Building Together: Kendall, DWM and Start Garden

Posted December 6, 2012 in Campus


A Collaboration Between Design West Michigan, Kendall College of Art & Design, and Start Garden  

On December 4, Design West Michigan (DWM), Kendall College of Art & Design, and Start Garden invited DWM members to bring their ideas to the table – or more specifically, to Start Garden, the new seed fund founded by Rick DeVos.

Speaking to a crowd of over 150 designers, DeVos, President David Rosen of Kendall, and Executive Director John Berry of DWM explained the opportunities at Start Garden and urged designers to think about how it could take their ideas to the next level.

Dr. Rosen spoke about the college’s role in developing designers who are the source of many new ideas. He said, “Designers have the capacity to see what’s missing because they have the capacity to observe. They invent things that are user-centric.” His own interest in entrepreneurship grew after discovering that students were designing things they wanted to sell and starting businesses while still in college, and he sees Start Garden as an exciting tool to help students try new things and develop their ideas.

DWM promotes design as an economic building block for the region, and Berry helped organize the evening to boost the design community’s awareness of the opportunities and connections available at Start Garden. “Part of our mission is to create opportunities for ideas to become businesses,” he said. “This is another step toward that goal. Ideas. Support. Advice. Connections. Education. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Founded in July 2011, Start Garden invites designers, students, or anyone with a good idea to submit their plans online. Each week, two of those ideas are selected to receive a $5,000 seed investment. Winners are given three months to cultivate, expand, and fine-tune their ideas with the financial and intellectual resources of the Start Garden team. While some ideas may never go farther than that, DeVos believes it’s a worthwhile endeavor to find the few that succeed. “We know the best way to figure things out is to try things,” he said. “That’s why we seed so many ideas. We want to empower lots of people to tinker, and we’re intentionally creating a culture where people don’t feel weird asking questions or having failures. Everyone needs to learn through that process.”

To learn more about Start Garden or submit your idea, visit To learn more about Design West Michigan, visit