.
“When we first started WeWork, we thought about it as a holistic solution,” says McKelvey. “Our goal was to think, ‘What do you need to be successful? What are all the things we could do for you?’”
Unveiled this week, the WeWork Services Store marks the next chapter in the company’s evolution. This integrated hub for business services — similar to an app store — gives members the tools they need to better run their companies. It streamlines the process of finding, managing, and purchasing the various services that a growing company needs.
“We are going to make it easier for you to operate,” says McKelvey. “We are going to save you money, packaging services that can all be billed through one invoice.”
WeWork is partnering with more than 100 top providers, including Slack, Amazon Web Services, Office 365, Salesforce, and GoDaddy. Members will have discounted access to these and other services, which they can handpick to meet the needs of their company. The services include tools for everything from hiring and recruiting to accounting and invoices to marketing and website creation. Think of it as one-stop shopping for your business needs.
“What we are saying is, ‘These are software tools that we really believe in, that we feel are the right ones for you,’” says McKelvey. “We are consolidating them all into one place, so with one click you can have all the software you need to run your business.”
Ron Gura, the company’s senior vice president of digital products, says his team did a lot of research so they could “really understand what would be the most meaningful offers” for WeWork’s 100,000 members worldwide. The store launches in the U.S. this week, and will roll out globally in the future.
One of the members that the digital products team reached out to is Teresa Tsou, the president of Pipcorn, a snack company that makes hand-seasoned mini-popcorn.
“One of the things about WeWork that’s great is that they really do understand how businesses and entrepreneurs work,” says the WeWork Dumbo Heights member. “And so with the WeWork Services Store, to be able to find recommendations on applications that make sense for businesses our size is invaluable. It allows us to really focus on what we love — which is popping popcorn.”
The store includes recommendations from fellow members about what products they use, helping streamline what can often be a confusing and time consuming process.
“Bringing a curated selection of things that are relevant to you, and are trusted by people like you, is exactly what you want when you are trying to build something,” says Clark Valberg, founder and CEO of InVision, a platform for planning, designing, and building apps.
Valberg says the last thing entrepreneurs and creators want to think about, and spend time on, is what marketing email or accounting software to use; “So getting clarity on that decision super fast, and knowing the people around you feel the same way, and actually love the product, is incredibly liberating for people starting a business.”
Hip Haberdasher Donovan England’s Style Suits Everyone
Donovan England is in a hurry. He’s wrapping up a phone interview with a reporter while he and his friends speed to the airport to board a private plane. His destination for the weekend? A bachelor’s party in New Orleans.
“Things are going pretty fast,” England admits.
The 34-year-old entrepreneur’s business—an eponymous line of bespoke suits—is also going places. Just take a look at his Instagram account, where nearly 90,000 followers look forward to his next post—usually shots of him wearing one of his own smartly tailored looks.
There’s nothing off-the-rack about what Donovan England offers clients. Every suit is custom made to reflect each client’s personal taste. And the fit is impeccable, with England himself taking 23 different measurements to ensure that cuffs and lapels look perfect.
And can we talk about the fabrics? There’s a wide range of colors that go far beyond the usual black and navy blue.
“The fabrics are from England and Italy,” says England. “We looked at 100 different manufacturers before we found the right ones.”
England started out in institutional banking, but he realized that he wanted to work for himself.
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” he says. “I’ve started a lot of different companies. Some make money, some lose money.”
It was a couple of poorly fitting suits that convinced him to start his own custom clothing line with an initial investment of just $550.
“I figure that when you have a lot of money, you’re going to spend a lot of money,” England says. “We were able to do it with a lot of trial, and a lot of error. But it was all worth it.”
For six years England worked from home, but now he’s based at WeWork Uptown in Dallas. At his office, look for leather furnishings and a gleaming bar cart with top-shelf spirits.
“Our space that reflects what we’re doing with the brand,” says England. “We’re going for that haberdashery feel.”
Photos by Megan Weaver
5 Tips for Creating a Newsletter People Actually Read
If you think email newsletters aren’t important for your business, think again. In fact, niche-driven, carefully-crafted newsletters engage audiences and create a customer base that grows by itself. Take the New York Times, who for years had newsletters that were essentially an extension of their newspaper. In an effort to increase traffic, they shifted from newsletters driven by automatic feeds, to ones heavily curated by journalists, expanding to over 30 newsletters, which span a diverse set of topics including cooking, politics and parenting. The new strategy created a noticeable jump in open rates and subscribers. Their current email open rate is now 50 percent, double the industry average. Are you hoping to do the same? Here are five tips for creating a newsletter people will actually click and read.
Offer original, useful information
This may seem obvious, but your content is the most important part of your newsletter. It needs to be creative, thought-provoking and original. Many sites miss the mark by creating newsletters that simply rehash old material they could find on their website. You will add value by creating content that requires research, or is based on information that is hard to find.
Your newsletter should remain consistent in order to draw in readers who care about the topic for months, rather than days. This will help you build readership.
Make sure it looks good
Again, this might be obvious, but your newsletter’s design is an important part of ensuring readers click on, read, and come back to your newsletter.
This also holds true for written content, which should follow a consistent style. Make sure your newsletter’s layout is visually engaging and highlights your creativity by using high-resolution photos, illustrations, an appealing color scheme.
And don’t forget to build your newsletter with mobile capability in mind. Over 53 percent of all emails are read on mobile devices. If your newsletter doesn’t format properly on a phone, chances are it might not get read at all.
Treat it as a stand-alone product
Quality writing attracts and retains readers, plus it creates a word-of-mouth marketing campaign that can expand your readership. A great example of this is Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, a newsletter that has half a million readers and a 70 percent open rate.
Newsletters like Lenny Letter and those from The New York target specific kinds of readers. For example, Dunham, a Millennial feminist, has a largely, young female audience. By doing this, they establish real value in their writing that is difficult to replicate in marketing.
Market your newsletter
A newsletter can’t have impact until people sign-up for it. To get your hard work in other people’s hands, you must market the existence of your newsletter. Even though you’re probably creating a newsletter for the sake of marketing, you still need to get the word out.
Tell the world about your newsletter by creating simple banner ads online or marketing it through your existing social media channels. The New York Times did this when they started to diversify their newsletters and it was very successful.
If you’re interested in creating a consistent base of readers, keep them satisfied with scheduled content. Stick to a publishing schedule and build a pool of creative content you can pull from, if need be, repeatedly. Set a schedule that works for you. Whether that’s weekly or monthly, what’s most important is that your build trust with your readers with a regular, high quality product.