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Winners of fourth annual NEIdeas Challenge announced

Another year, another round of grants have been disbursed through the NEIdeas Challenge

Now in its fourth year, the challenge annually awards 22 businesses in Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck with grants of $10,000 and $100,000. 

"Neighborhood businesses matter," says Pam Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative (NEI), in a press release. "In pursuing our mission of building an inclusive support network for entrepreneurs and small businesses in southeast Michigan, we wanted to do something that not only acknowledged neighborhood businesses for their contributions to their communities, but rewarded them for thinking courageously about growing."
 

[Read Pam Lewis's op-ed for Model D on the importance of looking to city residents to help solve Detroit's problems]


Some of this year's winners include chocolate goods producer Bon Bon Bon, two Southwest Detroit restaurants (El Asador Steakhouse and Taqueria El Nacimiento), Highland Park gathering space Nandi's Knowledge Cafe, hair care and beauty company Naturalicious, and more. 

The two winners of the $100,000 grants were Bel Air Luxury Cinema, Detroit's only first-run movie theater, and Vaughan Industries, a manufacturer of equipment for the car wash industry.

Over those four years, NEI has awarded a total of $1.9 million to 118 businesses.

Also noteworthy is that 80 percent of NEIdeas winners are minority-owned businesses, and more than half are women-owned businesses.

NEI is hosting a gala to celebrate and officially award the winning businesses on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. in Eastern Market. Food and drinks will be provided by past NEIdeas winners. For more information, click here

Detroit Sip in Live6 to celebrate long-awaited opening

When a brick and mortar business opens, it's always a cause for celebration. But in the case of Detroit Sip, a coffee shop on McNichols Road in the Live6 area, it's really a cause for celebration.

On Saturday, Nov. 18, Detroit Sip will celebrate its grand opening after a lengthy saga of trying to open its doors. Renovations have been completed for months, community and other events have been held there, and owner Jevona Watson has been working diligently to open. But red tape and other issues have held delayed that from happening until now. 

Watson even spoke to Model D back in February this year for a video (see above) on the coffee shop and its potential importance to the neighborhood. 
 

[Read more articles from our On the Ground series in Live6 and the North End]


With the recent groundbreaking of the nearby Ella Fitzgerald Park and construction underway next door at the new Live6 Alliance HQ, HomeBase, the coffee shop couldn't be opening at a better time. 

The grand opening of Detroit Sip will take place Nov. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Check out the Facebook event page for more details. 

Thanks to a 24-year-old grad student, paying your water bill in Detroit has never been easier

Last month we reported about all the exciting ways the city of Detroit has expanded its use of technology to provide better access and services. Thanks to a 24-year-old metro Detroiter, the city has added yet another piece of technology to its tool belt.

A new portal and app has been created for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) so that customers can access and pay their bills online, with mobile devices, and even through Amazon's Alexa. The app went live in August and the city claims that over $2 million in water bills from 4,000 customers have already been paid. 

What's also amazing is that the city struck a licensing agreement with a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Abess Makki, 24, who founded the software company CityInsight, which uses technology to help municipal governments with their operations. 

"This technology is a win for everyone," Makki said in a press release. "CityInsight enables Detroit to collect more revenue, have more satisfied customers, and promote smart consumer habits."

With the new DWSD portal, residents can register their account, make or schedule payments, monitor payments and account history, track their water usage, and more. 

Makki founded CityInsight in 2014 in response to water shutoffs for Detroit residents because of thousands of unpaid water bills. He thought that if residents had a more convenient way to pay, and if the city made billing information for accessible, some shutoffs could be prevented. 

Accelerate Michigan pitch competition once again to award over $1M in prizes

If you're a Michigan startup, there's one pitch competition you absolutely have to know about. It's called the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, and the grand prize winner receives $500,000. Even the first and second runners up receive $100,000 and $50,000 respectively. 

The competition is seeking applicants from "high-growth, high-tech," early stage Michigan companies that have received less than $2 million in investment to date. After the first application round, 36 companies are chosen to pitch on-site in front of judges. Of those, 10 will get a chance at a longer presentation at the event's gala dinner on November 16 at the Masonic Temple. 

There's also a competition for Michigan student entrepreneurs. Semi-finalists and finalists will be given a chance to pitch during the same day as the companies for a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000. 

