Peter Jacob

Peter Jacob

Peter Jacob a.k.a Uncle Peter is our resident design genius. He also run a successful furniture design firm (Peter Jacob Kind Creative) as well as a unbelievably tasty bakery that he opened with his partner in 2010 (run do not walk to the Cakabakery).


Middle West Questionnaire


Since you've lived in Michigan what is the biggest progression that you’ve noticed?

Michigan has natural ties that bind people together moreso than in other places I’ve lived. There is sort’ve a camaraderie around Michigan. Even when I travel, you can meet people who’ll want to connect with you because of where you live. I'm not sure what it is, but they'll always be people forward and positive. Since I've lived here I've noticed that especially in the arts some of these same feelings are allowing for more cross state networks and organizations to form and blossom often times despite a lack of real infrastructure.

What about the Midwest makes it a source of inspiration for you? What are you excited to share with others?

So easy. There's an opportunity to create something new that doesn’t necessarily exist in it’s truest and best form. There are a lot of people boot strapping. There are a lot of people being creative but there is still room for more and more. So when I talk to people in North Carolina where I travel all the time or even in Asia, people are beginning to understand the opportunities that exist. It's rare to find large cities where people have the space to do their own thing and the open space to create. I think it surprises people how few rules there are here.

What is your primary role with Middle West? And how do you feel your unique talents and personality contributes to the Middle West team?

I provide viewpoint from a creative angle that allow us to practically execute the dreamy ideas that we come up with together. So what sometimes seems far fetched suddenly becomes do-able because of our experiences, relationships, and abilities. I love that I get a chance to flex my abilities not only about visual but also about experiences and outcomes and really moving conversations forward as well.

Tell us what you are specifically working on right now.

Specifically I'm working on the remodel of building in the East Fulton area of Grand Rapids which will be the permenent home of Cakabakery which is a bakery that my partner I started in 2010. I'm also working on a line of upholstered furniture products that sell to retailers all over the world. It's made by a company called Wesley Hall, and it has been one of the most fulfilling furniture experiences I've had in my career. Mostly because of the people I’ve been working with and the natural back and forth we have working together.

Which Middle West event do you consider a highlight so far? What about it makes it stand out in your memory?

SXSW. The first time. Because we accomplished something that we were all working extremely hard on but that we each had our own quiet and personal doubts about whether it would meet our vision. We knew that we had a vision and we were solid in that vision, but we each had some doubts about whether it would land or not. And then it became some people. I think that experience, even at the end of the first day, we all knew that it would grow and live and exist for a long time. We knew that we had found something that meant something to other people. It was a really great feeling. And somehow the team aspect of that first effort was really binding. We all stretched ourselves so thin, but it really connected us.

When approaching the next big event, what do you anticipate the most?

I like equally the packed house celebration/riotous fun/dancing/great time and, just as much, I like seeing two people have a quiet corner conversation. Not a conversation between me and someone else, but two others who are using the space as it was designed to actually connect. When I get to see the space function in both those capacities that's when I know its good. That’s when it makes sense to expect so many places to put your butt…

Tell us a story about an experience you’ve had with Middle West that confirmed the impact Middle West is making, whether it be fulfilling a goal for a sponsor, positive feedback from an event attendee, etc.

Having someone who’ve you known and respect in the community stand up in a chat back session and tell a full room why this is essential. Beyond all the varied impacts there are calcuable impacts of hearing the opinions of people you really respect. I don't know if it's because I'm a designer, but I sort've don't know if it really worked until I hear it from a user. Hear them say, "That worked for me and I'll come back next time."

The other side is when a team member can use something we've done as a case-study for what is relevant and use it as an example for a major corporation. That's a high bench mark for ourhard scrabble, DIY methods to meet and often compare favorably with larger/high budget events.

Tell us something new you have learned since beginning work with Middle West.

Ha, all the things. How to work a spreadsheet. Truly the work I do with Middle West influences the level of communication I do in my own work. It's increased the level of expectation I can have in myself to complete high quality work. It has instilled confidence on my ability to complete what can sometimes seem insurmountable, but with the right methods and connections is truly not. Just a whole lot. And it's always evolving and changing and surprising. I mean we're running a pop-up shop for the bakery right now while we move. I know I can run it alone on a Saturday with my eyes closed, and I never would have known that or thought that before Middle West.

Where do you imagine Middle West will be in five years? Dream big.

I'd like to see us have full time staff. I'd like to see us function on multi-levels both in the not-for-profits and in the event production business. I’d like us to expand our reach of influence beyond Michigan only like Colorado o Austin. I'd love us to do Sundance! 

What is your favorite behind the scenes Middle West memory?

I love that we become the favorite after party. Like all the staffs of the major partners we work with want hang out with us...even when they're not required to. We mean something to the people we work with and serve. Even after we’re done working they want to hang out in the space we've created. That’s happened every Middle West event. They help and then they want to stay. And that means something.