Skip
Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

Dialed

18 Reasons The American Dream Is Still Alive

Innovation. Creativity. Passion. There's a place where those forces come together daily to help build robust new businesses humming with the energy of their founders. Take a tour of a hardworking borough's breakthrough successes.

  • <p>Viraj Puri and Jennifer Nelkin run <a href="http://gothamgreens.com/" target="_blank">Gotham Greens</a>, a 15,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse facility, above an old bowling alley.</p>
  • <p>Haresh Lalvani, a professor at Pratt Institute, creates sculpture, architecture, and other forms of design.</p>
  • <p>Lance Pinn runs <a href="http://www.brooklynboulders.com/" target="_blank">Brooklyn Boulders</a>, an indoor climbing gym.</p>
  • <p>Ursula von Rydingsvard is an artist and sculptor working mostly in cedar wood, says Duchaine.</p>
  • <p>Tina Roth Eisenberg runs a series of design-related companies: Swissmiss, Studiomates, CreativeMornings, Tattly, and Teuxdeux. <a href="http://tattly.com/" target="_blank">Tattly</a>, for instance, makes temporary soy-based tattoos.</p>
  • <p>Sara Horowitz is the founder of the Freelancers Union and the winner of a MacArthur grant; Fast Company has called her "<a href="http://www.fastcompany.com/3002367/sara-horowitz-labors-renaissance-woman" target="_self">Labor's Renaissance Woman</a>."</p>
  • <p>Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang founded <a href="http://www.narchitects.com/" target="_blank">n ARCHITECTS </a>in 1999. They recently won a competition to design a building housing "micro-units" (miniature apartments) in Manhattan.</p>
  • <p>The Mast Brothers, discussed in the text below, <a href="http://mastbrothers.com/about" target="_blank">make chocolate</a> in their Williamsburg location.</p>
  • <p>Lucien Zayan is the owner of <a href="http://theinvisibledog.org/" target="_blank">Invisible Dog</a>, a community arts space.</p>
  • <p>Charles Flickinger runs <a href="http://flickingerglassworks.com/" target="_blank">Flickinger Glassworks</a> in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. They've been making custom glass products since 1985, says Duchaine.</p>
  • <p>Raised in France, Elodie Blanchard followed her musician husband to Brooklyn and began a textile design company, <a href="http://www.elasticco.com/" target="_blank">Elasticco</a>. Here, a superhero suit made from elastic bands.</p>
  • <p>While a San Francisco original, <a href="http://www.bluebottlecoffee.com/" target="_blank">Blue Bottle Coffee</a> has found a welcome home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here, a woman stands behind a contraption used for a Japanese cold water brewing process.</p>
  • <p>Transformers among us: Peter Kokis of <a href="http://www.brooklynrobotworks.com/" target="_blank">Brooklyn RobotWorks</a> was formerly a helicopter gunship pilot.</p>
  • <p>Joseph Melillo has been the <a href="http://www.bam.org/about/leadership/joseph-v-melillo" target="_blank">executive producer at BAM</a>, the Brooklyn arts center, since 1999 and the force and vision behind BAM's direction; he's worked at BAM for 27 years.</p>
  • <p>Samuel Zygmuntowicz is a luthier, meaning he makes and repairs stringed instruments like violins. He's also the creative director of <a href="http://strad3d.org/cms/" target="_blank">Strad3D</a>, a project using technology to analyze how great violins vibrate to produce their distinctive sound.</p>
  • <p>Matthew Tilden runs <a href="http://scratchbread.com/" target="_blank">SCRATCHbread</a>, a Bed-Stuy food stand where everything is made from, well, scratch. "The neighborhood has embraced him," says Duchaine.</p>
  • <p>Greg O'Connell is a developer in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.</p>
  • <p>Dan Stroper is the CEO of <a href="http://www.putumayo.com/" target="_blank">Putumayo</a>, a record label and store focusing on world music.</p>
  • 01 /18

    Viraj Puri and Jennifer Nelkin run Gotham Greens, a 15,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse facility, above an old bowling alley.

  • 02 /18

    Haresh Lalvani, a professor at Pratt Institute, creates sculpture, architecture, and other forms of design.

  • 03 /18

    Lance Pinn runs Brooklyn Boulders, an indoor climbing gym.

