By Maureen McDonald, The WEIGH/Neighborhood News Hub
First, Nadir Ali found a house of his own in Detroit. Then he started a decal business to share his love of the city. And then he met the woman of his dreams to share all of the above.
Now he’s surging ahead with marketing.
Ali, 31, is a man of much determination. The child of a mother who escaped war in Lebanon and a father who escaped poverty in Pakistan, he learned of dreams and the importance of putting dreams in action.
“My dad was a city employee for 30 years,” he says. “I’m from Detroit and my pet project is creating cool, not too obnoxious or shabby, decals of the city.”
His website, 3andathird.com, links to an Etsy site where people can find the Spirit of Detroit image affixed to decals to stick to laptops, iPhones and tablets. The statue is holding the iconic Apple logo.
“The decals are more intricate than stickers,” Ali says. “I have a dedicated machine to cut the vinyl and hand-peel the sticker. It is labor intensive but fun. I’m doing fairly well with items priced at $9.99.”
He plans to expand to a wider variety of decals and reinvent symbols from other small cities to create an Etsy.com line for others proud of their hometowns. That pride helped him find the house of his dreams.
In the frigid days of winter 2008 he rode by a foreclosed house in his parents’ aviation subdivision on Detroit’s west side. The sturdy, three-story, 2,000-square-foot Tudor of variegated brick seemed to call his name and beg for renewal.
At 24, Ali had accumulated savings from his job as a marketing representative for large tech companies that needed a person on the ground to handle retail matters. His parents agreed to cosign loans for the $28,000 house and reconstruction. With his parents’ and friends’ help, he took out the old boiler and installed two furnaces, gutted the kitchen, put in 44 new windows, painted and plastered until he had his own castle.
Soon after, he bought the vacant lot next door for a perfect yard.
Then in August he married Athar Barakat, who joins him in his dream home, which is walking distance to his parents’ home.
The rehab brought the total cost of the house to $110,000, but Ali had enough room to run his manufacturing operation in the basement. In 2013, he joined the first entrepreneurial class at the Build Institute to gain business skills for his art project.
April Boyle, director of the Build Institute, says more than a third of the institute’s participants are in the 20 to 30 age range and 29 percent are male. Seventy-five percent of those who take the eight-week business and project planning course projected a profit in 2014.
Classes are priced on a sliding scale based on household income and family size. Weekend sessions are offered to accommodate busy schedules.
“The Build Institute teaches you certain inner workings of a small business, which taught me to have a game plan before jumping in,” Ali says. “It saved me a lot of headaches, like quitting my day job and I made contacts with creative people throughout Detroit.”
For information on the Build Institute visit the website, facebook.com/StartWithBuild or on Twitter @StartWithBuild. Ali’s work can be viewed on instagram.com/3andathird or purchased at the Detroit Shop at the Somerset Collection.
– This blog originally appeared in a new publication, The WEIGH/Neighborhood News Hub. Detroit Unspun is a partner in that venture.