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BizGrid Live! event to increase connection between entrepreneurs and service providers

If you're a Detroit entrepreneur in search of financial, consulting, or other business services (and what business isn't), you're probably familiar with the BizGrid. The resource, which comprehensively catalogues the organizations that constitute Detroit's business ecosystem, will supplement their directory with a resource fair that's "more like speed dating for business support."
 
Dubbed BizGrid Live!, the event will take place on November 2 from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Eastern Market and feature networking, a happy hour, and the opportunity for service providers and entrepreneurs to connect.
 
"You can look forward to meeting face-to-face with service providers to help grow your business, networking among community stakeholders and entrepreneurs alike, educational small biz panel discussions, and a pitch session," according to a press release.
 
The BizGrid is a collaborative project between many organizations in the Detroit Business Support Network, including the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Bizdom, TechTown Detroit, New Economy Initiative, and more. It's regularly updated and available in both directory and infographic form. 

BizGrid Live! will take place on November 2 from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Eastern Market. You can RSVP here.

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!

Live6 community meeting brings local business owners, residents together to discuss future of area

The Live6 Alliance hosted a meeting on Oct. 12, bringing together longtime residents, business owners, and property owners along the 6 Mile and Livernois corridor to discuss the future of their neighborhoods.

Over 20 people were in attendance at Detroit Sip, a soon to be opened coffee shop owned by Bagley resident Jevona Watson and located along the stretch of McNichols between Marygrove College and the University of Detroit Mercy. The gathering provided an opportunity for people to share information about upcoming events, as well as current development news concerning the area.

The group discussed an earlier community meeting with teams that proposed ideas for the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a city-backed initiative to rehab more than 350 homes and vacant properties in the Fitzgerald neighborhood

Investment is finally coming to the neighborhoods as the city looks to jumpstart growth in other parts of Detroit. Denise Kennedy of Martin Park, one of the Live6 Advisory committee members, notes that it was only a matter of time before interest expanded beyond the 7.2 square miles of the greater downtown area.

"People saw what was happening in Midtown, and they knew sooner or later the growth, the desire for other neighborhoods was going to be happening as Detroit came out of bankruptcy," Kennedy says. She emphasized that it was important to the people that live in her neighborhood and "stayed through thick and thin," that they weren't pushed out as development comes one step closer to becoming a reality.

Attendees also used the meeting as an opportunity to offer resources and tactical strategies to each other, particularly as services like lighting and trash removal takes time to catch up to the needs to the neighborhoods. One business owner said her nickname was the "Housekeeper on Livernois" because of all the extra work she's put in to make sure her building and the adjoining spaces around her building are clear of debris.

She and others encouraged newer business owners struggling with growing pains to stay the course, and reminded them of they support they have in the community.

All photos by Bree Gant

The Senate Theater launches crucial crowdfunding campaign

A classic Detroit theater needs your help.

The Senate Theater on Michigan Avenue, home to one of the largest Wurlitzer organs in the world, hopes to raise $150,000 in a GoFundMe campaign. The theater has opened and closed several times since it first opened in 1926, and is entirely volunteer-run today.

Most of the money will go towards repairing the rusted sign, both the steel and letterboard. It's difficult to tell that the Senate is even open for business without it.

Here's a brief history of the theater from Cinema Treasures: "The former theater was acquired by the Detroit Theater Organ Society (DTOS) in 1963 who renovated it and reduced seating from 1,200 to about 900. The Club moved the former Fisher Theater organ from the Iris Theater, where it was briefly kept in 1961-2, to the Senate Theater.

"Since then, the Senate Theater has been home to the DTOS, and features organ concerts. It no longer has its projection equipment, so unlike the Redford Theater, which features organ concerts and classic motion pictures, the Senate Theater became a concert hall only."

The crowdfunding campaign ends on November 5. To donate, visit the campaign page.

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.

Living Arts commemorates Mexican tradition with month-long series of events

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday of Mexican origins that takes place on November 1 and is dedicated to the memory of relatives and loved-ones who have died. Living Arts, an organization that supports youth arts programming and does a lot of work with Southwest Detroit's Mexican-American community, will be holding an event on October 29 to commemorate the holiday.

Beginning with a procession across the Bagley Street pedestrian bridge, "Teatro Chico—Dia de los Muertos: Nuestras Historias, Our Histories" will culminate with a community meal, music and dance performances, and an exhibition of ofrendas (altars) at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center.

The performances will be given by some esteemed dance and mariachi groups, including Living Arts' own youth dance ensemble.

