Citywide SOUP Winner – July 2013
Ponyride SOUP Winner – September 2013

Graffiti has become an iconic gem throughout the city for the past couple of years, bringing in artists from across the globe and celebrating our local ones as well. While some may pass it by, others watch of these glorious works of art that line our streets in wonderment. And while most kick the crumbles that fall from these works of art, a couple of Detroiters found a way to use it as a way to change their lives and the lives of the people around them.

Amy Peterson lived next door to a homeless shelter in Detroit. During walks with her dog she would start up conversations with residents, particularly the women, who had to leave very challenging relationships and would often end up in these shelters due to financial problems. Her business partner, Diana Russell, had a background in jewelry and they wanted to create Detroit-centric works of art that were high quality, but allowed the artist to provide creative input into the design in order to build character and confidence.

“I wanted to give them the knowledge and power so that they would never be put in that situation again. We felt that education was just as important as employment. That is when we decided to start Rebel Nell,” explains Amy.

While going for a run down the Dequindre Cut one day, Amy found a piece of graffiti that had fallen onto the ground. She picked it up and continued her run home to see if she could make anything of this colorful piece. After examining it, she called up Diana and told her that she had an idea, and over the next several months they began prototyping and perfecting the jewelry.

“I loved the look on its surface, but thought it would be even cooler if I was able to access all of the layers that make up that piece of graffiti. That’s when I started playing around with the concept of graffiti jewelry.”

After winning SOUP two years ago, Rebel Nell was able to get their business started by launching their first round of products to sell at local art and music festival, Dally in the Alley. They were able to turn the money they won into about $8000, where they launch an indiegogo campaign which allowed them to hire their first round of ladies from the shelter. Sometimes though, money isn’t everything.

“The money wasn’t the best part of participating in SOUP. The fact that we won was validation for us that our idea wasn’t crazy. All of the people at SOUP that voted for us believed that we could do it. That was worth more than the money.”

Detroit based businesses are popping up all over the community. It’s important to utilize the people around you. Rebel Nell is just one example of a Detroit company, reaching deep, to help build up a community and change the lives of those in need.

“It is so important to have the support of this community backing you. You are starting a business not only for you, but for those who live here. That can be a lot of pressure, but it’s worth it in the end.”

To learn more about Rebel Nell visit their website: www.rebelnell.com

– Chaz Parks