According to Accelerate Michigan, "previous prize winners have fueled over 1000 jobs and raised more than $550 million in additional financing." Past winners of the competition include, SPLT, Banza, SkySpecs, and others dating back to 2010. 

If you're a company or student, you can apply for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition here. The deadline is Friday, Sept. 1 at midnight. 

Grand Circus to host pitch competition for minority-led startups

Rates of minority-led startups are regrettably low. According to a 2010 study by CB Insights, less than 1 percent of venture capital-backed startups were black, and latino-owned startups weren't even mentioned. 

That's where Pitch 313 comes in. Taking place on September 7 at Grand Circus Detroit, this pitch competition will give minority-led businesses the chance to sell their businesses to inventors for funding and in-kind services. The exact prizes and amounts have not been determined.

The competition is exclusively for companies led by black & latinx founders. 

According to Pitch 313's website, "The event provides an opportunity for these underrepresented groups to receive some foundational resources to get their idea, concept, or business off of the ground."

The competition is sponsored by Code2040, Google for Entrepreneurs, and Grand Circus.

Deadline for application is August 23 at midnight. Apply for Pitch 313 here

For fourth consecutive year, NEIdeas Challenge to award $400,000 in grants for small businesses

Attention small business owners: the New Economy Initiative (NEI) is now accepting applications for its NEIdeas Challenge. For the fourth consecutive year, NEI will award 20 already existing small businesses with $400,000. 

To apply, a business must have been founded at least three years ago and have a demonstrated need for capital in order to grow. There are two tiers to the program, $10,000 and $100,000, depending on how much a business grosses.

According to a press release: "Since its launch in 2014, NEIdeas has awarded 96 local businesses a total of $1.5 million to help them realize their ideas for growth, as well as connected hundreds of others to technical assistance opportunities. Nearly 70 percent of past NEIdeas winners are minority-owned businesses, and 65 percent are woman-owned businesses."

As they do every year, NEI is holding a series of information sessions for prospective applicants. There are still three more remaining at the following dates and locations:
  • May 18, 6 to 8 p.m. at Grand River Workplace (19120 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48223)
  • May 22, 6 to 8 p.m. at SER Metro Detroit (9301 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48210) – bilingual session in Spanish and English.
  • May 30, 6 to 8 p.m. at TechTown (440 Burroughs St., Detroit, MI 48202)
Learn more about or apply to the NEIdeas Challenge here

15 Detroit businesses in running for national grant contest

Several Detroit businesses have made the semi-finals of a national, small-business grant contest. "The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest will award $25,000 and $7,500 in FedEx Office print and business services to one grand prize winner," writes Stephanie Steinberg in an article for the Detroit News

15 Detroit businesses have made it this far, but are competing against approximately 1,000 others nationally. After a round of voting that narrows the total to 100, FedEx will announce the three winners on April 25.

One of the local businesses profiled in the Detroit News piece is Detroit Bridal House, a clothing store that sells wedding gowns. "If she wins, London says she'll use the funds to move into a building on Livernois' Avenue of Fashion or in Woodbridge or Midtown."

Voting period for The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest ends April 5. 

Hamtramck community space Bank Suey to host local marketplace

Bank Suey, a community space in Hamtramck, has hosted a number of creative events in its brief history. We're really excited about this latest one.

Dubbed "Shop Suey," Bank Suey will be hosting its first local marketplace. There will be clothes, jewelry, housewares, and plenty of food and drink for sale. 

Bank Suey is a flexible event space. Previously, it's hosted musical shows, art exhibits, speeches and discussions, and various popups. 

Shop Suey takes place on March 11, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at corner of Joseph Campau and Caniff. For more information on vendors, check out the Facebook event page


Startup Story Night accepting submissions for Detroit storytelling event

Everyone has a story to tell. And Southeast Michigan Startup and the New Economy Initiative want to help entrepreneurs tell theirs.
 
The two organizations are presenting Startup Story Night, the first of its kind in Detroit. It'll be a night of storytelling, hosted by a nationally renowned storyteller, and will take place in a unique venue in the wonderfully diverse city known for creation, creativity, boundless ideas—and the resolve to never quit.
 
The night will shine a spotlight on five local entrepreneurs who will share their "a-ha" moment—when they realized their idea or product would work despite the challenges. And readers who have attended Southeast Michigan Startup's High Growth Happy Hours or followed coverage of entrepreneurs who are scaling their businesses will have the opportunity to share their story and learn from their peers.
 