"Living Arts is proud to be able to contribute to this important conversation about Dia de Los Muertos among all the other wonderful contributions taking place in the Southwest Detroit Community as well as in the greater Detroit area and in Southeast Michigan," stated Erika Villarreal Bunce, Living Arts' director of programs, in a press release. "Through this project we hope to help uplift the ancient roots of Dia de Los Muertos through examining its long history and acknowledging its future. We hope to reconnect with the significance of the tradition as well as help others to learn about and engage on a deeper level with Day of the Dead."

Throughout the month of October Living Arts will also offer art workshops on papermaking, pottery, along with other traditional crafts, using those art objects to create a Dia de Los Muertos Ofrenda. All activities will take place at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center.

The project is sponsored in part by Michigan Humanities Council, the Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Ideal Group.

Teatro Chico: Dia de los Muertos takes place on Saturday, October 29 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. beginning at the Bagley Street pedestrian bridge and moving to the Ford Resource and Engagement Center. The event is free of charge, but donations are encouraged. For more information about the event or workshops, visit the Living Arts event page.

Cleveland installation has Detroit inspiration

If you happen to find yourself in Cleveland between now and early January, be sure to head to the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) for an art installation that features Detroit.

Titled, "Unit 1: 3583 Dubois," the work by Anders Ruhwald recreates the a Detroit building's identity through a series rooms and corridors. "Using charred wood, ash, molten glass, found objects, and black-glazed ceramics, Ruhwald meticulously composes an immersive, richly sensorial experience that is at once dramatic, nostalgic, and uncanny," says a description on MOCA's website.

Model D's sister publication in Cleveland, Fresh Water, also visited the exhibit and came away with this fascinating description: "Unit 1 does include two sensual components the other exhibits lack," writes Erin O'Brien. "Not only does it smell of charred wood evocative of campfires as well as arson, visitors are encouraged to do something that might otherwise get them asked to leave a museum: touch all the interior components of the mysterious space, some of which offer a primal element of life: warmth."

At the end of its run in Cleveland, Ruhwald will transport the installation back to Detroit for permanent relocation.

"Unit 1: 3583 Dubois" will be on display at the MOCA until January 8, 2017. 

City of Detroit to develop two large, vacant Midtown sites; will include low-income housing

Demand for residential housing in midtown and downtown Detroit has increased so much in recent years that the city is seeing new building construction for the first time in a while.

Now, the City of Detroit is getting in on the action with two large parcels it owns in midtown. But these won't be typical developments—both will be upwards of 60 units, 20 percent of which will be dedicated to low-income housing. The city is seeking proposals to develop the property.

The larger of the two will be at the site of the former Wigle recreation center at 901 Selden Street, now "the largest publicly-held, contiguous development site in midtown."

According to a press release, "Competitive bids will include a well-designed, walkable, environmentally sustainable, mixed-income neighborhood of between 150-200 units, with open space that connects seamlessly to the Midtown neighborhood."

The city is accepting proposals for the second, approximately one-acre site just south of East Forest Avenue past Woodward, which will have ground-floor retail and 60 mixed-income residential units.

"The City expects to select developers based on the strength of their proposals by mid-December," according to the press release. "[The City's Director of Housing & Revitalization] Arthur Jemison said there will be a community engagement process that will allow residents of these areas to have a voice in the selection of the developers."

5 tips for growing a startup with Rocket Fiber's Marc Hudson

In the last three years, Rocket Fiber co-founder Marc Hudson has expanded an admittedly precarious and bold pitch for a high-speed internet venture into a successful, rapidly expanding Detroit startup in the face of major, multimillion-dollar competitors.
 
Hudson first pitched the idea for Rocket Fiber in 2013 while working as a software engineer for Quicken Loans. He says he thought of the idea while reading an article on Google Fiber in Kansas City, and the subsequent influx of technology and entrepreneurship following the launch.
 
Hudson says a light bulb went on, thinking it could be a "game changer" for Detroit. He pitched the idea through the Cheese Factory, Quicken Loans' internal ideas website where employees are encouraged to pitch concepts big or small that could improve the company.
 
This idea was definitely big and quickly caught the eye of Dan Gilbert, who backed the project financially.
 
The gigabit internet connection, which launched commercially in January, is 1,000 times faster than the average residential connection. The service is currently being used in both Detroit homes and businesses.
 
"Since January, we've been lighting buildings all over the central business district," Hudson says.
 
So far, Rocket Fiber has put down over 20 miles of fiber optic cable in Detroit. Various residential buildings in downtown and Midtown such as the Willy's Overland Lofts, Cadillac Square Apartments, and the Forest Arms Apartments already have Rocket Fiber connections available.
 
