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Marlowe Stoudamire

Central to Detroit: Rebuilding with social capital

Entrepreneur and CMU alumnus leads historic efforts focused on city and its people

Contact: Heather Smith


Editor's note: Central Michigan University is involved in the entire state's success — after all, Michigan is our middle name. This is part of a special report on people with CMU connections making a positive difference in Michigan's largest city, Detroit.

Fifty years ago, five days of conflict that became known as the 1967 Detroit riot ended 43 lives and destroyed 2,000 buildings. Today, Marlowe Stoudamire wants people to reflect on that history.

The Detroit Historical Society chose the 2009 Central Michigan University alumnus to direct its Detroit 67 project, which examines 150 years to mark the civil unrest of 1967 and inspire a better future.

It's just the latest example of Marlowe being a leader in his hometown — from turning Henry Ford Health System's attention overseas as a product manager, to starting a consulting business, to opening a hub for community gatherings and trade.

"I was once led by the ambition of wanting to work for a company with a big name, have a title and make all of this money," Marlowe says, "but I didn't realize it doesn't necessarily align with who I am and what I'm meant to do." 

Building bridges near and far

Marlowe built his leadership career in Detroit reaching out to bridge gaps.

As a full-time working professional with a family, he turned to CMU's satellite location in Detroit and online learning to help bridge his busy life with his ambition to earn a master's degree.

 

Marlowe Stoudamire

Hometown: Detroit
Occupation: Owner of Butterfly Effect consulting
CMU degrees: Master of science degree in administration, international administration concentration, 2009
Noteworthy: Crain’s Detroit Business’ 40 under 40

"I was always the kind of kid who would daydream about other parts of the world," he says. "I chose the international administration concentration in the master of science in administration program, and it was truly life-changing. It altered the trajectory of my entire life and career."

When he enrolled in the MSA program, Marlowe was working at Henry Ford. For his final project, he took on the topic of medical tourism.

"It caught the attention of the president of Henry Ford Health System, who had wanted to launch an international strategy," he says. "It was the foundation to him hiring me as his first-ever project manager for the president and chief operating officer."

Marlowe served as project director of business development with a focus on global marketing. He traveled worldwide to study feasibility and help take Henry Ford's services global, leading to projects in Saudi Arabia and India.

"Most people, when they study in class, sometimes it's very theoretical and they don't get a chance to apply it," he says. "I still apply those lessons learned, and I still have some of those relationships."

Spreading his wings to change a city

Marlowe grew up in Detroit, and being part of its comeback is close to his heart.

In 2014, when he started his consulting business to provide services related to partnerships, communication, events, marketing and placemaking, he named it Butterfly Effect.

"I had to go through a cocoon," he explains. "I had to go through a level of transformation. Part of my cocoon model is finding ways for my personal and professional lives to complement each other and not compete with each other."

Marlowe says connecting with people — social capital — is the way to make a difference in the city.

"Detroit is not buildings and structures," he says. "Buildings and structures have no soul without the people inside of them.

"People will say 'Detroit's a blank canvas.' Well, I disagree. You don't build on top or around people. You build with people."

A place for constructive collisions

Marlowe uses his network to connect communities and neighborhoods.

"People talk about how neighborhoods matter. People talk about Detroit revitalization. But what they don't understand is that in a lot of these neighborhoods around the city, they're not seeing the same resources or the level of talent and exposure that you're seeing in downtown and Midtown," he says. "What I wanted to do was create a hub of what I call organic social collisions to foster collaboration, creativity, entrepreneurship and bridge-building in a neighborhood."

" You don’t build on top or around people. You build with people."​

 Marlowe Stoudamire

To do this, Marlowe opened MASH Detroit, a mixed-use space featuring retail businesses, pop-up exhibitions, meeting and co-working spaces, and events planned by community members.

"We can help activate spaces all around the city to create these mashups, which ultimately bring people together," he says.

This hub at the border of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park links communities, neighborhoods, people and cultures, Marlowe says.

Taking on big issues

In all of his efforts, whether pursuing his degree or consulting with community influencers, Marlowe lives a life of passion.

That includes his perspective on leading the Detroit 67 project.

"If you look at where we are today as a country, there are a lot of things that mirror what we were dealing with 50 years ago," Marlowe says. "People ask 'Why would you pull the scab off of this?' My question is, 'What makes you think a scab ever formed?'"

Read more about alumni in Detroit:

Using change to invest in the future

 

Kyle Goodall cultivates eager young helpers as he works to “tear down the walls of injustice.”

Read his story

CMU grad leads bike-share effort

 

Public service has always been in Lisa Nuszkowski’s worldview. Now she’s putting Detroit’s public on wheels.

Read her story

In vested interest

 

As he works on million-dollar deals to benefit city residents, Aaron Seybert has two people in mind.

Read his story

Building a company, rebuilding a city

 

Thirsty for success, entrepreneur Cason Thorsby says he and his chosen city have a lot in common.

Read his story

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