The 100 Project: Can Rebrand Detroit get 100 Detroit Neighborhood Business online?

What is the 100 Project? The 100 project is about the small business owners in Detroit neighborhoods who are working 10-12 hour days as the primary employee, with no foot traffic to the business, no marketing budget and no website. Welcome to the world of Alicia George who founded Motor City Java in the Old Redford District in Detroit Michigan in 2003.


One of the learning outcomes of my Rebrand Detroit project that was funded by the Knight Foundation as an inaugural Knight Cities Challenge winner is that we found there was a lack of digital strategy and presence for businesses in Detroit neighborhoods.  Small business is the engine that drives the U.S. economy.  Further research confirmed that 46% of the small businesses in America are off the grid meaning they are operating without a website.  The idea of 100 project is to transform small businesses in Detroit by getting 100 Detroit neighborhood businesses on the grid.  

On September 12, 2016 John Maeda – Global Head of Design and Inclusion at Automattic and I had a conversation at Selden Standard a Detroit restaurant in Midtown in Detroit during the Brand Camp Summit. During this conversation I mention my desire to test the theory of getting 100 Detroit neighborhood businesses online. A month later on Monday, October 10th John and I had a conversation of bootstrapping to kick the project off. In pure Design Thinking fashion three days later John was on a plane and landed in Detroit to help prototype the first website and define our MVP (Minimal Viable Product). The team consisted of three people: John Maeda, Justin Dunn web developer, and myself. Our goal was to establish a strong proof of concept that we could scale to the remaining 98-websites.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

  • 09:15 am – John Maeda lands in Detroit
  • 09:25 am – I talk with Alicia George founder of Motor City Java on the phone
  • 10:53 am – Basic content for Motor City Java was captured
  • 01:00 pm – Project team meeting at the Detroit Center for Design and Technology
  • 02:58 pm – Meet with Alicia and John George at Motor City Java
  • 03:15 pm – Captured photos and videos at Motor City Java and Artist Village
  • 04:58 pm – Started website development for Motor City Java
  • 09:32 pm – Dinner at Gold Cash Gold in Detroit

Friday, October 14, 2016

  • 01:23 am – The Motor City Java website is launched at
  • 09:25 am – The website is unveiled and presented to Alicia George

What can happen in 24-Hours?


Within 24-hours of talking with Alicia George of Motor City Java her new site was ‘Just Java House’ was online.  We are attacking a global issue that isn’t constrained to Detroit.  The impact to businesses in neighborhoods in urban cities is multiplied due to traffic constraints, parking safety concerns and being under capitalized that impact how sustainable small businesses are sustainable.  Websites are necessary for credibility and validation of existence.  The fact that 81% of people research a business online before making a purchase is sobering.  

Project Information

37 thoughts on “The 100 Project: Can Rebrand Detroit get 100 Detroit Neighborhood Business online?

  1. Big things often have small beginning. Many large companies today began in a garage or a basement. Getting your location and product out there is a big step.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The future of Detroit is bright. It is inspiring to see what is happening in the city. My goal is to try and ensure that the opportunities are happening for all people and just people that life certain zip codes in Detroit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this article that supports Detroit’s resurgence. I also liked reading about two restaurants there that I know well — Gold Cash Gold and Selden Standard. I live on the East Coast, but visit Detroit at least twice a year. Love the city! And you’re absolutely right that a web presence beyond Yelp! is essential.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. No kidding – I was just talking last night to my husband about so many businesses being under the radar. Although part of my supposition is that some are that way on purpose. For the ones that just need a little boost and want it I think this is a great idea…very inspiring & cool.

    Liked by 4 people

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