In its fourth year, the NEIdeas small business challenge is awarding 22 businesses $10K and $100K grants for their growth ideas. Winners will be celebrated at a gala at Eastern Market’s Shed 5 on November 2. 

A program of the New Economy Initiative, NEIdeas has awarded a total of $1.9M to 118 businesses across Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park since 2014

In 2013, the New Economy Initiative (NEI) wanted to create a resource for Detroit’s existing neighborhood businesses – the “been-ups” – to complement the growing number of resources available to startups.

The staff of NEI asked itself a simple question: What if you asked local businesses their ideas for growth, then gave them cash to make those ideas happen?

“Neighborhood businesses matter,” says Pam Lewis, NEI’s director. “In pursuing our mission of building an inclusive support network for entrepreneurs and small businesses in southeast Michigan, we wanted to do something that not only acknowledged neighborhood businesses for their contributions to their communities, but rewarded them for thinking courageously about growing.”

So in 2014, NEI launched a new business challenge called NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth. Since that first year, NEIdeas has awarded a total of $1.9 million to 118 businesses. That number includes this year’s 22 winners, who will be recognized at a special gala event the evening of November 2 in Eastern Market’s Shed 5. Twenty of those businesses will receive $10,000 grants, and two will receive $100,000 grants. (See below for a full list of 2017 winning businesses and their ideas for growth.)

“What’s different about this challenge is the way it engages community partners to reach people and business owners who aren’t connected to resources,” says James Feagin, outreach director for NEIdeas partner the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC). “We established relationships with organizations across Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park and asked them to be NEIdeas ambassadors. They serve as our evangelists, encouraging businesses in their communities to apply, then helping them articulate their ideas.”

NEIdeas has a network of 29 ambassador organizations that make themselves available to applicants. For a full list of ambassadors, visit NEIdeasDetroit.org/ambassadors.

During this year’s month-long NEIdeas application period (May 1-June 1), NEI held six information sessions, including a bi-lingual session for Spanish speakers. An NEIdeas street team distributed thousands of flyers printed in five languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, and Polish) to businesses along commercial corridors across Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. Global Detroit, a nonprofit dedicated to fueling robust economic growth in southeast Michigan through immigrant inclusion, helped spread the word about NEIdeas to immigrant and non-English speaking business owners.

“We have an inclusive process for attracting applicants,” says Paula Gonzalez, a program associate with the New Economy Initiative who manages the NEIdeas challenge. “Applying businesses are able to see themselves in the past winners, and our application, which can be submitted online or in the mail, is simple – just your basic business information and 400 words on your idea for growth.”

At the close of the application period, nearly 700 businesses had submitted ideas for growth, the most in NEIdeas’ 4-year history. The application pool was then narrowed by NEIdeas staff and evaluated by an independent jury of past NEIdeas winners, small business advocates, journalists, and community development professionals. The jury ultimately recommended this year’s winners to the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, NEI’s parent organization that awards NEIdeas grants.

To date, NEIdeas has received more than 2,200 applications from 1,800 businesses representing every ZIP code in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. All applicants are invited to business growth opportunities in NEI’s larger network of resources, including capital programs like Motor City Match and Motor City Re-Store and entrepreneur training programs. About 45 percent of 2017 winners are repeat applicants from previous years.

“We’re proud of the ways we’ve made this challenge accessible to everyday business owners in our community,” says Lewis. “When you look at our cohorts of winners, they truly represent the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.”

In 2017, 80 percent of NEIdeas winners are minority-owned businesses, and more than half are women-owned businesses. They represent a variety of sectors, including service, retail, manufacturing, entertainment, food, creative, medical, and more.

Below is a full list of 2017 NEIdeas winners and their ideas:

$10K winners

1 Step 2 Fitness (Fitness services – Detroit, Northeast)

  • Idea: Purchase basketball wheelchairs for adapted sports programming.

All of My Children (Childcare and education services – Detroit, Bagley)

  • Idea: Purchase a van to transport new and expectant mothers to “safe sleep academy.”

Beau Bien Fine Foods LLC (Food manufacturing – Detroit, Eastern Market)

  • Idea: Upgrade kitchen equipment to be able to rent kitchen space to other small food businesses.

