The Renaissance City

I was surprised the other day when a package came to my house from Detroit. I have several friends there, especially after my wild hitchhiking trip, but wasn’t expecting anything. Inside was a beautiful blue box with a bow, and inside that lovely box were treats individually wrapped with a handwritten note. My sorority sister and work colleague had sent me the most perfect gift to celebrate my birthday.

That was my introduction to Open Me When, and I immediately got online to learn more about this company. The idea of sending hand-wrapped presents with a handwritten note truly excited me (I’m all about thoughtful, personalized touches to show you’re thinking of someone). What was inside felt like it was picked out just for me and in the most intimate way. For a second, I thought I could blog about a movement to preserve intimacy in gift giving…I know it’s a stretch, but after reading more about them, I discovered they are indeed part of something bigger: the movement to revitalize Detroit.

As you may have heard, the Motor City is going through a renaissance. When I think of the personality of Detroit, I think of the word scrappy. The city is a fighter.  Detroit took a huge hit when the automobile industry went into a tailspin in the mid to late 2000s. Many people lost their jobs, a lot left the state, but those who remained never lost their heart. Their grit and pride are felt all throughout the city. Businesses are returning, and people are investing in the city. Detroit is on the rebound.

Turning Holiday Tradition into a Business

People like Eli and Beatrice, the husband and wife team behind Open Me When, are doing their fair share to make Detroit the gem it once was during the auto industry’s heyday. Beatrice’s family owned a commercial printing company where her mother would create custom boxes that she would give their customers as holiday gifts. Inside the boxes were individually wrapped promotional pieces and a story for each one. Their clients would wait with anticipation for the tradition and experience. Sound familiar?

Beatrice and Eli’s secret to success is that they have joined the movement to rebuild Detroit. By working with local artisans to procure items that reflect Detroit, they tell the story of each item and the city it comes from, then hand wrap each one, drop it in a box with a special scent and a handwritten note, and voilà! They have earned a following of businesses, brides, and, most importantly, of their neighbors and community members.  

I asked Eli about the most powerful story they’ve told through a box. They found a woodworking company that takes reclaimed wood and turns it into picture frames and custom boxes. The company etches the origin of the wood onto the piece that they sell so you can then go to their website to learn about its history. Together, they are helping tell and preserve the story of the Motor City.  

Boxes, Celebrities, and Galas… Oh, My!

Recently, Open Me When made boxes for a gala in Los Angeles. One of their boxes landed in the hands of Kate Flannery, the actress who played Meredith on The Office. Kate was kind enough to post a picture of her goodies on Instagram. But that’s not the only cool thing they’ve done this year. They also created boxes for the entire Detroit Pistons Basketball team!

You know I believe that leaders turn moments into movements. Anyone can start a movement, whether it’s around a product, a fundraiser, or a political issue. I’m sure that when Beatrice came up with the idea for her company she didn’t know that she would be part of something greater: the movement to restore the economy of her beloved hometown.

So #firestarter, find what you’re passionate about and connect it with something bigger than you can imagine. You never know where it will lead you and who along the way will help propel you forward…a basketball team, a celebrity or a random blogger who loves their gift box.


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