Amy Augustin (Venture 6) and Michael Forsyth (Detroit City Distillery)
By Lynne Golodner
In episodes 4 and 5 of the Make Meaning podcast, I spoke with two fascinating entrepreneurs, Amy Augustin, of Venture 6, and Michael Forsyth, of Detroit City Distillery. Their stories inspired me in many ways, particularly that they do what they love but also give back as a natural part of their work.
For Amy, her creative video and design company launched Our Safer World, an effort to take her team to countries in need where they can help and give back. Thus far, they’ve visited Uganda and Haiti, hoping to be a voice for developing societies.
Michael is another story. He and some friends from rural Bath, Michigan, transformed their teenage mischief years into a company that makes some of the best spirits around. Detroit City Distillery has a decidedly Detroit vibe but with the creativity and flavor of the stories behind these innovators. I became a cocktail-lover simply by stepping into their Eastern Market location and relaxing into the encouraging vibe that made me feel like it was a place I could truly belong.
We are all looking for that purpose, and that place of belonging, and these entrepreneurs help people find it with the work they do. Here are some snippets from those insightful conversations.
A Conversation with Amy Augustin
Storytelling, says Amy, whether visual or auditory, is taking “ideas and feelings and sharing them with the world in a simple way.”
Driven by her love of theater and communications, Amy poured her talent and style into the oldest form of entertainment: storytelling. “People respond when their emotions are evoked,” Amy says. The best commercials today, she notes, are the heartstrings stories – the ones that show families, show people connecting. “It’s not necessarily the product; it’s about how that product makes you feel.”
We are all part of humanity, says Amy. “We’re all one. We all share the same feelings. We all want to feel safe. We wall want to feel empowered. We wall want to feel loved.”
Are these the statements of a businessperson? Quite simply – yes. Because they are statements about the purpose behind everything we do. And if a smart businessperson can generate these feelings of goodwill, they’ll earn customers for life.
Amy took her team to Uganda after learning about a school there with no windows or doors where the school supplies kept getting stolen. Her team took supplies, solar-powered flashlights and alarms, they added a door with a lock and windows, they donated first aid kids, hygiene kits, and everything the school might need to feel safe.
“Never lose sight of your purpose,” Amy says. “We need to stop and ask ourselves, ‘Do I feel like I am answering my calling? Am I following my life purpose?”
And if not, change directions. Get on a new path. Shift focus to take you where you were meant to go.
Listen to the full conversation with Amy Augustin here.
A Spirited Discussion with Michael Forsyth
Michael Forsyth is one of the coolest guys I know. Even cooler, he’s built a business around entertaining people with craft libations. The design and style of Detroit City Distillery, the branding, the simultaneously sleek and gritty tenor of the brand, speaks to that utterly Detroit vibe while bringing in a sense of something truly new and unique.
In our conversation, Michael talked about the craft whiskeys, bourbon, rye, gins and vodka his company produces in the heart of Eastern Market. The business grew out of passion and connection among nine best friends from a little town in mid-Michigan.
“Necessity initiates inventions,” he says. “I went online and figured out how to make our own alcohol. My parents always questions if I was going to turn out alright. And you know, we actually did.”
They took over an old slaughterhouse and made it into an inviting cocktail bar with a tasting room. Recently, they built an event space in the old Stroh’s ice cream factory.
Detroit City Distillery embodies the scrappy history of Detroit with a new take, Michael says. “You have to respect where you came from. We’re new, but part of a very long history of making alcohol in Detroit.”
“Detroit defined the standard for American craftsmanship,” Michael notes. “That really plays into our brand, our philosophy of how we make things.”
Learn about how Detroit City Distillery partners with nonprofits, Michael’s journey from helping startups in Detroit to starting one of his own and more on this episode of the Make Meaning podcast.