Maker spaces and co-working spaces. Pop-up retail, restaurants, and bars.
The creative and entrepreneurial spirit of Detroit in the 2010s was defined, in part, by the sharing of ideas and resources, by learning from each other. Both the Green Garage in Midtown and Ponyride in Corktown opened in 2011, ushering in a wave of entrepreneurs and new businesses that would help shape Detroit for years to come. Dozens of coworking spaces have opened here since then, from neighborhood-based spaces like the Grand River WorkPlace in Grandmont-Rosedale to the international WeWork chain.
While the Green Garage and Ponyride weren’t the first such spaces, they did help set the tone for the decade to come. Corktown was especially popular for budding entrepreneurs; following Ponyride were places like Practice Space and St. Vincent. The BUILD Institute would move to The Corner development at the old Tiger Stadium site.
Many of the businesses that these places helped nurture have moved on to become full-fledged companies, and some of them very successful ones at that.
“The companies that were coming out of Ponyride, like Lip Bar, Empowerment Plan, Detroit Denim, Dirt Label — I probably left some folks out of that — but they’re just really cool companies that are still operating today, and are still making an impact and will continue to,” says Alex O’Dell, co-founder of Floyd
, the Detroit-based furniture company that also got its start at Ponyride.
“So it's kind of fun to grow up and be part of a cohort of companies that, six year later or so, these people are still doing their thing and still focused on their craft.”
Floyd co-founders COO Alex O’Dell, left, and CEO Kyle Hoff.
Floyd co-founders Alex O’Dell and Kyle Hoff first met at North Corktown’s Practice Space. It’s there where the idea for Floyd first began to germinate, a reaction to the cheap, disposable furniture that has come to dominate the market. The initial product was shockingly simple, an adaptable table leg that enables customers to make a table out of just about anything that is flat and can fit in the clamps. But the Floyd Leg, as it came to be called, has taken the company from a 100 sq. ft. corner of the Ponyride building to a 20,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Eastern Market, its two founders growing the company to 60 employees with plans to hire 20 more this year.
Floyd recently completed a $15 million Series B round of funding on the strength of their growing business. It’s no longer just a table leg that they sell but a complete line of furniture for the whole house, from the bedroom to the living room and out onto the patio. A modular bed frame embodies the Floyd spirit. Customers can start with a twin-size frame and add on to it as the years go by, all the way to a king-size frame.
Rather than creating disposable furniture that you throw away as life changes, Floyd furniture is made of high-quality materials, minimal parts, and modular design principles that grow and change with you. And with its timeless design aesthetic, there’s little chance you’d want to.
“We grew up in an era where furniture was very disposable. We’ve lived in a number of places — I was in Ann Arbor, the Bay Area, Chicago — and furniture could end up in the dumpster when you move. That's why we started. It was very much a reaction to that kind of furniture, and changing how people were perceiving how they should buy furniture,” Hoff says.
“Our goal is to change how people are approaching and thinking about furniture at scale. So if we can build a really big company and have an international presence, I think we can continue to make an impact and bring thoughtful, sustainable furniture to more and more people.”
A rendering for new collaboration space at the Floyd offices.
Floyd opened its Eastern Market headquarters in 2018. An expansion is currently underway, overhauling the R&D lab and adding amenities like more conference rooms and a common area café for employees to gather. Overlooking the Dequindre Cut, the plans call for the cafe to spill out onto the hill bordering the popular greenway.
The expansion will open up the former meat-processing facility to the neighborhood, allowing Floyd to welcome more guests. The co-founders want to be able to host more tours from local schools, demonstrating to students that there’s a future in art and design in Detroit.
Outside of Floyd’s Eastern Market headquarters.
“What we liked about Eastern Market is that it’s still a place of active industry. You come here at 5 a.m. and there's people zipping up and down the street on their forklifts with lamb carcasses and vegetables. But then you can come here in the evening and there's jazz, places to get dinner. And then there's the farmers market, of course,” Hoff says. “It's a place that's always active with different things going on.”
“Eastern Market has been such a vibrant hub for so long in Detroit,” O’Dell says. “You get a sense of that energy.”
The Floyd brand continues to grow with a host of new products to come. The company recently announced the launch of Full Cycle
, a second-hand marketplace for Floyd furniture that aligns with their vision of a more sustainable furniture industry. And they’re drawing top talent to Detroit, recently hiring Tony Rotman as Head of Product from Swedish furniture giant IKEA.
Inside the Floyd headquarters in Eastern Market. An expansion is currently underway.
For all their success, Floyd remains, and will remain, rooted in Detroit. And it makes sense.
The city has a rich history in design and innovation, and a future that is just as fertile. Detroit’s 2015 designation as a UNESCO City of Design — the only American city to have received such a designation — helps demonstrate the world’s opinion of Detroit design. Institutions like the College for Creative Studies and the nearby Cranbrook Academy of Art fuel the talent pipeline here. And Michigan as a whole has a well-established furniture economy, with major furniture players Haworth, Herman Miller, La-Z-Boy, and Steelcase each calling the state home.
Being in close proximity to such accomplished furniture companies allows Floyd to draw inspiration from their neighbors’ wealth of experience, as well as benefit from the talent and supply chains already here.
“I think we just appreciate being able to build a business here. And it's not necessarily something we're using as marketing material. We just think it's a great place to build a business, it’s inspiring, and there's a lot of other reasons why it's a smart place for us to be building a furniture business,” Hoff says.
“If you look at IKEA, it’s based in Älmhult, Sweden, which is kind of a smaller town, but they're able to attract really great talent and build a really great ecosystem around furniture. At the end of the day, we think this is a good place for us to focus. We don't necessarily need to be in the Bay Area or New York City to build a really great business around furniture.
“We have a lot of inspiration and resources here in the city of Detroit.”