Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Awakening

I have been fortunate to be involved with several programs over the last few weeks focusing on entrepreneurship and small business development across Detroit. Whether speaking to business leaders or hosting events, one thing’s becoming clear, there’s no time like right now to start a business here.

Detroit is quickly emerging as a leader nationally in the field of entrepreneurship.

However, when I first started covering entrepreneurship several years ago, it was a different story. The vibe and enthusiasm were relatively muted and bankruptcy had not yet hit the city.

Since then, how times have changed.

For example, last year I hosted a small business workshop focused on assisting entrepreneurs in developing a strategic framework for growth. We attracted quite a few aspiring and existing business owners looking to establish and grow businesses.

Recently, we offered another program focused on “Your Critical Keys for Success” focused on the same target audience. Attendance nearly double. In fact, it was standing room only.

It’s great new businesses are opening across the city and region, however, the challenge now is to begin to focus on long-term sustainability and profitable growth.

While the interest in the small business scene has experienced significant growth, it’s been widely reported across various publications, failure rates for new businesses are still high nationally–ranging anywhere from 50% to 80% over the first eighteen (18) months.

Therefore, I believe the challenge is to begin to provide resources and support focused on sustainability and profitable growth. While many efforts have sprouted over the last several years, there’s a heightened opportunity to ensure collaboration and integration of efforts are critical factors in supporting Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Is it happening?

According to Regina Ann Campbell, 2016 Chair, Detroit Entrepreneur Week (DEW), the answer is yes. Since 2012, Campbell believes there’s been a concerted effort to focus on collaboration supporting the small business community because the “ecosystem continues to integrate more effectively for Detroit’s business.”

She cites collaborations between Detroit’s Motor City Match program, along with recent DEW partnerships with TechWeek and Detroit Start Up week as prime examples of organizations and events targeting diverse audiences while creating a One Detroit entrepreneurial support system.

Campbell believes “Detroit is light years ahead of other cities as it relates to integration for our business ecosystem.”

With this increased interest in entrepreneurship, I’m also seeing an need for more information. For example, questions asked include where to go for more information? Is there a city-wide website and/or database? How do I access specific neighborhood information and resources?

All are very fair questions. The challenge is to continue to enhance overall awareness of many programs across the entire city and region. Creating awareness and education of these many initiatives are critical.

Campbell, who’s also a Managing Director, Place-Based Entrepreneurship, at TechTown says, “Entrepreneurial education, coupled with high-level experts, is critical for long-term success for Detroit businesses.”

She continues, “…programming provides services to help strengthen and diversify the local economy and providing the education and tools so business understands the why brand identity and financial systems are good for business creates sustainability + growth = success.”

As the entrepreneurial spirit of Detroit continues to shine, let’s not forget it’s not just about launching businesses, but providing support to ensure they will be around longer than eighteen months.

If we work together, we can.