Former President John F. Kennedy once said, “In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity.”
There is no doubt the COVID-19 crisis has been wrapped in danger. Detroiters have lost too many family members and friends to the virus. We’ve lost jobs and now face a multi-year economic recovery. However, to move forward, we will need to recognize opportunities as a way for us to reset hope.
For Detroit’s small business community, that means taking the lessons we’ve learned from this tragedy and focusing on a recovery plan.
Business owners have been among those hit hardest by the pandemic, and the resulting Face Mask and Gathering Order implemented to keep our residents safe. In May 2020, Detroit Means Business (DMB) – a coalition of some 60 organizations including DEGC, DTE and the City of Detroit – formed to provide emergency resources to businesses impacted by the pandemic, including safety supplies, access to capital, training and other aid. A group of Detroit business owners joined DMB to keep its vision true and its mission pure.
The pandemic has cast a harsh spotlight on the many systemic failings that have kept our small businesses at risk from economic and environmental factors, and have left them underperforming as a result.
Today, DMB is pivoting to address the opportunities brought forth by the COVID-19 crisis through a strategy that will elevate the entire small business ecosystem and make Detroit the place to open and operate an independent business – especially for Black and female entrepreneurs.
In a recent virtual meeting with 400 stakeholders, funders and small business owners, DMB leadership unveiled a three-year plan to make it easier and more profitable to do business in Detroit. In the coming 12 months, we will shift our focus from COVID relief to creating future-focused programming and developing the types of initiatives that will enable the small business community to flourish. Specifically, we will:
- Create inclusive pathways for business owners to access affordable capital
- Increase access to local contracts by connecting Detroit buyers with Detroit suppliers
- Provide digital tools so that all Detroit businesses can compete with online retailers and big-box stores
These are only three of DMB’s 10 North Star Goals. Other goals include training, legislative advocacy and mentorship.
DMB is a tremendous lift, requiring enormous support. A fundraising campaign was recently launched to raise the needed budget for the next three years. DMB is extremely grateful for DTE’s contribution of $500,000 announced during the recent meeting.
There is no overstating the importance of small businesses to Detroit, its economy and its residents.There are more than 60,000 small and mid-sized businesses in Detroit, providing 50-percent of Detroit’s jobs, offering goods and services to our residents, and creating a true sense of community in our neighborhoods.
The pandemic has shown us that opportunities to strengthen our small business ecosystem exist. By elevating our small business support and aligning our goals to remove obstacles to success, we can help business owners reach their full potential.
What we’re creating is nothing short of transformational – a tool that has the power to:
- Lift Detroiters out of poverty
- Rebuild Detroit’s Black middle class
- And increase economic mobility for Detroit residents
I invite you to read more about DMB and the resources available at detroitmeansbusiness.org. This is the beginning of a new day, where Detroit Means Business.