iamyoungdetroit.com says the (Detroit) kids are alright

To think, Margarita Barry wouldn't be the woman she is today if her mom let her out of the house more often.

"I spent a lot of time on the computer as a kid," says Barry, creator of the new website, I Am Young Detroit. "My mom never let me go out."

Growing up in the 8 Mile and Greenfield area of Detroit, Barry's vigilantly protective mother made sure her preteen daughter stayed close to the homestead by buying her a personal computer. The young Barry was soon gliding through the Internet like a duck on water. Her days were spent teaching herself navigation, web design and digital media.

A little more than a decade later, Barry is a veteran of Internet publication and design, having launched several e-zines and blogs. She graduated from the exclusive Detroit business incubator Bizdom U all by the tender age of 25.

Her latest venture is one poised to help shift the prevailing thought about youth in Detroit – specifically, that there is youth in Detroit, and lots of them. And many of them are doing some very cool things.

I Am Young Detroit bills itself as more like a movement than a blog. It features stories of Detroiters under 40 who are bringing innovation and life to the city. The site also features positive news clips, happenings and other information bits that may be of interest to the Detroit area's younger set.

"My hope for this site was, and still is, is to retain the people we have here, to show them why this is such a great city," says Barry. It seems to be working; the website logs about 500 unique visitors a day. People "like the stories, they like the positive news," she says.

The site is actually a culmination of three things that happened to Barry after returning home to the area (she spent a few years in Ohio attending college). She first noticed that many existing media resources were limited to those that reported news or those that spoke to older adults or those with more sophisticated (read expensive) tastes. "We don't really have anything that just speaks to us as a generation, and as young residents," she says.

It was around this time that Barry started to venture out more, to events, restaurants and bars where she would meet people who were not only living in Detroit, but also actively working to make it better and more vibrant. Third, like other young residents of Detroit, she's pained to see the less-than-flattering image that has emerged of the city to the rest of the country.

"I was trying to think of something that tackled all three of those things," she says.

The answer was iamyoungdetroit.com, which was launched in January 2010. The site is a melange of color and variations of D-shaped graphics that pops out at the viewer like a really fun summer birthday party. The profiles are eye-grabbing and to the point, while the longer-form stories are mindful of the current length of American attention spans.

"I wanted something very streamlined, very brief," says Barry. "It being for young people, you want to capture their attention, but you don't want to bore them to death."

Already the site has been featured in Time's Detroit blog, Channel 7, Michigan Citizen and Observer & Eccentric. It has a small, unpaid staff of friends who help update the site each Monday.

The site isn't exactly the first media venture for Barry. At 13, she started a New Age zine for teens called "Magickal Teen." From there she attracted the attention of the Mudd jeans label, which commissioned Barry to create a promotional zine that was inserted in the back pockets of all the new jeans. When the promotion ended, so did Barry's stint as Mudd's first teen editor. In high school she created a blog called "Fresh Margarita."

It was when she was 19, though, that Barry says her efforts became, in her words, "more sophisticated." She created an online and print publication called Tint, a mind, body and spirit zine for young women of color. It ran for about five years and got national attention in Bust magazine.

In 2008, she left her job at CBS Radio when she was accepted into Bizdom U, the elite business incubator for young entrepreneurs started by businessman Dan Gilbert. The program trains wannabe movers and shakers in the ways of the professional business world an almost boot camp-like atmosphere. At the completion of the program, participants get the chance to get their business ideas funded.

Barry's business proposal didn't get funded, but she was welcomed back to pitch another business idea anytime in the future.

"I learned so much," Barry says of her Bizdom experience. "I learned how to start a business, to start a company culture."

Currently, iamyoungdetroit.com is her unpaid baby while her day job is as the web and social media designer at Sussman, Sikes and Associates. Even though she would like to someday be able to pay contributors to the site, Barry says she's fine with the way things are. "I think I'm making a small difference, or I hope that I am," she says. "I'm not really money driven. Basically, I'm a computer nerd."

Follow Barry's young Detroit world on Twitter and get updates on what's happening on Facebook.

All photographs © Marvin Shaouni Photography
Contact Marvin here

Margarita Barry

Profiled on I Am Young Detroit, Event Designer, Melinda Anderson - photo courtesy I Am Young Detroit

Barry's first publication, Tint

Bizdom U: Detroit's future business entrepreneurs
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