A Detroit Woman Creates a New App for Creative Freelancers

Kinfolk will help creatives in metro Detroit and beyond find job opportunities, network, and build teams
Leah Hill (left), CEO of the new app Kinfolk, pictured with Chelsi Modest, Kinfolk’s chief financial officer, and Amber Lewis, chief marketing officer of the app. // Photograph by Ian Solomon

This year, a new app called Kinfolk will be available for creative freelancers to find job opportunities, build teams for their projects, connect with others in their respective fields, and more — and it was made locally by entrepreneur and Detroit native Leah Hill.

Whether you’re a writer, director, photographer, or another type of creator, Kinfolk will allow you to use the app either as a creative looking for a job or a project lead looking to build your team. Users can opt to find opportunities in their area and/or around the country.

Founder of event management and media company Kindred Media & Entertainment, Hill had been sitting on the idea for Kinfolk for more than a year, but the pandemic allowed her the time to commit to making it a reality. She says creating Kinfolk was out of necessity; for many creative freelancers, she says it can be difficult to find job opportunities or they may find their network is limited — especially during the pandemic. She also notes that a growing number of Gen Z-ers entering the workforce are more interested in pursuing freelancing roles instead of traditional full-time employment.

Hill — who will run Kinfolk as CEO alongside fellow Detroit natives Chelsi Modest and Amber Lewis as the app’s chief financial officer and chief marketing officer, respectively — spoke with Hour Detroit to tell us more about how Kinfolk works, what makes the app different from other freelancing platforms, how folks can invest in the app, and more.

Hour Detroit: So, let’s say I’ve just downloaded Kinfolk. Can you walk me through how it works?
Leah Hill - Kinfolk
Leah Hill // Photograph by Ian Solomon

Leah Hill: So you’re a journalist, right? You would download the app. You would put your image, your location, and you have the option to put three skillsets that you would want to focus on. So, maybe it’s journalism, creative writing, and maybe you’re a screenwriter, too, and that’s something you want to explore. You create your artist’s statement, and then you also have the ability to create a portfolio. I think that’s the piece I’m most excited about. You’d be able to upload pictures and videos and give further artist statements about each project. And you can have up to five on a portfolio. And then on the flip side, you can also be a project lead. Maybe you’re working on a book and you want some collaborators. So, you get to create a whole profile for this project that you’re working on and you get to say, “OK, I need photographers to shoot. I might need some graphic design work. I might need some illustrations.” You can put all those roles that you need for your team into that project.

It’s like a dating app from there on. If you’re the project lead, you’re able to see creatives in your area or even virtually… look through their portfolios, see if there’s someone you would want to work with on the project. Literally swipe yes or no. If you match, then you can have a conversation in the app about what you’re looking for, and we allow you to kind of take that conversation to the next step. On the flip side, as a creative, if someone is looking for a creative writer to assist with the story that they’re telling and you’re looking for some extra work, you will be able to flip through those types of different projects and say, “Oh, I’m interested in doing something like that.”  

Once the creative and the project lead connect, are there other opportunities for the app to assist them?

As we think about our initial offering, you’re on your own after that and we allow you to facilitate what happens next. I won’t give too much away about what we hope to do moving forward, but we do hope to become a little bit more of a team-building tool, just as it relates to potentially [doing] transactions and things like that down the line as we grow.

How is Kinfolk different from other freelancing platforms?

We really differ in the fact that if you look at Fiverr, for example, who [also] does more creative and graphic design-based work, all their work is done online. [Kinfolk is] creating the space for physical work such as videographers, dancers, models, and photographers, and we’re expanding the repertoire of what people can do and the services provided. Upwork is a little bit more business-focused, and we are trying to focus on the creative niche. Unlike Upwork and Fiverr, we’re looking at creative to creative, and small business to small business, and entrepreneur to entrepreneur. We’re [also] looking to build a culture around this app that I don’t think Upwork and Fiverr really have. In everything I do, I like putting people first. I like putting culture first. When you build a culture around something that people have a more emotional attachment to what you’re doing.

You’re giving folks the opportunity to become seed investors in Kinfolk by contributing a minimum of $100 to your Wefunder crowdfunding campaign. Can you tell us about that?

It allows you to say, “OK, I have $100, $200 to spare. I’m going to invest in the app.” And it gives you an equity stake down the line. When you look at the world of investing, it’s not a space where you see young people, right? It’s like accredited investors usually have to have a net worth of over $200,000 and have to be making so much a year. And with this raise and going through crowdfunding raising, it allows creatives to come in on the ground floor and be like, “I invested in this.” And five, six years from now when we hope to go public and be worth XYZ millions, they can have a piece of that. There are examples all over the place of apps where creatives bring all the value and [the apps] become like these huge, huge revenue drivers and their net worth is crazy. And it’s like, but the creatives on your app are bringing all the value. The opportunity to give them that value back is really exciting to me; it allows them to truly be a part of our team.

It’s also so important to see more Black women in tech, more people from Detroit in tech, and putting Detroit on the map in that way.

That’s very much a big-purpose driven piece for me. I do want to show a young Black girl growing up that like, “I can go into tech.” When you think of tech, you think of the Mark Zuckerbergs, and you think of the Bill Gateses, and you see white men. And I would love the opportunity to change that; to show up as myself as a Black girl from Detroit. That’s something that I really look forward to in this process.

For more information, visit kinfolkapp.com