TechTown goes beyond tech with SWOT City and Retail Boot Camp

"(There was a time when) TechTown was trying to be all things to all people," says TechTown President and CEO Leslie Smith. Now, with community partners like Hatch Detroit and D:hive, which are better-suited to validate and launch ideas, TechTown is able to focus on what they do best: validate and launch businesses.
Two programs TechTown runs that focus on launching businesses are SWOT City and Retail Boot Camp.
"In 2008, when the economy crashed, we found ourselves involved in a new economy initiative that suggested entrepreneurship was a new career path for many people," says Smith. TechTown also found themselves involved in businesses that were decidedly non-tech. "We looked at where was the most ripe opportunity for businesses and the existing market demand; from these places these programs were born."
SWOT City places new businesses to fill community voids and promote entrepreneurship, connects neighborhood businesses with key resources and provides personal coaching and information sessions to address a business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
"SWOT attempts to address underserved populations in the city of Detroit who don't necessarily have the information or transportation to even get to TechTown," says Smith. "We saw we were not serving the city in as many ways as we could, so we developed a neighborhood strategy that allows us to go to them and meet them where they are." They did their initial testing in Midtown and the North End before launching in Brightmoor last October, a socioeconomically challenged neighborhood that has already seen positive results.
In six months, the partnership with Brightmoor has provided 400 hours of technical assistance, retained 53 jobs, completed 15 business assessments, and created one business and four jobs with six more businesses currently in the pipeline. In late March, TechTown announced their next community partnership is with the Jefferson East Business Association to develop the East Jefferson commercial corridor.
Retail Boot Camp is a new program offered by TechTown, which acts as an aggressive accelerator program for brick and mortar retail businesses. Applications for the first round are being accepted through this Friday, April 19. The intensive 10-week evening program starts in May with the goal of launching a dozen new retail storefronts in the city within the year.
Source: Leslie Smith, TechTown President and CEO
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Nicole Rupersburg is a former Detroiter now in Las Vegas who regularly writes about food, drink, and urban innovators. You can follow her on Instagram @eatsdrinksandleaves and Twitter @ruperstarski.