New Economy Initiative Launches Third and Final Year of NEIdeas Small Business Challenge


New Economy Initiative (NEI), a special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM), kicked off the third and final year of NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth, on April 20. The two-tiered challenge awards $500,000 to existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park to grow their businesses.

Over the last two years, NEIdeas has granted more than $1 million in cash awards to more than 60 existing businesses, as well as provided access to business support for all applicants. Nearly 1,200 small businesses from every corner of the three cities applied to the NEIdeas challenge in 2014 and 2015. Business industries have spanned more than 16 sectors, ranging from barbers to manufacturers, mechanics to bakers, and more. Seventy percent of NEIdeas winners were minority-owned businesses, 64 percent were women-owned businesses, and 53 percent were both woman- and minority-owned businesses. The businesses range in age from three to 93 years old.

“Over the last two years, we’ve seen the ripple effect that this challenge has had on so many small businesses in the city,” said Pam Lewis, NEI director. “It’s been incredible to not only watch the winning businesses grow, but to see the impact of the applicants who are now a part of the small business ecosystem and have access to community resources funded by NEI. This challenge is rewarding those whose spirit and determination over the years has kept the city afloat and are crucial to the future success of Detroit.”

NEIdeas features two types of awards:

  • $10,000 for existing businesses that gross under $750,000 annually with ideas to grow
  • $100,000 for existing businesses that gross more than $750,000 and less than $5 million annually with ideas to grow “big”

Thirty applicants will be awarded $10,000 each, and two businesses will be awarded $100,000 each. Businesses must be three years of age or older by the application deadline of June 1, 2016, to be eligible for an NEIdeas award. All applicants who apply to the challenge will gain connections to other small businesses and entrepreneurs, access to resources, and exposure through NEIdeas’ All-Applicant Assistance.

NEIdeas is operated in partnership with DEGC. DEGC coordinates an outreach program that features nearly 30 “ambassador” locations including community organizations, associations and faith-based institutions across Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. The ambassadors provide small businesses with information and guidance throughout the application process.

“The application process is quick and easy,” said Rodrick Miller, president and CEO, DEGC. “Nearly 1,200 small businesses have applied over the past two years, and they all have become part of a network that will help their companies flourish. The time is now to take advantage of this opportunity, so I strongly encourage business owners in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park to apply.”

The application for the 2016 NEIdeas challenge is available online at Printed applications are also available at nearly every ambassador location. For-profit small businesses of any industry are invited to apply by submitting applications online or via U.S. mail.

Application deadlines for the $10k and $100k challenges are Wednesday, June 1. Interested small businesses can learn more about NEIdeas through the five NEIdeas Info Sessions & Workshops. A full calendar of events is listed on

After the application period closes, NEIdeas will narrow the pool of applicants and forward the semi-finalists to a jury comprised of empathetic entrepreneurs (including past NEIdeas winners) and nonprofit, corporate, and neighborhood partners. The jury will recommend finalists and, ultimately, winners. If selected as a finalist, applicants will be asked to submit additional information about their business. Winners will be notified by CFSEM in the fall.

Michael Forsyth

Director of Small Business Programs

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