Celebrating Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Hustle

When it comes to entrepreneurship, Detroit is hot right now. With over 32,000 minority-owned business in the city, according to the 2010 U.S. census data, Detroit ranks fourth in the country behind New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. And when it comes to women-owned businesses, Wayne County is the second largest county in the country and the state of Michigan ranks ninth.

However, while entrepreneurs are coming to Detroit to establish businesses for a myriad of reasons, the challenge is to ensure longer-term sustainability and growth. According to a September, 2013, Bloomberg report, nearly 80% of startups will not survive past the first 18 months.

With this as a backdrop, the question is this: what will it take to help small businesses thrive long-term, particularly, in Detroit?

It starts with providing continued support and opportunities to grow and learn.

To this end, May is national Small Business Month and the first week of May is national Small Business Week. It’s a time where entrepreneurs are highlighted and recognized for various achievements. Additionally, the spotlight focuses on challenges confronting business owners while providing educational and training opportunities centered around sustainability and growth.

Detroit is no different.

This year, May 2nd through May 7th is Detroit Entrepreneur Week (DEW)–a week where entrepreneurship is celebrated and recognized for those starting and/or growing a business. It’s an opportunity for business owners to learn from business experts and from each other.

Regina Ann Campbell, 2016 DEW committee chair, serves as the managing director for place-based entrepreneurship at TechTown Detroit where she’s responsible for the daily operations and supporting entrepreneurship through many of TechTown’s programs. Since joining TechTown in 2013, she has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, assisted with the launch of multiple Detroit startups and has served as DEW Committee Chair since the program’s launch five years ago.

I recently discussed with Campbell DEW, the week’s expectations and its impact on Detroit’s small business community.

Lee: Detroit Entrepreneur Week (DEW) is coming up in May. What is it and when?

Campbell: DEW is a celebration of the people who are starting or growing a Detroit-based business. During National Small Business Week, this seven-day festival will inspire over 1,000 entrepreneurs across 3 different Detroit neighborhoods through events, workshops and seminars. More than just a festival, DEW is a platform for connection, collaboration, advancing the entrepreneurial momentum and the culture of entrepreneurship in Detroit.

Detroit Entrepreneur Week is May 2-7, 2016 with weekday morning sessions at TechTown (440 Burroughs St.), evening sessions in various Detroit neighborhoods and an all-day Small Business Legal Academy on May 7 organized by some of Detroit’s leading law firms and legal departments at the Wayne State University Law School (471 W. Palmer).

Lee: From what I understand, there are several organizations and sponsors involved. Who are a few of them?

Campbell: Participating organizations and event sponsors include the TechTown, SCORE Detroit, ProsperUs Detroit, FoodLab Detroit, Great Lakes Business Council and Build Institute to name a few.

Lee: What makes DEW unique?

Campbell: DEW is the leading voice of Detroit’s neighborhood-based entrepreneurs. This grassroots approach to entrepreneurial development is truly transformative and position’s Detroit as a beacon for entrepreneurs city-wide. Detroit Entrepreneur Week’s has a network of resources provider and community leaders will ensure that entrepreneurs of today and the generations to follow will have access to the necessary tools, supportive communities and culture to succeed.

Lee: Why was it started?

Campbell: Detroit has a great story to share. Known as The Motor City, Motown, Home of the Big 3, and the Manufacturing Capital of the World, Detroit has been at the center of the country’s growth for more than a century. It is true, Detroit has seen the best and the worst of times, but bankruptcy did not signal the end of the city itself. In fact, our city is forging ahead, thanks to the remarkable entrepreneurial resiliency, from start-up companies to stalwart businesses that have called Detroit home for more than a century. Detroit has a proud past and a bright future that will be driven by the heart, soul and determination of its people.

Detroit Entrepreneur Detroit Entrepreneur Week is produced by neighborhood based resource providers who are committed to Detroit, not only because of their deep roots in the community, but because everyday they see big needs and big potential. Detroit and its people are dynamic, innovative and resilient. Collectively these partners are dedicated to driving positive change in Detroit through entrepreneurship, but it couldn’t be done without the industry experts, passionate community participants and steadfast Detroit-based businesses, the lifeblood of our community who bring this 7-day festival to life.

Lee: How has it evolved over the five-year period and what’s different about it when compared to the first couple of years, for example?

Campbell: In 2012, Detroit Entrepreneur Week began as a small scale 4-day series of workshops and networking for entrepreneurs in The North End community. Since then, Detroit Entrepreneur Week has achieved tremendous growth expanding to serve entrepreneurs within the metro Detroit area. 79% of attendees were existing small business owners, 39% of those existing small business owners have been in operation 1-3 years, 60% of small business owners were in the service industry. I can recall our first year we had 50 to 80 attendees. Attendance has increased quite significantly over the years.

We have seen growth in attendees of 80% in 2015.

Lee: What type of business and community support is DEW receiving and how many organizations are involved in developing and implementing workshops throughout the week?

Campbell: We are supported by a variety of non-profits, private and foundation support including New Economy Initiative, TechTown Detroit, Prosper Us, Small Business Legal Academy, ARISE Detroit. This year we are working with Jill Ford, City of Detroit, as well as a variety of loccal entrepreneurs and national events, including a “Small Business Workshop: Your Critical Keys for Success”, The She Project and a collaboration with TechWeek. And the Opening Day is sure to be the catalyst for excitement for the entire week.

For more information, please go to www.detroitentrepreneurweek.org, www.leegroupinnovation.com/ or contact Regina Ann Campbell directly at regina@techtowndetroit.org or (313) 319-9339.