About Detroit Friends
Learn how a little non profit based in the lower eastside of Detroit became an unlikely success story after being choosen as Oprah’s Favorite Potato Chips
Once upon a time the Hope District bustled with work that created wealth, dignity, and optimism. Residents and workers were warned that these economic boom times were threatened by global competition and complacency but they did not take heed. Because of that, things began to decline. Consequently, residents and workers lost wealth, dignity, and optimism. Until one day our community came together and created Detroit Friends Potato Chips food product as a way to add new purpose to vacant lots inside of the Hope District which in turn created opportunities for new employment that has created wealth, work, and helped to regain our dignity.
Some of the potatoes for these were born on a vacant lot in Detroit’s Hope District. They were nursed is our soup kitchen for mentally and physically challenged. They are made by community activists in an effort to bring work,hope and dignity to our vulnerable community. Some proceeds go to maintain the soup Kitchen and to create other financially sustainable grassroots projects.
Giving Back To the Community
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How we got discovered by o magazine in 2016
It seems so unlikely that a business startup in a community remarkable for the number of businesses closing would be selected as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things for Christmas.
But it happened to us. We had only recently figured out how to make potato chips when we cast about looking for an association to join. We decided on the Specialty Foods Association in New York. It was a coincidence that former former SFA worker Jessica Searson was in charge of the Midwest regionwas from an upscale Detroit suburb, Rochester. She liked our story of community uplift.
We started Detroit Friends Potato Chips to provide employment for people in our beleaguered fellow residents.Some of the potatoes for our chips were born on a vacant lot in Detroit’s Hope District. They were nursed in our soup kitchen for the mentally and physically challenged. They were made by community activists in an effort to bring work, hope and dignity to our vulnerable community. Some of the proceeds go to maintaining our soup kitchen and to create other financially sustainable grassroot projects.
Searson recommended that our story be featured in an article for the Specialty Foods Magazine. We had never heard of the Magazine. Nor did we know how influential it was. We received an email shortly after the article ran. It was from O, The Oprah Magazine. Former contributing style editor editor Kelley S. Carter had read the article and asked if we shipped chips nationally. We sent chips to Carter.
We received this email about a week
It took 18 months after that email to be selected one of Oprah’s Favorite Things for Christmas. We had to completely redesign our bag and label. We were also asked to create a tin canister during our work with O, The Oprah Magazine.
It all started with a community clean up effort.
Our headquarters is in an economically vulnerable community that has experienced full scale corporate disinvestment and middle class flight.
What is left is many vacant lots and two kinds of people. Those who cannot afford to leave and those who want to stay and make it better.
Detroit Friends Potato Chips Co. wants to make things better. We also operate a non profit soup kitchen called Friends of Detroit & Tri County, FOD.
FOD started having community meetings in the early 2000’s. We talked about what our area needed. We decided we needed to clean up the vacant lots on Forest Avenue. This is our Main Street.
I shudder when I think about the abandoned recreational vehicle on one lot. That was the biggest eyesore.
It took months.
Urban agriculture was having a resurgence around the time of our community clean up. The vacant lots needed to be given a new purpose. We decided to start an urban farm. One of our first products was potatoes. We thought we would be able to create a sustainable business selling potatoes.
Our first harvest was hard. But we could not compete in price or scale with area farms and industrial agriculture. Most of the potatoes we grew were consumed in homemade meals.
Larry Austin is a friend of the community and was the newly named manager of the Detroit Whole Foods.This was about eight years ago.
He suggested that we make potato chips as a business idea. We agreed with Austin that we should make potato chips.
It wasn’t quite that easy. We made terrible chips for years
Famished people whose only meal of the day was at our soup kitchen threw chips away.
That’s good we thought. We were getting unblemished feedback. The garbage was our barometer. We could directly measure how we were doing by looking in the garbage can.
We learned to make chips so delicious that they were discovered by Oprah. We were one of Oprah’s Favorite Things for Christmas.
Try every flavor
Takeaways from getting a product discovered by Oprah.
How you think is everything.
We had to spend many days and nights complying with requests from the staff at O, The Oprah Magazine. It took about 18 months. This included many tight deadlines and overnight shipping.
1. “We kept saying this could be huge for us.”
2. Start with a great product.
It took us years and years to go from making terrible potato chips to a great one. Show patience. This may not happen as quickly as you would like.
If you don’t have a great product. Look around your ancestry. Somebody in your family may have perfected a great cooking recipe, service or good.
3. Be persistent.
No matter what happens. Keep looking for ways to win.
4. Form great relationships. You will need to work with people who have different skills sets. Don’t stop looking for talent. You cannot do it alone.
Great Story of Self-Help
The Proceeds going towards a wonderful cause
Heartier Potato Chip
Unique Crunch and texture
Cooked with the skin on