Sept. 19, 2023
Small business owners and the goods and services they provide for Detroiters and visitors to the city are the heart of Detroit. And the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation has actively supported the city’s entrepreneurs by partnering with various community partners and businesses to sustainably cultivate Detroit’s small businesses ecosystem.
“At the DEGC, we understand that consistent effortas to help entrepreneurs achieve success in the city are just as important as our efforts to bring in high-dollar investments to Detroit,” said Kevin Johnson, DEGC CEO and president. “We recognize that the city’s small business owners need all the support we can give, and we work with our partners every day to help make sure that happens.” For example, the DEGC’s long-term partnership with Bank of America has provided more than $1.3 million in grants over the past 15 years to support the DEGC’s efforts in elevating Detroit’s small businesses.
Matt Elliott, Michigan Market President for Bank of America, called the DEGC a lifeline for successful entrepreneurship, and that it’s critical for small business owners to know that support is available — especially for women-owned and minority-owned businesses. “Bank of America recognizes the importance of supporting business owners in Detroit, and we’re proud to be a longtime partner of the DEGC, which has the important role of helping small business owners continue to grow their businesses,” Elliott added.
As part of their efforts, the DEGC launched the Detroit Means Business (DMB) coalition of private, public and philanthropic partners in 2020 to help meet the needs of Detroit’s small businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the DMB coalition’s support allowed 10 Detroit businesses to remain open and more than 80 of their employees to keep their jobs.
In 2022, with a grant from Bank of America, the DEGC held a DMB summit where six Detroit businesses – Colorful Teez Imagine That, DOLLed Up by Darnishous, Happy Plate Catering, Parris-Joy Soap and Candles, What’s the Dill and World Small Business Network – received $20,000 in grants. Darnishous Thompson, owner of DOLLed Up by Darnishous, an online store that sells hand-made custom jewelry and accessories at frequent pop-up shops in Detroit, said she regularly attends DEGC events, and “it means the world” for a small business owner like herself to receive the type of grant support that DEGC and Bank of America provide to local entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurs like me often don’t have the type of funding we need to sustain and grow our business through things like marketing, promotion and renting space,” said Thompson, a Detroiter who founded the store in 2015, adding the $2,500 DEGC grant her business received allowed her to create retractable signs, logo-covered tablecloths, business cards and other materials, and do pop-up stores at Eastern Market and across the city.
“It was very encouraging to me to get some support, as you can feel very alone as an entrepreneur. That type of blessing encourages you to keep going.”
What’s the Dill owner Leona Gist used her $2,500 DMB grant to cut through red tape and cover administrative costs related to launching her location at 4088 West McNichols, which opened to the public in November 2022. The restaurant serves stuffed pickle sandwiches, cucumber wraps and other healthy food options, including gluten-free and keto cuisine.
“The funding from the DEGC grant was a blessing that came at the perfect time as I was launching my business,” Gist said. “The health department needed $1,000. I was able to pay utility bills, and I paid off some loans, which allowed me to focus my efforts on getting the restaurant open to the public. It means a lot and it’s good to know the city supports you. You’re not alone. These services can help entrepreneurs, especially Black women, and I’m very appreciative. It’s inspiring, makes you want to move forward so you’re not letting anyone down.”
“The commitment to economic development in Detroit and deepening our connection to the city is important,” Elliott said. “We want the Bank to be a friendly face that offers support to business owners in need, and our work with the DEGC and Detroit Means Business is just one way we can make that happen.”
For businesses looking to find support in 2023 and beyond, the DEGC continues to hold events and offer opportunities for grants and funding. This past May, they held their 2023 DMB summit, where a new round of grants were distributed to Detroit entrepreneurs, and a variety of panels and workshops were offered along with 1-on-1 consultations for business owners.
In addition, the organization is spurring transformation through its small business incubator initiatives Motor City Match and BuyDetroit. These programs provide entrepreneurs with valuable consulting and financial support to scale their businesses effectively.
Johnson said the programs allow his team to have one-on-one engagement with business owners to determine how they can best support them in tangible ways to reach their goals.
“With a consistent effort from the City of Detroit and business partners like Bank of America, the potential for growth among our city’s small business owners is high. One of our goals is to create better and higher-end job opportunities in the City of Detroit, and a small seed can help to move a mountain.”
To learn more about the DEGC and its programs to support Detroit small business owners, visit the services tab at www.degc.org.