Fact: Detroit SOUP events have raised $62,489 in four years for Detroit-area community projects. That’s impressive.
This little gem of an event celebrated its fourth anniversary this week with its traditional Sunday night event — with a twist, bringing in D:Hive/Build grads and Kiva Detroit. It also brought in more than 300 people who wanted to hear the Gospel According to Amy. As in Amy Kaherl, who runs Soup with the kindness and benevolence.
Let’s back up a minute. Soup has been around for a long time. A lot has been written about it in those four years. And, for four years, I’ve wanted to attend one of the events. (Look, I have kids. It takes four years to get anywhere, let alone somewhere without them on a Sunday night. Wait until you join The Club, and then you’ll understand.) Finally, upon this anniversary, the moment was there.
There are reasons why this event is on lists of “Must Do” things in Detroit. You sit at community tables. You eat the food strangers lovingly prepare for you, another stranger. You literally break bread together, tearing off chunks of the soft, delicious stuff to eat and share. The room starts cold because it is in a huge, huge space. But within a half hour of opening, the press of bodies warms the air. It is romantic and bare and simple. It is ridiculously, lovingly wonderful.
Granted, I’m an easy sell. But you mix in raw capitalism and creative entrepreneurism, and I’m pretty sure Soup is the smartest crowdfunding technique around. You hear from the four potential recipients for only four minutes. They have a scant 240 seconds to convince the massive audience that their idea has merit, that it affects the community in real ways and they know what the hell they’re talking about. Then, they have to take an equal number of pointed questions asking whether they REALLY know what the hell they’re talking about.
I walked in knowing exactly which company I was going to vote for that night. And, within the space of 20 minutes, I had changed my mind. That is the magic of Soup – someone you’ve never met before can impress you to the point that you willingly part with your after-tax dollars in an effort to further their dreams. Their dreams effectively become your dreams. And then you eat with them and talk to them. And then you visit their businesses and brag to friends that you had a $5 investment in that before anyone else ever heard about it.
Soup does that to you – it makes you believe that anything can happen. Maybe only a few of these businesses actually become viable companies. Maybe only a few entrepreneurs see their dreams move forward in $500, $700 or $1,000 increments. On Sunday night, winner Sarah Pappas of the new Fresh Cut Flower Farm got $1,542 from Soup participants plus a matching amount from the Skillman Foundation and design services worth another $1,500 from the New Economy Initiative (NEI).
Now, Fresh Cut and the three other presenters had some prep. They had met Amy during one of their Build classes. They knew the Soup format. They also had business plans, thanks to D:Hive and the well-established programs there. But I’m sure that few things presented in a classroom prepare you for having 600-plus eyes on you. There are few things as daunting as complete silence and utter concentration on your words – and the viability of your dreams.
Pappas said she felt her participation in Soup was an honor. She told me during a telephone interview this week after Sunday’s event that she was impressed with Amy from her Build visit, and she knew that Soup was something meaningful and worthwhile in terms of financing her business. Soup made sense and it fit Fresh Cut more than a traditional financial institution at this point its life.
“Being a presenter was such an honor and so exciting. It’s such a supportive community here to start a business in,” Pappas said. “It’s great to have such interesting and motivated people pulling for you.”
And that money will help buy a lot of manure for a Detroit flower garden on the corner of West Forest and Rosa Parks (12th Street), on the edge of Woodbridge, in the city of Detroit.
And that Detroit flower garden will provide hundreds of bouquets for its subscribers, for its wholesale clients, for its wedding and event clients. And it will provide fresh flowers every Thursday during the spring, summer and fall months for everyone who stops by.
Soup is brilliant. And you should go.