Here's how the process will work:
  • Submissions for stories are open until Dec. 9. Stories must not exceed 10 minutes.
  • A local committee will narrow down the submissions to five entrepreneurs and their stories.
  • The five entrepreneurs will be announced Jan. 3, 2017.
  • Startup Story Night will take place Jan. 19, 2017.
In addition, Detroit native Glynn Washington will be the featured host and storytelling coach. Washington is the host and executive producer of the WNYC-produced podcast Snap Judgment. Washington, a University of Michigan graduate who also received a law degree from U-M's law school, has a background of supporting and working with entrepreneurs. From 2007 to 2010, Washington was the director of the Center for Young Entrepreneurs at Haas, also known as YEAH, a program at the University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business that serves at-risk students in middle and high schools.
 
Washington has received national acclaim in publications like The Atlantic, which called him the "fastest-rising public radio star in memory."
 
In addition to his hosting duties, Washington will conduct a workshop exclusively for the selected entrepreneurs to help them polish their stories and advise them in the art of storytelling onstage, under the bright lights and in front of an audience.
 
To submit a story for consideration, head over to Startup Story Night and fill out the short submission form.

Women innovators speak at next High Growth Happy Hour

The world of mobility is changing fast in Detroit. In recent years we've seen world-class incubators like Techstars mobility opening, and the big automotive companies investing in mobility startups like Lyft. What new technologies in transportation could be next?

Two Detroit startups are leading the way and the conversation at our next High Growth Happy Hour on Tuesday, October 25th in Midtown at Traffic Jam & Snug. Tatiana Grant Co-founder of Flash Delivery and Anya Babbitt Founder of SPLT will share with you how they’ve started up and are scaling in the region.

Tatiana's Flash Delivery just saw record growth, managing a fleet of drivers who deliver food and groceries to Detroit residents. Anaya's SPLT has won national and internationally honors for their ride-sharing technology.

Join us at this free, casual networking event to meet other entrepreneurs and learn from those scaling up in the city. RSVP to join us!

TechTown awards ceremony to recognize excellence in entrepreneurship

TechTown Detroit, a business incubator located in New Center, has done a lot to support entrepreneurship since opening its doors in 2004. And at The Salute! Awards, which takes place on October 13 at TechTown, they'll recognize a few of those standout entrepreneurs.

This year's winner of the "Entrepreneur of the Year" award will be given to Sean Ainsworth, CEO and founder of RetroSense Therapeutics, a biotech company that develops "life-enhancing gene therapies" based on research conducted at Wayne State University. Ainsworth and the company have received numerous accolades in the past, including being named one of the "50 Smartest Companies in the World" by MIT Technology Review.

The ceremony will recognize other people who've contributed to Detroit's business ecosystem. James Feagan IV will receive the "Business Champion of the Year" award for his consulting work with NEIdeas, Motor City Match, and more. Three current or former TechTown clients will receive Lab (technology) and Block (neighborhood) awards as well.

The finalists for the awards were nominated by a committee of "leaders in the startup and small business community."

"There is so much happening in Detroit's entrepreneurship and small business community, we could have given a hundred of these awards," says Ned Staebler, president and CEO of TechTown, in a press release.

Food, dessert, and drinks from local businesses will be served at the event.

The Salute! Awards will be presented at TechTown’s annual Toast of the Town celebration of entrepreneurship on Thursday, October 13 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at TechTown, 440 Burroughs, in Detroit.

National startup boom reaches Detroit

Conditions are just right nationally and in Detroit for a startup boom, according to a Detroit Free Press article. And that's exactly what we're seeing.

The article begins at the business incubator and coworking space TechTown Detroit, where "the interest is so intense from start-ups seeking space there that the organization may need to find more to squeeze them all in," writes Frank Witsil. "The co-working space … is nearly full at 67 companies; many are start-ups. At this rate, it could eventually overflow."

The article then gives national figures demonstrating that startups are being founded at the highest rate in seven years.

Several economic conditions are just right for the recent startup boom: people have found greater work stability (unemployment has decreased 5 percent since 2009) and homeownership is on the rise. In Detroit, many grant-giving competitions and foundations, like Motor City Match and Hatch Detroit, have arisen to support the small business community.

The article concludes with this hopeful quote from Lester Gouvia, owner the food truck businesses Norma G's. "Detroit is coming back from such a place that it was in a few years ago that I think the excitement level and opportunity, while it's similar to the rest of the country, is even greater. There's so much to be done. There's a lot of opportunity here."

