In the glory years, Detroit was a diverse, hard-working city, powered by innovation andcreativity. Birthplace of the assembly line. Arsenal of democracy. Dynamo of prosperity, bouncing forward to a pulsing Motown beat.
Then, for reasons too complex to sum up in a few words, Detroit stumbled. For a long time, the city struggled to regain its footing, seeming to be always on the verge of falling to its knees.
But now Detroit is regaining its stride. It has a new energy, a sense of purpose, and a culture of entrepreneurship that is making things happen.
Northwood knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship, so it’s not surprising that the university is playing a part in Detroit’s renewal. In one example, a Northwood graduate is investing in the city through a fascinating urban forestry initiative (see story, Page 6). For something a little more hands-on, check out the Northwood edition wristwatch from Shinola Detroit, a new company that is making Motown’s urban cool a worldwide phenomenon.
Shinola launched in 2012 with nine assembly workers and a stylish retail store in a blighted part of Detroit. The stated goal was to generate employment in a city that desperately needed it by producing fashionable watches with an appealing brand.
The company also makes high-end bicycles, and sells an eclectic variety of products – among them leather goods, jewelry, and audiophile turntables – that can really only be linked by one word: hip. It has expanded to more than 25 retail locations (several new ones are opening this summer) around the country and also has locations across Europe.
“Since 2012, we’ve hired more than 600 people and created 200 meaningful manufacturing jobs,” the company has stated on its website, under the hashtag #rollupoursleeves. “We’re proud of what we’re building, but we know there’s more we can do, and we believe that’s true for everyone. Together, we can get there.”
Shinola marketing whiz Peter Shin spoke at Northwood in 2016 as part of Values Emphasis Week, and the natural fit between the company and the university was obvious.
“He shared the Shinola story, and talked about the Shinola brand. Ethics. Values. Purpose. Treating your customers correctly,” recalled Justin Marshall, Northwood’s Vice President of University Advancement and Alumni Relations. “I suggested the idea of a partnership between Shinola and Northwood, and creating a special Northwood watch, with the proceeds funding a scholarship program for students from Detroit. He said, ‘I like the idea. Let’s get something going.’ˮ
In true entrepreneurial fashion, something got going very quickly. Shinola agreed to produce up to 500 watches and provide them to Northwood at a wholesale price. Northwood would sell them at the retail price of a comparable Shinola watch. And rest assured, this is not your typical timepiece.
The watch face is Northwood blue. “Northwood University” is etched on the stainless steel body. It comes in a display-quality wooden box with the school’s logo burned into the top. Its Super-LumiNova hands are driven by an Argonite 1069 high-accuracy quartz movement.
“It’s a beautiful timepiece, and it’s unique to Northwood University,” Marshall said. “They are a point of pride for the alumni network – something that can be worn proudly, giving each wearer the opportunity to help others and to tell a great story."
The only place to order the special edition watch is at Northwood’s website, www.northwood.edu/events/shinola. It comes in three case sizes, 47 mm, 41 mm, or 36 mm, and sells for $550.
“Shinola has been very generous in the terms of the agreement. They will produce 50 at a time, and when we sell those they will make us a new batch,” Marshall said, adding that more than 60 watches were sold in the first week they were available, just before spring graduation. “They will not make more than 500, and if we sell that many, we will have more than $100,000 for a scholarship endowment, which will allow many students from Detroit to benefit from a Northwood education.”