Resources available to help Detroit businesses grow beyond Midtown, Downtown

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This column by Michael Rafferty was adapted from his email interview with Mark Lee which was published in Lee’s small business blog on the Crain’s Detroit Business website.

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.

Green Grocer, 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.

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.

Many of our partners – from Mayor Duggan, to philanthropic organizations and community based groups – share DEGC’s deep commitment to success in our neighborhoods. A list of the many neighborhood-based organizations that serve small businesses can be found in BizGrid. In addition, we are working with the Mayor’s Office and City Council to organize small business information sessions that will travel to each of the seven Council Districts to ensure citywide coverage while showcasing resources available to entrepreneurs.

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.

Where can people/businesses turn to find out more about resources and opportunities supporting aspiring and existing entrepreneurs?

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.

BizGrid is a great place to start. 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 hello@detroitbizgrid.com.

Yes, there are several incubator and accelerator efforts across the city. Where can people find out more information? Is there a one-stop starting place? Website?

BizGrid is a great launching point for people seeking more information about how to grow their business. You can find more information online at www.detroitbizgrid.com, and get connected with multiple incubator and accelerator programs. For example, TechTown’s Business Incubation Center, Techstars Mobility, and Endeavor Detroit are a few such programs available within the city.

What is BizGrid and what are the benefits?

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.

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.

The program is funded by New Economy Initiative and DEGC has been a lead partner in the project.

Other thoughts?

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.

DEGC continues to invest in the talent to drive our programs to meet the needs of businesses. In the past year, the Small Business team has grown from 3 to 10 staff members and will continue to grow as new programs come on line. Michael Rafferty was brought on in February to lead the team as Vice President. He’s a native Detroiter with more than 15 years of experience in economic and community development, building teams, and has even spent time as an entrepreneur. Over his career, he has worked in both Detroit and New York improving conditions for small businesses and the communities they serve.

Michael Rafferty
Vice President, Small Business Services

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