Last month, the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan (NEI
) did something unusual for a philanthropy -- it granted a total of $300,000 ($10,000 each) to 30 existing businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park through a new challenge called NEIdeas.
The goal of NEIdeas
is to reward existing small businesses -- those that have been operating for at least three years -- for their ideas for growth, thus acknowledging the contributions small businesses make to the neighborhoods in which they are located.
The 30 winners
-- a diverse array of businesses from every corner of the city -- were selected from a pool of nearly 600 applicants through a jury process. Each appplicant submitted ideas for growth using a simple online form.
"We were [so] impressed with so many of the ideas that came from our nearly 600 applicants that we wanted to cast the net even wider and allow the community to have a voice in our next two NEIdeas winning businesses," says Dave Egner, executive director of NEI.
On Sunday, Nov. 16, a People's Choice round of the NEIdeas $10K Challenge was launched to award two more local businesses for their ideas for growth. Four finalists were chosen for People's Choice consideration.
The finalists are:
Above and Beyond Orthopedics (Vote code: 945841)
Prosthetic Services – Detroit - established in 2011
Purchase an electric convection oven to allow for in-house custom prosthetic and orthotic fabrication.
Dexter Quality Cleaners (Vote code: 945840)
Dry Cleaning and Laundry Service – Detroit - established in 2002
Invest in physical improvements to the interior and exterior of the business, marketing, and maintenance and enhancement of their delivery van.
Ellis Island Tea (Vote code: 945839)
Natural Beverage Company – Detroit - established in 2008
Hire both a team of brand ambassadors and a marketing consultant to promote the company’s unique blend of hibiscus tea.
Motor City Java & Tea House (Vote code: 945838)
Coffee Shop – Detroit - established in 2010
Purchase a new espresso machine, a point-of-sale system, a video surveillance system, and marketing tools.
Though only two of the People's Choice finalists will win $10,000 awards, each finalist will receive valuable training and get plugged into the network of organizations providing support to small businesses in Detroit.
"NEIdeas is about using the platform of a challenges to get local businesses access to resources," says Jim Boyle, senior program officer for the New Economy Initiative.
Additionally, the challenge is helping finalists engage in new ways of marketing their businesses by providing them with free grass roots marketing training run by Brand Camp University.
"The finalists were at different levels in the social media sphere," says Danielle Smith, NEI's communications associate. "Some had it on lock, while some weren't even online yet. They all loved the grassroots marketing session, though."
People can vote for their favorite People's Choice finalist in three ways: texting a six-digit vote code to the number 22333; tweeting the vote code to @poll
; and by visiting the website www.NEIdeasDetroit.org
and selecting the business name. Each person can submit a vote through each voting method once during the open voting period.
Online and text voting will conclude at noon on Thursday, Dec. 11, though the public will have one final chance to cast votes during a Detroit SOUP
event beginning at 6 p.m. at Jam Handy (2900 E. Grand Blvd.). The four business owners will present their ideas to the live audience, which will cast votes that will be combined with the digital votes. The two grant winners will be announced that evening.