See You Next Year @TEDxDetroit

I’m 2 days removed from TEDx Detroit and I miss it.

I miss the connections.

I miss seeing my fellow board members.

I miss seeing the attendees.

I miss seeing the inspiration.

I miss seeing the optimism.

I’m glad I miss it.  Now I’m hopeful that everyone that attended has something to grasp onto and feel inspired.

Inspired to do.

Inspired to create.

Inspired to share.

Inspired to make a difference.

The story from Wednesday that continues to resonate in my head is the one of connecting tw0 lab participants in a possible business deal.  That’s what TEDx is all about.  Bringing people together and allowing their creativity to grow, their ideas to develop and ultimately putting them into action.

A special note to my fellow board members of TEDx Detroit.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve with you.  All of you have a special place in my heart because of the passion that you have for what this event is all about.  I learned a lot and I look forward to doing it all over again next year.  There are so many memories that I’d love to share and it would take me hours to gather them here in this post.  So the memories I’ll leave you with are photos.  Photos from Sarah Cunningham, author and one of our awesome volunteer photographers.  Take a look at her view of TEDx Detroit from her camera lens.

Photo Credit: Sarah Cunningham

So many memories to last a lifetime.

To all the attendees, take what you learned and inspired you and do something with it.  Our opportunity is now to show the world what we can do.  Take the lead.  Make it happen.

See what others are saying about TEDx Detroit:
I Was Part of Something BIG Wednesday from Elena Wollborg
TEDx Detroit 2011 Thank You from Charlie Wollborg


@TEDxDetroit 2010 Relived…Stephen Clark (@SClarkWXYZ)

Today’s TEDx Detroit 2010 moment is from birthday boy, Stephen Clark.  If you’ve been around Detroit over the last year, you’ve hopefuly heard about the #backchannel.  What simply started as a dare by Charlie Wollborg to Stephen Clark via Twitter has turned into a truly interactive newscast on WXYZ.  Stephen has changed the landscape of news by asking us, his audience, to help create the stories he covers.

As we continue to get closer to September 28th and TEDx Detroit 2011, take a look at Stephen’s talk from last year.  While you’re at it, make sure you wish him a happy birthday too!

If you haven’t applied to attend yet, make sure you do so soon!  Seats are filling up quickly!  You can apply by CLICKING HERE.

TEDx Detroit 2010 Relived…@nullfear

If you’re a fan of TED and the local TEDx events, you’ll appreciate this.  As TEDx Detroit approaches on September 28th, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite talks from last year.  First up is Will Smidlein also known as @nullfear on Twitter.  I affectionately refer to this 14 year old as “boy genius” because he is.  Bryan Willmert first introduced me to will last year and it’s been awesome getting to know him ever since.  Enjoy his interview with Charlie Wollborg from last year and if you haven’t signed up yet, do it soon!  We’d love to have you there and meet some of the most talented and creative minds the Detroit area has to offer.

Getting To Know…@mikeschmitt

This week’s “Getting to Know” features Mike Schmitt.  I first met Mike through Twitter and have come to appreciate his selfless and humble attitude.  If there was ever someone to model what Jesus Christ might be like today, it’s him.  What he does with CommuniD BBQ is amazing.  I asked Mike to share what CommuniD BBQ are meant for:

CommuniD BBQs happen every Saturday in Detroit and once a month in Flint and Mt. Clemens. They are put together by an organic network of churches, community groups and individuals from across Southeast Michigan called elevate Detroit. At CommuniD BBQs anyone is welcome to come as we share an afternoon and a meal together. It is not an opportunity to volunteer or to go “love on people”. It is a chance to share love with others and allow them to share love with you. It is an opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together, get to know each other and be people together.  We are all beautiful images of a creator God.

The video below (originally shared on Dan Sadlier’s blog) show’s Mike in action.

Mike was also kind enough to answer my questions and I am so glad he did!

Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
From my past: Mom. As she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, her husband and my dad of 25 years left her and our family. As literally our world and lives fell apart, she never questioned God’s goodness and never lost her joy. Her faith, trust and love for Him was inspiring to myself as well as everyone who knew her. As a testimony to her faithfulness, there were hundreds of people at her funeral and the procession went on for over a mile and a half.

Currently: Tony Stallwarth. There is a video called Homeless Karaoke ( The way Tony talks about people in that video has strongly shaped the way CommuniD BBQs have been formed since almost day one.  I have had the chance to meet and talk with him a couple times now. His vision of the Kingdom and love of people is inspiring and transforming.

Guilty dessert pleasure?
Crème brûlée. But there is no guilt in anything that good. It simply must be heavenly.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone?
Don’t spit into the wind. And if you want to change the world, you won’t.  But what you can do is change the world for one person at a time.  Together, if we all do what we can, the world will be a very different place.

If you want to keep up with what Mike is doing, you can follow him on Twitter at @mikeschmitt.  Check out his blog, Shoes For The Hopeless, and if you want to follow what is going on with CommuniD BBQ, check out the Elevate blog and “like” the Elevate Facebook page!

I’d like to leave you with these verses from 1 John 3: 16-18:

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.  So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?  Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Now that you’ve read that, think about Mike.  He lives out God’s love every day.  Get to know Mike.

Getting To Know…Nikki Stephan

Today’s Getting To Know carries with it special meaning.  Today I’d like all of you to get to know Nikki Stephan but after Saturday, it will be Nikki Little as she walks down the aisle with her soon to be husband, Mike!  I met Nikki a couple of years ago when I started really engaging on Twitter.  After a few tweet exchanges, we met in person at one of the many social media events here in Detroit.  Since then, it’s been great getting to know her more as she has changed jobs and now is about to embark on a new journey as a wife.  Check out Nikki’s blog, Essential Elements and follow her on Twitter.  If you’re really interested to see how the wedding is going tomorrow, follow the #littlewedding and #kikisreception hashtags on Twitter to join in the fun!

For now, get to know Nikki!  Happy Friday everyone!

Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
 I can’t choose between my dad and Mike (soon-to-be hubster), so I choose them both! My dad is influential because he’s been there for me through everything. We’ve dealt with some tough times throughout the past 5 years, and he did everything he could to keep me strong. I admire him very much. I would not be the person I am today without his love and support. Mike is influential because he understands me better than anyone ever has or ever will. He is everything that I am not, and he makes me a better person simply by being my other half.

Guilty dessert pleasure?
Hmm, it’s hard to choose one dessert, but I would have to say cheesecake. Or, the butterscotch pudding dessert at the Woodshop in Clarkston. It’s amazing!

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone?
Think of every mistake as a learning opportunity. You grow and become a stronger person with each mistake. Find a way to learn from every failure.

Favorite childhood memory?
Playing cards and eating waffles with my grandma when I was little. She used to watch me in the summer when school was out, and she would always give me waffles for breakfast and play card games with me all day long. I’m pretty sure she let me beat her most of the time!

Getting to know…Bryan Fenster

Bryan and Cara Fenster

I can’t remember when I first met Bryan Fenster but I know that it was on Twitter!  Obviously the Detroit connection helped and as we continued talk it was great to hear about his passion for Detroit and his desire to come back home from Chicago.  Well guess who is moving back to Royal Oak, MI at the end of the month?  Yup!  Bryan and his wife, Cara, will be back in the D!  Make sure to give them a warm welcome and maybe help unpack a box!  You can find Bryan on Twitter at @bryanfenster.  You can also check him out at Detroit Nation and his blog.

Here is getting to know…Bryan Fenster!

Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
Without a doubt, my Bubby (my Dad’s Mom), who happens to be my lasting grandparent.  Her name is Lily Fenster.  She personifies the passion, loyalty, and essence of family I strive to hold and pass on.  However, this came at the ultimate price for her.

