Pop-Ups and Perspectives: How Designing Retail Pop-Ups in Detroit Changed My Life


By Brie Riley, BBA ‘19

Earlier this year I had the chance to work with a great team to create a program that would support pop-up retail shops in Detroit. Our program aimed to empower Detroit entrepreneurs who wanted to bring their ideas to life but may not have the capital to do so.

It was part of the annual Social Impact Challenge held at Michigan Ross by the Center for Social Impact.

Through our four-month program, Detroiters would gain access to classroom resources and then would have three months to pilot test their business model. In the end, we were incredibly thrilled to have won the competition! As we reflect back on the experience, the Social Impact Challenge taught us two main lessons: the importance of problem-finding and the importance of having a team with diverse backgrounds.

When building our pop-up program, the team made it a priority to “pop holes” into our ideas. This mindset forced us to be creative when searching for any issues that could arise when implementing our program in a growing Detroit. Because we used this approach, we were able to create a pop-up program structure that differentiated us from our competitors. After hours of brainstorming, we found that we could not support all business types under our original model.

For our second project draft, we worked to create a model that could be inclusive of all business types. With this in mind, we proposed that the space that pop-up shops operated in be modular white-spaces. Ultimately, focusing on a theme of inclusion and creative problem-finding led our team to create a unique pop-up shop model.

The second takeaway the team and I had from this experience was the importance of having diverse ideas. Our team was comprised of a variety of professional backgrounds including engineering, real estate, political science, economics and healthcare. One of the recurring concepts I have studied as a business student is the success of diverse teams. However, I truly did not experience this until the Social Impact Challenge.

By having a number of perspectives, we were able to generate original business concepts and easily overcome any issues along the way. As a result, our educational and pilot program would fully provide entrepreneurs the financial, marketing, communication and leadership skills necessary to run a business. The program also focused on stakeholder engagement throughout the city of Detroit. Looking ahead, Team Upstart’s final plan would provide entrepreneurs a brief but comprehensive program for launching their business.

In the end, it was a complete honor to have been a part of Team Upstart. We thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to contribute to Detroit’s economic and social progress. We learned about the importance of being innovative and finding viable solutions to pressing challenges. Looking back, participating in the Social Impact Challenge is an experience that we are incredibly grateful for and will undoubtedly be a highlight of our business school career.

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Brie Riley
BBA '19


What was your summer internship?

I worked on the innovations team at the Henry Ford Health System, researching emerging technologies from around the world to support their commercialization.

Who is your favorite Ross Professor?

Sarah Zimmerman (BCOM 250 & 350) - I always looked forward to her class ... even if it was at 8:30 in the morning.

Any Hobbies?

I love to play tennis, read, travel, and spend time with my friends. In the fall, I love football Saturdays at the Big House.

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