Millennial Entrepreneur: Phillip Cooley

Roosevelt Park


Photo courtesy of Phillip Cooley

The Millennial Entrepreneur series highlights Millennials who have taken their passion and turned it into a full-time career through innovation, creativity and perseverance.

You can’t really appreciate the Detroit Renaissance without getting to know Phillip Cooley.

The face of a new Detroit grew up in a small rural town, went to film school at Columbia College in Chicago, then took to international waters as a model walking the runway in fashion shows for brands like Louis Vuitton, Kenzo and Costume National.

Before long Phillip wanted a new challenge, and found himself enraptured by the artwork of Tyree Guyton, “a painter and sculptor, who has also been described as an urban environmental artist. Tyree has waged a personal war on urban blight on Detroit’s East Side, transforming his neighborhood into a living indoor/outdoor art gallery.”

Tyree’s work drew Phillip to Detroit. When he arrived, he took the advice he learned from Dave Hickey’s book, Air Guitar. Phillip explains, “What stuck with me was the passage that talked about moving to the city, going to the bars and meeting like minded people, and starting a movement. I took that literally and went to the bars a lot at first and met a ton of wonderful people.”

From those first interactions with the people making and sharing new things in Detroit, Phillip developed partnerships that resulted in his opening Slows Bar-B-Q. He wanted to create a modern fine dining experience, didn’t want only one demographic – he wanted everyone to come to his restaurant. He realized that, “The new communication gathering point tends to be restaurants. BBQ is affordable and something that everybody loves. It’s approachable and has the ability to bring people together.”

Turns out he was right. “[The customers] respond to quality. Our chefs are really talented, our food is good and our staff is awesome. So, I think that it’s a combination of the social give back, the environmental awareness and the quality.” Slows’ sandwich, Yardbird gathered national attention on the TV show, “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America” as one of the top three best sandwiches in the US.

Outside Slows, you can find Phillip helping small businesses get started with his space, Ponyride. “It provides a cheap space for socially conscious artists and entrepreneurs to work and share knowledge, resources and networks.” Phillip believes, “Detroit will save itself and that no one can save Detroit. And so just by giving someone access to participate, Detroiters will do incredible things. That’s what we are seeing at Ponyride.” You can find everything from tech companies to woodworking companies making use of this shared space.

What’s the best advice Phillip can give other young entrepreneurs? “Don’t be afraid of partnerships; make sure you collaborate, and understand that you have to know what you don’t know. Find partners that can you can stand being around, and if you’re not friends with them then it’s not worth it. Also know that you can’t just put all your friends in the same room and expect to be a successful business. It’s a combination of loving what you do and putting together a balanced team.” He also believes, “Any business that is not a triple-bottom-line business that is fiscally, financially and socially sound is a waste of time. We know as a society that you can’t exploit people and you can’t exploit the environment. You need to be respectful.”

Sound advice.

Posted on May 30, 2013, in Entrepreneurship, Millennial Creators, Millennials and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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