Weekly Resource(s) #18 – Detroit Retail Startup Support

Dreaming of launching a retail business in Detroit?  You’re in luck.  Resources abound to support your efforts.  Planning to capital, it’s here.


It’s generally advised, when considering the launch of a new business venture, you do the research and planning required to prove your concept; you test the concept whenever possible; and you secure proper funding to support the project.  The following 3 Detroit resources can potentially provide all those things to aspiring retail entrepreneurs.

To begin, TechTown offers a competitive, highly customized boot camp program that prepares serious entrepreneurs for a successful retail launch.  Topics in this 8 week course include:  choosing your location; merchandising; fiscal management; customer service; marketing and branding; government regulations and processes; taxes and insurance; start-up costs; business model canvas; and developing your pitch.

Applications are currently be accepted for the September 23 – November 11 program.

Applications are also being accepted now for D:Hive’s Pilot program, which offers creative and engaging retail businesses to test their brick-and-mortar potential in a prime downtown location.  The chosen entrepreneur gets:  2 months of rent-free retail space on Woodward Ave during the holiday season; marketing & graphic design support; mentoring & networking opportunities; and $500 reimbursements for both space design and a launch event.  Apply by September 2nd.

And finally, though not currently accepting applications, Hatch Detroit manages a contest that provides startup capital to viable retail businesses planning to open in Detroit neighborhoods.  By the time you’ve completed the TechTown Boot Camp and tested your concept in the D:Hive Pilot space, you’ll be more than ready to apply for the next Hatch opportunity.  Click here to learn more about the contest and vote for one of this round’s 4 finalists.

Let us know what you think, if you decide to take advantage of any or all of these fabulous small business resources.  And be sure to follow this blog and sign up for our newsletter for more of the same:


Weekly Resource #15 – Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition


An international business competition – Connecting entrepreneurial companies with local, national and international investors.

I tell all the early stage entrepreneurs I work with to go to as many pitch and business plan competitions as they can when they’re starting out.  Even if you’re not ready to compete for funding, you’ll gain invaluable knowledge from watching others and paying attention to the judges’s comments and feedback.  I learned much of what I know today about successfully applying for funding and other key capital strategies from listening to evaluations of investor pitches.

Led by the newly formed Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan (which includes Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator, and TechTown), the Business Leaders for Michigan, the University Research Corridor (Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University) and the New Economy Initiative, this competition boasts an impressive list of venture capitalists from around the nation on it’s judging panel.

In 2012, sixty venture capitalists from fifty one firms judged the competition – providing a great network across the country as well as constructive feedback to help the participating companies in their persistent drive for excellence.

So whether you’re ready to enter the company competition, or the student competition, or whether you just want to go and learn this time, register now for Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.  The deadline for company applications is August 14, so don’t delay.


Weekly Resource #14 – Detroit BizGrid

48109_281138838694543_1423782555_nImagine a single document that lists the business resources and their providers that exist in Detroit. Sounds pretty awesome right? Well imagining such a document is no longer required. The Detroit BizGrid is exactly that and more.

Combine the aggregate knowledge of 5 local entrepreneurial support organizations, (including ourselves, Techtown, Bizdom, D:Hive, and the DEGC) with the demand for an easy to use list of resource provider contact information and their offered resources, and you get the BizGrid.

54 Detroit organizations are categorized based on the resources they have to offer and the stages of business they specialize in. This was done to ensure that entrepreneurs are aware of what is available to help them as well as to streamline the process of contacting said organizations and getting the information needed to pursue their resources.   These organizations offer services ranging from business planning and strategy to real estate assistance, funding, co-working space, and beyond.

A free to use tool, The BizGrid exists in both a downloadable digital version as well as a printed hard copy. Unless you have a printer that is able to print an 8 1/2 X 17 piece of paper, your best bet of getting your hands on a hard copy would be to visit one of the partner organizations and picking one up in person. Otherwise, be sure to download the PDF at the BizGrid website and don’t forget to share it with your fellow entrepreneurs and “Like” the BizGrid on Facebook!

Weekly Resource #12 – FASTconnect

bbc logoIf you are part of an early-stage technology company, the government’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs can be an important source of funding for your project.

