Get Your Entrepreneurial Ideas Heard

This week is National Small Business Week and May is Small Business Month.

In Detroit, entrepreneurship and small business development continue to have a vital role in the city’s revitalization efforts. With new businesses opening regularly, this region continues to be under the spotlight and an emerging leader in entrepreneurship nationally.

There are many organizations across the city supporting and providing resources to help businesses get started and focus on longer-term sustainability and profitable growth for existing businesses.

And over the last several years, there’s been a significant increase in business incubators, accelerators and “competitions” offering financial and in-kind resources and services.

Hatch Detroit is one them.

It launched its business contest in 2011 and, since the inception of the Hatch Detroit contest, over $200,000 and related services have been awarded to winners and contest alumni. Additionally, the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest has garnered 1,400 business submissions with a combined 300,000 public votes since launching in 2011.

I recently discussed the 2016 Comerica Hatch Detroit contest with Linda Forte, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comerica Bank, and Vittoria Katanski, Executive Director, Hatch Detroit
Lee: Please tell us about Hatch Detroit.

Katanski: Hatch Detroit is a Michigan-based 501(c)(3) organization that champions and supports independent retail businesses in Detroit through funding, education, exposure, and mentoring. Hatch Detroit was founded by Nick Gorga, a Detroit native who is passionate about the revitalization of the city and inspiring others in the community to create change.

Hatch Detroit has experienced tremendous success igniting small business growth since it launched the business contest in 2011. Comerica Bank became the first flagship sponsor of the contest in 2012 and
the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest is a retail business competition that encourages entrepreneurs with a retail concept to compete for the chance to win a $50K grant from Comerica Bank to open a brick and mortar location in Detroit, Highland Park or Hamtramck.

Lee: What’s new this year?

Katanski: The 2016 contest will include an expanded benefits package for the grand prize winner as well as additional support for entrepreneurs and Hatch Alumni. The winning business pitch will take home $50,000 from Comerica Bank, $25,000 in branding and logo design from global advertising agency Team Detroit, and a package of accounting, legal, IT, public relations, and counsel from Hatch Detroit and its partners.

In addition, Hatch Detroit will host a series of business planning sessions. The free workshops will provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to work with established business owners to strengthen their business ideas, solidify their business plans and develop a contest application that will make a strong impression on the Detroit community.

Lee: With the increased investments to the program this year compared to prior years, how will these resources be used?

Katanski: The additional funds will be strategically allocated to enhance the contest and its alumni through marketing and public relations efforts as well as a series of business planning sessions hosted by Hatch Detroit in their targeted neighborhood revitalization areas of Hamtramck, Jefferson East, Grandmont Rosedale and the Avenue of Fashion.

Four workshops are scheduled during the contest application period:
June 2 – Hamtramck
June 16 – Jefferson East
June 29 – Avenue of Fashion
July 7 – Grandmont Rosedale
Forte: In addition to the business planning sessions, Comerica Bank has contributed $25,000 to the Michigan Women’s Foundation to establish a micro-enterprise loan fund offered exclusively to Hatch Alumni.

Lee: And how will you promote past winners?

Katanski: A series of video vignettes are also being developed to promote each of the previous contest winners.

Lee: Why did Comerica step up its financial commitment this year and how will the incremental resources specifically be used?

Forte: Comerica’s support of Hatch Detroit and its mission to revitalize Detroit through entrepreneurship reflects Comerica Bank’s continuing commitment to make a difference in the communities it serves. Founded in Detroit more than 165 years ago, Comerica is deeply rooted in the community and recognizes the important role small businesses are playing in the resurgence of the city.

In its fifth year as flagship sponsor of the contest, Comerica is more than doubling its commitment for the contest, investing more than $125,000 to help launch even more small business successes in Detroit and help ensure the success of current Hatch Alumni. We are proud to support such an impactful contest, which has sparked other small business contests and economic development in the region.

Lee: You’re increasing Hatch Detroit’s commitment to alumni. How many have opened storefronts are how are they doing collectively?

Katanski: Fourteen Hatch Alumni have opened their storefronts since 2011 and 16 more are operating as pop ups or opening soon. Previous contest winners include Hugh (2011), La Feria (2012), Batch Brewing Company (2013), Sister Pie (2014) and Live Cycle Delight (2015). Hatch Alumni employ more than 80 people and have invested more than $2.5 million in Detroit & Hamtramck.

All fourteen (14) are open and doing well. Some are in the process of exploring expansion opportunities.

Lee: The program has expanded its presence and commitment to the Michigan Women’s Foundation (MWF). Please explain.

Forte: Comerica Bank has expanded its commitment for contest alumni by contributing $25,000 to the Michigan Women’s Foundation to establish a micro-enterprise loan fund offered exclusively to Hatch Alumni to help them meet short-term funding challenges.

Comerica and Hatch Detroit will also host a business planning workshop later this year tailored to Hatch Alumni to address challenges related to opening and operating a storefront.

Lee: When will applications be accepted?

Katanski: The Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest seeks entrepreneurs with a retail concept to submit their business plans to establish a brick and mortar location in Detroit, Highland Park or Hamtramck. Business applications are being accepted now until July 15, 2016.

For more information about the contest or to submit a business plan, visit