I recently wrote a blog focused on Detroit’s entrepreneurial community and its efforts supporting small business development.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, Detroit’s hot.
For example: according to the 2012 U.S. Census, the city of Detroit has nearly 62,000 small businesses including over 47,000 and 38,000 African American and women-owned businesses, respectively. When it comes to minority-owned businesses, Detroit is the fourth-largest city in the country.
However, longer-term sustainability and growth continue to be a challenge.
According to a U.S. SBA Office of Advocacy, June 2016, report, an average of 78.5% of new start ups survived one year over a ten-year period ending 2014 and approximately half of new businesses didn’t survive beyond five years.
Therefore, the challenge is identifying and providing resources which enable small businesses to focus on longer-term viability.
I have received many inquiries asking for advice, specifically as it relates to Detroit-area entrepreneurs and where to find available resources.
Jill Ford, Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, City of Detroit, says “We have a family of support for Detroiters who want to start and grow their businesses. Organizations such as the Build Institute, Lifeline Business Consulting, ProsperUs, TechTown, Bamboo, Techstars, The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Wayne State University, and Endeavor, join the City and the DEGC in supporting entrepreneurs throughout our neighborhoods.”
Additionally, Ford encourages individuals to go to www.detroitmi.gov and click “Detroit Opportunities” to learn more about programs regarding programs centered around where and how to start or grow your business in the city.
I also reached out to Regina Ann Campbell, TechTown Detroit, and Michael Rafferty, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), for their thoughts available programs offered focused on sustainability and growth and geared toward aspiring and existing entrepreneurs.
Lee: What DEGC resources are available in Detroit to assist those starting and growing a business, respectively?
Rafferty: Starting and growing a business anywhere in the world requires risk tolerance, enthusiasm, and hard work. Unfortunately, even with those traits, many small businesses don’t succeed. As a citywide public private partnership, DEGC is in a unique position to build tools and partner with programs and initiatives that increase the likelihood of small business success. By maximizing our programs and partnerships and adding new supports where ones haven’t existed, we’re positioning Detroit as the best place in the country for entrepreneurs.
DEGC’s vast partnerships have always included organizations which are citywide and neighborhood based and provide specific services to small businesses. Acknowledging that businesses need top quality services and attention and that there have always been programs, initiatives, and functions that other groups specialize in, we believe that businesses are best served when we support our partners in leading with their respective strengths such as: business planning and strategy, financing and financial management, and sales and marketing.
Lee: And what resources are offered by TechTown to support entrepreneurs in the city’s neighborhoods?
Campbell: TechTown Business Incubation Center, for companies that are beyond the idea stage and need one-on-one, customized support. TBIC supports approximately 10 clients who are working on technology-based innovations for education, health care, the water industry, and more. Other programs include:
- DTX Launch Detroit, a summer accelerator program for Michigan college students and recent graduates. DTX partners include Invest Detroit, the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, Grand Circus, Techstars Mobility, NextEnergy, and the Henry Ford Innovation Institute.
- SWOT City, providing customized, one-on-one support for brick-and-mortar small businesses in Detroit neighborhoods.
- Retail Boot Camp, an intensive eight-week course that prepares serious entrepreneurs with strong retail concepts to launch their brick-and-mortar business in a core Detroit commercial district.
Lee: Where can people find out more information?
Rafferty: BizGrid is a great launching point for people seeking more information about how to grow their business. For example, TechTown’s Business Incubation Center, Techstars Mobility, and Endeavor Detroit are a few such programs available within the city. One of the many ways that we have partnered in this regard is by coordinating the creation and management of BizGrid – a web based tool that guides entrepreneurs to the right organization for the right service. This is the first step in navigating all of the many resources available to new and existing businesses.
Campbell: TechTown Open Office Hours is a great place to start. We will direct you to some of the number of resources available. These include our own SWOT City and Retail Boot Camp programs, BUILD Institute, ProsperUS, Lifeline Consulting, and many, many others. Go to techtowndetroit.org to get started.
Lee: What is BizGrid??
Rafferty: BizGrid is the Detroit entrepreneur’s rolodex. It lists 83 organizations in and around the city that provide small business support services. The 8 areas of support include: Legal, Licensing, and Permitting, Research and Development, Workforce, Financial Management, Funding, Space, Business Planning and Strategy, Sales and Marketing. There’s an Index of Organizations at the back, where you can find contact information for each listed service provider. This fall, BizGrid Live! 2016 will take place, where service providers and entrepreneurs alike can network, seek assistance face-to-face, and learn from educational small business panels.
Finally, BizGrid can also be accessed online at www.detroitbizgrid.com, along with information about Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem happenings circulated bi-monthly through eNewsletter BizGrid Buzz.
BizGrid is a great place to start and is funded by New Economy Initiative and DEGC has been a lead partner in the project.
Lee: And its benefits?
Rafferty: Some of BizGrid’s greatest benefits are its broad accessibility, vast amount of information, and aggregation of all things small biz, citywide. Strong neighborhood partners ensure that entrepreneurs seeking help can grow their community, along with their dreams. A partnership with Global Detroit ensures help for entrepreneurs who speak Arabic, Spanish, and Bengali.
Overall, BizGrid is a comprehensive resource for any small business owner seeking help to grow their business, learn what others are doing to support the city with entrepreneurialism, or to make new business connections.
Lee: How does TechTown use BizGrid?