Hudson says Rocket Fiber is actively working to expand farther into Midtown, Brush Park, and New Center. They recently connected their first commercial customer in Corktown, as well.
 
"In 2017, we'll be setting our sights even bigger than just the downtown area," Hudson says. "We've always said that we want to expand, we want to grow, and we think there's a lot of opportunity to continue to build this company and network in the city of Detroit." 
 
Although solid plans aren't in place yet, Hudson says he hopes to eventually bring Rocket Fiber into the suburbs.
 
Beyond physical expansion, the company plans to soon break into the cable market, providing HDTV cable channels and on-demand services.
 
"We're still trying to work the bugs out," Hudson says. "TV is actually pretty hard to do--it's actually harder to do than the internet." Still, he says announcements regarding the new service will be made in the "not too distant future."
 
Hudson will be the keynote speaker at Southeast Michigan Startup's High Growth Happy Hour starting at 6:00 p.m. at Cafe Con Leche in Detroit. There will be time for networking and drinks, a casual chat and Q&A. The event is free, but advance tickets are required. Hudson will highlight Rocket Fiber's expansions and how the company has scaled an innovative tech startup across the city. To encourage this sort of growth from other ventures, Hudson has shared five of his tips for growing an innovative startup in the city.
 
Have partners
"I've been involved in a bunch of different startups, pretty much since I was in college, high school even," Hudson says. "One of the big difference makers for me in this startup environment was having partners. I tried to do a lot of it alone in the past, and it doesn't matter how well-rounded you are, there's always going to be some skill set that you just don't have."
 
Don't just have partners—have good partners
"For me, having Edi and Randy as my partners has been a huge part of the success of the Rocket Fiber story," Hudson says of Edi Demaj and Randy Foster. "They were the ones that we showing up, and doing things, and following through, and not just saying they were interested but showing they were interested. … So, to me, it's one thing if someone shows interest but if they actually jump in and roll their sleeves up and start building with you, that's a pretty good indicator that they want to be around for a while."
 
Trust the partners you put in place as you grow
"As a founder of a company, you have a vision, you have a dream, you have an idea and you want to do everything," Hudson says. "As you grow, you really have to trust in the people you put in place to pick things up for you because you can't be everywhere at all times. You have to have people you can trust to take and run with things. And you as a founder, a manager of those people, you need to be able to let go sometimes and let them go and build things. It might not be the exact same way that you would have done it, but that's OK."
 
Persevere
"Perseverance is one [tip] that is talked about a lot but is still understated," Hudson says. "There are so many times when this project, this idea, could have died along the way for different reasons. It was all about just rolling up our sleeves and just understanding, in our case, that this project was so important for the city of Detroit and for our organization that we weren't going to let the normal things that get in the way slow us down."
 
Ignore the noise
"We have a saying within our organization which is, 'Ignore the noise.' I think there's a lot of noise out there when you're building a business. It's other people trying to do something similar, it's your competitors dropping press releases, it's the naysayers telling you it can't be done. At the end of the day, it's really about putting the blinders on, focusing straight ahead on you, on your business, your dream, your vision, and shutting everything else out."
 
Lexi Trimpe is a freelance writer living and working in Detroit. You can find her on Twitter @LexiTrimpe or on Instagram @thewestvillageidiot.

Conference on preserving Detroit's musical legacy enters third year

Detroit has one of the greatest musical heritages of any city in the world. And a local conference is intent on preserving it.

Hosted by the Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC) and presented by Lawrence Technological University, the 3rd Annual Music Conference will convene people integral to music preservation for the purpose of discussing how to harness the city's musical legacy.

The conference, which takes place on October 15, will have panels, a speech from Soul music legend Melvin Davis, as well as a remembrance of James T. Jenkins, founder of the Graystone International Jazz Museum and Hall of Fame, who would have turned 100 this year. 

The conference will be held at the Detroit Center for Design & Technology (DCDT).

"The DCDT prides itself on aligning with local initiatives, programs and organizations who look to foster and expand the role that art and design play among the local community, growing industry and educational pedagogy," says Karl Daubmann, DCDT interim executive director. "With the DSC's history of working towards increased awareness of Detroit’s musical heritage, along with their efforts in advocacy, preservation and education in the local community, the DCDT is proud to support our neighborhood partner in their endeavors to reinvigorate Detroit's ever present musical culture."

The DSC's 3rd Annual Music Conference takes place from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 15 at the Detroit Center for Design & Technology. For more information on the conference schedule or to RSVP, click here.