National business leaders bullish on Detroit, Kresge report indicates

The Kresge Foundation, a national nonprofit that supports America's cities and offers numerous Detroit-specific grants, recently released its "Detroit Reinvestment Index," which gathered data on what national business leaders think about Detroit and how the city compares to perceptions of cities generally.

Overall the document offers some hopeful conclusions. Perhaps the most encouraging is that 84 percent of those surveyed—senior leaders at global companies of over 250 employees—believe that Detroit "can become a great city again."

In a letter about the index, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson writes, "With caveats, I think it's fair to say that Business is very bullish on Detroit."

Other "key findings" include...
  • Business leaders believe Detroit has a number of assets, like "its racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, rich cultural history, effective local government, low cost of living and low taxes as key reasons."
  • Surprisingly, "Only 16% of business leaders are aware that Detroit is out of bankruptcy."
There's a lot more to digest in the 43 page report, which is available for download on the foundation's website.

Small businesses multiply, crime declines along Jefferson Avenue corridor

A recent article in Crain's Detroit Business details the rapid growth of five neighborhoods extending along Jefferson Avenue, stretching all the way to the Grosse Pointe border.

A number of new businesses have opened up along the Jefferson Avenue corridor recently. "Beautiful Bridal, along with a new Caribbean restaurant, a Christian yoga center, women's clothing boutiques, a casual branded clothing store, a used record store, and a coffee shop and bakery, are a few of the more recent businesses that have planted roots along the eight miles between downtown Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park," writes Marti Benedetti.

Some significant numbers accompany these developments. The most salient is the approximately $1 billion in new investment since 2009.

Also notable, writes Benedetti, "Since 2014, crime along the Jefferson corridor declined more than 31 percent. In 2015, there was a 38 percent drop in auto theft and a 22 percent reduction in robberies, according to JEI's 'Safe Jefferson' program."

In addition to new businesses, several apartment and housing developments are finished or underway. Lakewood Century Apartments, for example, is a $7 million, 35-unit project at Lakewood and Jefferson—no opening date was mentioned.

There's also the Jefferson streetscaping, which will include the first protected bike lanes in the city.

Josh Elling, Executive director of the economic development organization Jefferson East, Inc., credits economic development in Detroit's greater downtown area, as well as "business-supporting" institutions, for the economic spillover taking place in the Jefferson corridor.

Final year of NEI's challenge to grant local businesses a total of $500K

On April 20, the New Economy Initiative (NEI) kicked-off the third and final year of the NEIdeas challenge, "a two-tiered challenge awarding $500,000 to existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park for their ideas to grow," as described in a press release.

The half-a-million dollar sum is divided into two grant tiers. For businesses that gross under $750,000 annually, NEI will award 30 grants worth $10,000. And for businesses that gross between $750,000 and $5 million annually, NEI will award two grants worth $100,000. Applying is as simple as explaining, in 500 words, an idea to expand your business that requires investment and is "impactful, courageous, interesting, achievable, and understandable." The application deadline ends June 1.

A key component of the NEIdeas challenge is that these grants are for existing small businesses -- those three years or older. So much reporting and grant-giving is devoted to new businesses that it's refreshing when a challenge like this rewards established businesses that haven't benefited as much from renewed interest in Detroit entrepreneurship. 

"This is a really special challenge that has had an incredible impact on local businesses and communities," says NEI communications officer Matthew Lewis by email. "In fact, we think NEIdeas is the only philanthropic challenge in the country that directly awards small businesses for their contributions to neighborhoods."

Past winners include Goodwells Natural Foods Market, which invested their reward in growing their inventory and marketing services for new bulk herbal apothecary offerings; The Hub of Detroit, which made improvements to the appearance of its storefront; and many, many more. They also released a fun hype video featuring some of those past winners

NEI will hold a series of informational events throughout May to help applicants. The next one takes place on May 4 at the Matrix Center in Osborne on Detroit's Northeast side. Click here for a complete list of those events.

NEI is a philanthropic effort that supports small businesses and entrepreneurs. It's funded by a host of foundations and institutions, and, since 2009, has awarded over $96 million in grants.

Disclosure: Matthew Lewis is a former managing editor of Model D. 
276 entrepreneurs Articles | Page: | Show All
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