Through the SBIR/STTR programs, 11 federal agencies award over $2.3 billion in non-dilutive grants and contracts annually through a competitive awards-based process. The programs encourage technology-based businesses to explore ideas and profit from their commercialization. They are a great way for technology-based companies to raise money without giving up equity.

Historically, women- and minority-owned businesses have been underrepresented in the SBIR/STTR programs, although there is renewed emphasis on improving outreach to these groups.

FASTconnect, a Michigan-based program to assist the state’s SBIR awardees in their product commercialization efforts, is also working to increase SBIR/STTR participation among women and minorities. In collaboration with TechTownWayne State UniversityInforum Michigan, and the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC), a FASTconnect pilot program seeks to educate women and minorities in Southeast Michigan about these funding opportunities and help them through the application process.  Further support for participants is provided by the Michigan SBIR/STTR Assistance Program, which makes one-on-one SBIR/ STTR proposal preparation assistance available to qualified companies with costs covered in whole or in part by the state.

FASTconnect has been made possible by grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and theMichigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Both FASTconnect and the Michigan SBIR/STTR Assistance Program are managed by BBC Entrepreneurial Training and Consulting. BBCetc specializes in helping emerging companies win SBIR/STTR funding and using it strategically to propel growth. For more information about both programs and BBCetc, visit or contact Kristin Burgard, Principal Consultant, at or 734-930-9741.

“Money, It’s a Gas.” – Part 1

“Money, it’s a gas.  Grab that cash with both hands.”
– Money, Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Wouldn’t every entrepreneur with an inspired idea and every small business owner with a current opportunity love to take this advice and grab the cash?  Unfortunately, many aren’t clear about the funding options available to them during their various stages of business development and, therefore, often reach for something they’re either not ready for or are ineligible to receive.

I frequently meet and consult with people who have great ideas for a community-based small businesses.  Some already have well developed plans for launching and a great chance of success.  But they need some start-up capital, so they’re asking about angel investors or grant money.

What they often don’t know is:

  • Government grants for funding private enterprise generally don’t exist; and
  • Typical equity investors, i.e. angels or venture capitalists, are interested only in highly scalable, growth-oriented ventures because they represent the highest return on investment potential.

Therefore, lifestyle businesses are reliant on fundraising from friends and family, crowdfunding, traditional bank loans, and community-based microenterprise lending programs.  The most obvious, but often overlooked, financing source is sales.  But that’s a subject for another post.

For now, let’s focus on external funding sources available at various stages in the business life cycle.  The following graphs, used with permission from Han Peng, Manager of Entrepreneurial Programs at TechTown Detroit in Michigan, help illustrate how profitability, time and stage impact your financing options.  The first is general and works across geographic boundaries, while the second adds a layer to illustrate some specific Michigan program examples.  I’m confident the principles can be applied to similar programs across state lines.

Graph 1.0

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

Graph 2.0

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

These graphs don’t take industry, location, ownership designation, or other individual characteristics of the business into account, but it’s important to note those factors can also have a great effect on an entrepreneur’s or small business owner’s eligibility for funding, as can the application itself.  Knowing how and when to prepare and present your ask is critical to a successful capital raise campaign at all levels, from friends and family loans to venture capital investments.  Stay tuned for a future post with those helpful tips.


Weekly Resource #4 – NewME Detroit Popup

NewmeAre you in the beginning stages of forming a Startup?

NewME is bringing their San Francisco based Startup Accelerator to Detroit for 3 nights of pitch development classes and one-on-one coaching at TechTown.

Each of the three nights, starting May 29th, will consist of one-on-one coaching where participants will have their business plans critiqued by experienced business coaches. Following this, entrepreneurs will attend a series of hands-on classes that will teach them the art of the business pitch. The program will wrap up with a demo day which will give participants the chance to network with the people of Detroit’s tech scene as well as special guests from Silicon Valley. Participant’s could also receive the opportunity to pitch their business plan to a panel of judges for a chance to become one of the few to be selected for a slot in the 2013 NewME Accelerator class and a prize pack from the product sponsors.

Click here for more information and to register.