Bedrock Real Estate to spend an estimated $400 million on restoration of Book Tower

In one of the more surprising stories about redevelopment in a city full of them, the Book Tower and Book Building will get an estimated $400 million worth of restoration, according to a recent Crain's Detroit Business article.

It's all part of Bedrock Real Estate's massive investments along Washington Boulevard and downtown generally. "The projects range from new apartments, to retail, to renovated housing for low-income seniors in what developers predict is going to build upon the brothers' original vision," writes Kirk Pinho for Crain's.

The price tag is so high for the Book Tower, vacant since 2009, because of the numerous features in need of repair, from the windows to the comically-long fire escape to its mansard roof.

Here's a great description of the building from Historic Detroit: "No skyscraper in Detroit, let alone the Midwest, looks quite like the Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. It's a rather awkward-looking building, whether you look at its unusual maze of an external fire escape or the intricate, over-the-top details on its crown that are tough to appreciate without a pair of binoculars. It's an undeniably unique piece of the city's skyline and a rare breed of classical Renaissance-style architecture and skyscraper."

International bike conference to take place in Detroit

With so much emphasis placed on non-motorized transit in Detroit, it's no surprise that a prominent bike conference would come to the city.

Bike!Bike!, an international conference for bike enthusiasts, will be hosted by The Hub of Detroit and held at various locations from September 28 to October 2, according to a Mode Shift article. Expected attendance is around 300 from 50 community bike projects around the world.

"The four-day event will offer a variety of workshops, rides and evening events for out-of-town visitors and local folks interested in learning more about the community bike scene," writes David Sands.

"Bike!Bike! got its start in New Orleans in 2004 and takes place in a different city every year. Detroit narrowly won over Winnipeg, Canada to host this year's  event during a vote that was taken at last year's gathering in Guadalajara Mexico ... Bike!Bike! participants were curious to learn more about what's happening bike-wise in a place that's become so famous for its automotive history."

If you're interested in attending or volunteering, contact one of the organizers on the The Hub's event page.

Michigan Science Center forum to pose the question, "Should we eradicate the mosquito?"

If you could eradicate the mosquito from the face of the earth, would you?

That's the essential question being asked at a forum taking place at the Michigan Science Center on September 22 titled, "Should We Engineer the Mosquito?"

The forum will be the first a series on on synthetic biology, a field that may soon give humanity the power to alter the genetic code through a technology in development called CRISPR. Other future forums will include topics like engineering "algae that can synthesize fuel or bacteria that can eat plastics."

To register for the forum, go here.

Fitzgerald neighborhood receives $4 million grant to support revitalization efforts

The Fitzgerald neighborhood in northwest Detroit has seen a lot of abandonment and disinvestment in recent years.

While that's been devastating to the neighborhood, it's also what made it eligible to receive a $4 million grant from the "Reimagining Civic Commons" initiative, a collaboration between four major foundations, including Kresge and James L. Knight.

The initiative, which also pledged sums for neighborhoods in Akron, Chicago, and Memphis, "intends to be the first comprehensive demonstration of how a connected set of civic assets—a civic commons—can yield increased and more equitably shared prosperity for cities and neighborhoods."

A press release from Mayor Mike Duggan's Office states that, "The grant funding and local match is a critical element in advancing Mayor Mike Duggan's recently announced 20-Minute Neighborhood initiative … the Mayor has proposed investing in targeted communities to better link residents to key assets."

A recent City Lab article details other important pieces of the grant. "Detroit is partnering with the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College to improve a civic commons located between the two institutions: a roughly half-mile future greenway in the city's distressed Fitzgerald neighborhood," writes Kriston Capps. "Together, with these colleges and the Live6 Alliance, a nonprofit community-development corporation, Detroit aims to build a greenway through vacant or abandoned lots along the Livernois Corridor."

Detroit has also raised matching funds to bring the total investment in the Fitzgerald neighborhood to $8 million.

Elementary school in Southwest Detroit fights neighborhood blight

For eight years, the community around Neinas Elementary in Southwest Detroit has worked to transform the blight around their school. They're very close to bringing that vision to reality, but need a little more funding, and are looking to acquire it through an ioby crowdfunding campaign.

Three abandoned buildings in unsalvageable conditions stood near the elementary school. So the Friends of Neinas purchased the land and got the buildings demolished. Their last goal is to design nourishing spaces for children to play and learn, and they even enlisted the students to help with ideas.

Some of those ideas include a soccer field, butterfly garden, and exhibit space for student art.

The crowdfunding campaign, called Building a Brighter Neinas, ends on September 16 and has a goal of $10,000. To donate or visit the campaign, click here.
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