Blessed Beginnings Learning Center LLC (Childcare services – Detroit, Mohican Regent)

  • Idea: Purchase tablets, a computer, and a smart white board to add technology and STEM programming into the childcare facility.

Bon Bon Bon (Food manufacturing – Hamtramck)

  • Idea: Pay for the manufacture of new silicone molding to dramatically increase production of chocolates.

Crystal Clear Images.com, LLC (Printing services – Detroit, Northwest)

  • Idea: Create a mini computer lab so customers can design their own projects in the printshop.

El Asador Steakhouse (Restaurant – Detroit, Southwest)

  • Idea: Expand their kitchen and interior dining space to serve more customers.

ESI Hardware Store (Retail – Detroit, Southwest)

  • Idea: Purchase drywall, lumber, plumbing, and other types of inventory so contractors/builders don’t have to go to big box hardware stores.

Everyday Super Discounts (Retail – Hamtramck)

  • Idea: Increase inventory of sporting goods and fitness equipment that they sell in their store.

Fa Show Lawn N’ Home Care (Lawn services – Detroit, Warrendale)

  • Idea: Purchase commercial-grade landscaping equipment to be able to service both residential and commercial landscaping opportunities.

Lush Yummies Pie Co. (Food –Detroit, Eastern Market)

  • Idea: Buy a walk-in freezer and a double-deck convection oven to increase production and keep up with demand of their new grocery store contracts.

Nandi’s Knowledge Café (Restaurant and retail – Highland Park)

  • Idea: Upgrade signage and upgrade online presence to get the word out more to potential customers.

Naturalicious (Manufacturing – Detroit, Corktown)

  • Idea: Invest in marketing campaign to reach new customers of natural haircare and cosmetics in 2,500 markets nationwide where the products are now in stores.

Nikki’s Ginger Tea LLC (Food manufacturing – Detroit, Osborn)

  • Idea: Purchase a new delivery van to ensure reliable delivery of their ginger tea beverages to wholesale clients.

Pages Bookshop LLC (Retail – Detroit, Rosedale Park)

  • Idea: Hire a part-time event planner to bring authors into the store, increase traffic, and increase book sales

Painexx Corporation (Manufacturing, medical –Detroit, Northwest)

  • Idea: Purchase vats, a mixer, and other machinery to make production of Ringmaster Rubbing Oil more efficient.

Taqueria El Nacimiento (Restaurant – Detroit, Southwest)

  • Idea: Execute a marketing campaign to spread the word about new sports cantina they are building.

The Food Exchange Restaurant (Restaurant – Detroit, East Side)

  • Idea: Activate a vacant lot adjacent to their carry-out restaurant, to be called Harper Gardens.

Trinosophes (Entertainment venue and cafe – Detroit, Eastern Market)

  • Idea: Purchase permanent audio/visual recording equipment for musicians and touring artists to create recordings with their independent record label.

Vernor Chiropractic Clinic (Medical – Detroit, Southwest)

  • Idea: Purchase Shock Wave Therapy machine and relevant training for staff to offer customers an effective treatment for chronic pain.

$100K winners

Bel Air Luxury Cinema (Entertainment – Osborn, Detroit)

  • Idea: Expand commercial kitchen and build a bar to serve more food options and serve alcoholic beverages to customers.

Vaughan Industries (Manufacturing – Detroit, Northwest)

  • Idea: Purchase a piece of equipment that makes producing car wash parts dramatically more efficient

Images of the winners (credit: Ali Lapetina) can be found at the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/k2xhs7p6bwubexn/AABq-jHaErOXnnM4qPtVoIN6a?dl=0

For a full list of NEIdeas winners since 2014, visit NEIdeasDetroit.org.

To attend this year’s NEIdeas awards gala on November 2, RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/neideas-2017-awards-gala-a-celebration-of-neighborhood-small-business-tickets-3709799409

The New Economy Initiative (NEI) is a collaboration of 13 national and local foundations working to build and sustain an inclusive network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses in southeast Michigan. Since 2007, NEI’s funders have contributed a total of $155 million to the effort, which is housed within the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. For more information, visit http://neweconomyinitiative.org/.

The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) is a nonprofit organization that serves as the lead implementing agency for business retention, attraction and economic development initiatives in the city of Detroit. For more information, visit www.degc.org.

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