  • 04 /18

    Ursula von Rydingsvard is an artist and sculptor working mostly in cedar wood, says Duchaine.

  • 05 /18

    Tina Roth Eisenberg runs a series of design-related companies: Swissmiss, Studiomates, CreativeMornings, Tattly, and Teuxdeux. Tattly, for instance, makes temporary soy-based tattoos.

  • 06 /18

    Sara Horowitz is the founder of the Freelancers Union and the winner of a MacArthur grant; Fast Company has called her "Labor's Renaissance Woman."

  • 07 /18

    Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang founded n ARCHITECTS in 1999. They recently won a competition to design a building housing "micro-units" (miniature apartments) in Manhattan.

  • 08 /18

    The Mast Brothers, discussed in the text below, make chocolate in their Williamsburg location.

  • 09 /18

    Lucien Zayan is the owner of Invisible Dog, a community arts space.

  • 10 /18

    Charles Flickinger runs Flickinger Glassworks in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. They've been making custom glass products since 1985, says Duchaine.

  • 11 /18

    Raised in France, Elodie Blanchard followed her musician husband to Brooklyn and began a textile design company, Elasticco. Here, a superhero suit made from elastic bands.

  • 12 /18

    While a San Francisco original, Blue Bottle Coffee has found a welcome home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here, a woman stands behind a contraption used for a Japanese cold water brewing process.

  • 13 /18

    Transformers among us: Peter Kokis of Brooklyn RobotWorks was formerly a helicopter gunship pilot.

  • 14 /18

    Joseph Melillo has been the executive producer at BAM, the Brooklyn arts center, since 1999 and the force and vision behind BAM's direction; he's worked at BAM for 27 years.

  • 15 /18

    Samuel Zygmuntowicz is a luthier, meaning he makes and repairs stringed instruments like violins. He's also the creative director of Strad3D, a project using technology to analyze how great violins vibrate to produce their distinctive sound.

  • 16 /18

    Matthew Tilden runs SCRATCHbread, a Bed-Stuy food stand where everything is made from, well, scratch. "The neighborhood has embraced him," says Duchaine.

  • 17 /18

    Greg O'Connell is a developer in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.

  • 18 /18

    Dan Stroper is the CEO of Putumayo, a record label and store focusing on world music.

Brooklyn is still on the rise.

The borough, once in Manhattan's long shadow, now has its own sports team, its own TV shows—even, you might say, its own brand.

It also has become a hub for small business, as the photographer Randy Duchaine has shown. Duchaine moved to the borough himself in 1986. When people learned he'd given up his 212 area code in Manhattan, they assumed he'd had some reversal of fortune. In fact, he'd simply become captivated with the spirit of the scrappy borough, a spirit he would come to document in photographic portraits over the years. "Created in Brooklyn" is an exhibition currently on display at the Brooklyn Public Library; it chronicles the borough's movers and shakers.

From chocolatiers to tech-based sound analyzers to artists and designers, Duchaine has seen it all. He still remembers the first time he went behind the scenes at Mast Brothers Chocolate (pictured in the slideshow above). "They had such passion and enthusiasm," he recalls. He's inspired by the verve and daring of many of the people he has photographed: Of the founder of ScratchBread, Matthew Tilden, Duchaine notes that "he had no money—just ambition, desire, and a dream. He made it out of nothing."

"I admire them, I celebrate them," says Duchaine of his borough's small business owners. "They don't give up easily. It's the American Dream," he says, adding that many of the business owners he has portrayed are recent immigrants.

"I think the number-one thing you can learn from these people is you have to trust yourself, and that nobody else is better qualified than you. These people all had one thing: the desire to do something—and they pursued it and never looked back."

[All Photos by Randy Duchaine]

Slideshow Credits: 01 / Randy Duchaine; 02 / Randy Duchaine; 03 / Randy Duchaine; 04 / Randy Duchaine; 05 / Randy Duchaine; 06 / Randy Duchaine; 07 / Randy Duchaine; 08 / Randy Duchaine; 09 / Randy Duchaine; 10 / Randy Duchaine; 11 / Randy Duchaine; 12 / Randy Duchaine; 13 / Randy Duchaine; 14 / Randy Duchaine; 15 / Randy Duchaine; 16 / Randy Duchaine; 17 / Randy Duchaine; 18 / Randy Duchaine;

loading