Campbell: After conducting a SWOT assessment and milestone plan via SWOT City, our team utilizes BizGrid to refer our New Economy Initiative Ideas businesses and clients to resources best suited for next steps in real time to help the business or entrepreneur. The BizGrid has really helped the Detroit business ecosystem understand who and where the resources are that can support overall business needs from ideation, launch, sustainability and growth. We say it takes a village, so the BizGrid has helped us understand who is in the village and refer businesses through a pipeline of support.
Lee: Are there neighborhoods resources for those wanting to open a business beyond midtown and downtown?
Campbell: Additionally, there are community development organizations like Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, Jefferson East Inc., Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, Brightmoor Alliance, Ford Resource Engagement Center (FREC), Eastside Community Network, Live6, as well as The City of Detroit – Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation are great resources.
Rafferty: As a public private partnership with a mandate to increase economic activity citywide, we have an organizational commitment to the whole city. In addition, nearly all of the organization’s leaders are residents of the city and have personal commitments to citywide economic health. We know that small businesses make up 99.7 percent of US employer firms and 49.2 percent of the nation’s private-sector payroll.
In addition, small businesses play a key role in a neighborhood’s health by providing goods and services to residents. That said, our small business programs are professionally and passionately designed to support small business success citywide. Two DEGC programs worth noting are Green Grocer and Motor City Match.
Lee: Please tell us about Motor City Match.
Rafferty: If you are really ready to launch a business – or see an opportunity to grow right now, head directly to Motor City Match. The program connects new and expanding businesses with Detroit real estate opportunities and provides them with the funding and technical support needed to help them succeed. Each quarter, up to $500,000 in grant dollars is available as well as business planning classes and other technical assistance. After four rounds of grant awards, MCM has provided $2 million in funds to nearly 40 small businesses. Those funds have helped to leverage total of $13 million in investment in these ventures.
It’s named “Match” because a key benefit of the program matches business owners looking for a space to locate with building owners who are looking for tenants. Building owners and business owners are both eligible for assistance. Businesses that are not quite ready to establish a permanent location can get other forms of help through Motor City Match. It’s spelled out very well on the website, and applications for the next round of awards open September 1, so this is the perfect time to find out more.
Much of the success of Motor City Match has been in places such as the Villages, Southwest Detroit, Grandmont-Rosedale, Jefferson-Chalmers, and the Livernois-6 Mile communities. Round Four Motor City Match winners include businesses such as $75,000 grant awardee Twisted Roots, a beauty supply story located in the Eastern Market area, and $70,000 grant winner Block Party LLC, a property owner developing a space on Livernois that will house multiple tenants, including a sushi lounge and Japanese ramen noodle restaurant.
Seeing success in our programs doesn’t mean we don’t have room to improve. Acknowledging that there’s a lot of demand in neighborhoods for goods and services and a need for full scale strategies to service this demand, DEGC and the Mayor’s office are working closely on building new programs to fill gaps in the City’s small business support system.
Lee: What is the Green Grocer program offered by the DEGC?
Rafferty: Green Grocer is a DEGC program designed to increase access to healthy food in Detroit, has engaged more than 70 independent grocery stores with resources that have resulted in more than $50 million in investment to improving the operations and physical conditions of stores throughout the city.
Lee: Where can people/businesses turn to find out more about resources and opportunities supporting aspiring and existing entrepreneurs?
Campbell: Stop in TechTown, go to BizGrid, go to TechTowndetroit.org to schedule an Open Office Hour. We will guide the individuals and/or businesses to resources and opportunities. We value customer service. We see all individuals and businesses as customers. Our goal is always to have someone leave with more than they came with.
If TechTown programs are not the right fit, you will leave with options that can support your next steps. At TechTown we also have Detroit Garment Group, which has a fashion incubator. I utilize a list of Detroit incubators and accelerators on Grow Detroit’s website. Additionally, the Michigan Business Incubator Association has a variety of lists of the incubators/accelerators all over the state.
Rafferty: Detroit is still a word-of-mouth city, but the Internet is also an incredibly powerful tool for connecting businesses to opportunity. Subscribing to newsletters and following local service providers and small businesses on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is crucial. Service providers work with a collaborative attitude, consistently sharing their own events as well as information from community partners. These digital connections have a relatively low entry-barrier, and we encourage anyone to engage business support organizations through these platforms. To name just a few, Motor City Match, TechTown, BizGrid, and Build Institute are active in sharing local opportunities via social media.
Finally, Detroit businesses that sell services to other businesses ought to look into D2D, the DEGC program that connects Detroit businesses as buyers and sellers or collaborators. A group of 17 large Detroit institutions lead the program by collectively making more than $800 million per year in purchases from other Detroit businesses. Find out more at www.d2dbusiness.org.
Lee: Other thoughts?
Rafferty: It takes tremendous drive, enthusiasm, and energy to launch and grow your own business. There is no guarantee of success. But doing your homework by looking for useful information or other assistance is an essential step. The good news is that there is a deep well of resources for Detroit entrepreneurs and the well is getting deeper as we invest in talent, strategies, and programs. For more details on any of the aforementioned DEGC programs, their respective websites are helpful. To reach an ambassador who can walk you through the resources and opportunities people can call 844.333.8249 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campbell: Often times people are referred to TechTown Detroit for information. If TechTown programs are not suitable for the individual and/or business needs we believe in referring and connecting them to the best resource to get moving.