She came from a town outside of Warsaw, Poland, born in 1926 (or so we think).  She escaped the ghetto she was held in with her parents and five sisters, and sought refuge on a farm.  She lived and worked with a family who took her in under secrecy.  She ended up losing her whole family, who perished during the holocaust.  Thankfully, she was able to survive and met my Grandpa (who was the only survivor from his family) after Poland was liberated.

Given the atrocities she’s weathered and coming to this country with literally nothing, supporting my Grandpa with the family business he started and raising three children in Detroit and ultimately, Oak Park, it’s a miracle to me.  She is the strongest, most courageous and resilient person I know.  Not only all of this, but she is still able to smile, laugh, love, and dance!  Yes, dance!  She listens to music from her day and dances in her condo, which I think is fantastic.  She still has vigor and wants to live to the fullest.  I am quite awestruck by her.  I could write a novel, really.  Ha.  I love her dearly, and her life lessons have definitely shaped me.  Without a doubt, she is the most influential person in my life.

Guilty dessert pleasure?
This is a great question.  The mood needed to be lightened!  Wow.  So much great desserts out there.  I’d have to say an M&M Flurry from Dairy Deluxe (best ice-cream in Michigan…hands DOWN) or a good ol’ fashioned bumpy cake.  Sorry, that seems kind of boring.

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone?
Stay true to your roots, be active in your community, listening is sometimes more important than anything else, and be your authentic self.  There you go…FOUR pieces of advice 😉

Favorite childhood memory?
This could be very lengthy!  I was blessed with an incredible childhood, a very privileged one.  Summer’s growing up in Huntington Woods were pure magic.  I have a few favorites: The ice cream social at Burton Elementary (Go Blue Jays!) was a highlight for us kids.  Concerts in the park before 4th of July fireworks was THE social event of the year for every 4th and 5th grader.  Rolling blading up to Val Jones park for pick-up roller hockey was a favorite, and block parties on York Street between Hendrie and Harrison.  Were.  EPIC.

Detroit Still Has A Long Way To Go

Recently Men’s Health posted the Top 100 Socially Networked Cities in the U.S. There were a few surprises, especially with some cities that I expected to see in the top 10 (Chicago #39, New York #53).  There was also a little disappointment to see Detroit ranked #94 in the study and listed under “least socially networked.”  Yes, I know it’s ridiculous to put any weight in a study like this however, it did make me realize that the place I call home has a long way to go.  I sometimes forget that not everyone uses Foursquare or Gowalla to check in.  People I know still don’t get Twitter.  What is Instagram?  Tumblr…huh?  I think you get the idea.

This ranking goes further than being socially networked.  It goes further than the many entrepreneurs I know that are determined to open up shop in the city and look for their opportunities to make a difference Detroit’s rebirth.  What is going to actually make a difference?  I think it has to be the adoption of not just the social tools I mentioned earlier, but also the adoption of the technologies that are available today by the large corporations in the area.

Look at what Ford has done in the social space.  They are leveraging the tools.  They have created a personality behind the blue oval.  They are developing vehicles that leverage the new connected customer and making the car more than just a car.  Don’t blink.  Now they are looking to the cloud.

The biggest thing that we can do as “socially connected” people is educate.  We have a network that we should leverage and begin to find ways to teach others.  The biggest asset we have is not a particular product or service.  It’s actually our intellectual property and what we know about technology and the web that we must share.

I still see companies trying things they’ve always done before.  Marketing has changed.  PR has changed.  Sales has changed.  Customer service has changed.  All because of the web and the social tools at our disposal.  I’m not suggesting the web is the cure for everything (but it’s close!).  What I am suggesting is that the web has now become more of an integral part of how people and companies do business in the world today.  The “traditional” methods of doing business are now historical methods.  The “future” technologies are now current technologies.

It’s time to educate so Detroit can move up from least socially networked to one of the top socially networked cities.  What are you doing to teach others?  Start by inviting them to 2 upcoming events this April…Ignite Detroit on April 14th and Future Midwest on April 28-29.  After that, do something with the knowledge you’ll gain and the connections you’ll make.  #makeithappen