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Josh York: Working to Build Back Manufacturing and Trade Skills in Detroit

Josh York: Working to Build Back Manufacturing and Trade Skills in Detroit

Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs working to ensure responsible consumption and production for all of us around the world! Today’s rockstar is Josh York, founder, and CEO of Soft Goods Detroit.


Spiffy: Welcome Josh! I’m going to jump right in and ask you to tell us about your work, and the challenges you’re addressing.

Josh: Sounds good, Spiffy! So, we are redefining apparel manufacturing and providing skilled trade jobs in our community of Detroit, Michigan.

Spiffy: That’s interesting! What motivated you to create apparel manufacturing and trade jobs in the Motor City?

Josh: Well, Spiffy, I grew up in Metro-Detroit and was always inspired by the city — it was so incredible years ago and has fallen so far.  I've been fortunate enough to receive a world-class education and feel that I have a unique skill set to make a difference in my community. I want to build a lasting business and create job opportunities for those who have not had the same opportunities as me.

Spiffy: This sounds promising, Josh. How do you think this will help create a more equitable world? 

Josh: By building a lasting business, we can create opportunities for people of all backgrounds. By making goods in Detroit, we can redefine what it means to manufacture clothing and shed light on what the fashion industry should look like.

Spiffy: Can you tell me about a recent milestone that you’ve achieved?

Josh: Yes, we doubled in size during the pandemic! It wasn't a specific milestone, but I'm quite proud that our team was able to persevere, hire more employees, and grow in revenue.

Spiffy: Especially in light of so much job loss nationwide, that’s a stellar milestone to reach. What about failure — have you experienced failure before? What did you do about it?

Josh: In March 2020, we had to figure out how to keep our business going when the world shut down. We rapidly prototyped a face mask in a weekend, and a week later were producing thousands of face masks for a local hospital. We learned the importance of listening to our surrounding market and being agile to meet their needs.

Spiffy: Agility is an amazing skill to have, Josh. Before we sign off, do you have any surprising lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share with us?

Josh: Well, Spiffy, the best way to be successful in business and life is to be consistent. You don't always have to be the best, but if you set proper expectations, do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it, and are consistent, you'll go very far.

Spiffy: I imagine you’re going to show us just how to do that, Josh. Thanks so much for talking to me today. It’s been an honor!


Josh York is the founder and CEO of York Project Inc. and Soft Goods Detroit. Josh is a 2016 graduate of Michigan State University and has worked at Boeing, Grainger, and Abercrombie & Fitch. He started a brand, York Project, as a sophomore in college and has grown it to a 20-person operation, partnering with brands like Shinola, Foot Locker, Stella Artois, Chips Ahoy!, and many more. (Nominated by Red Cedar Ventures)


© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog