Crain’s Detroit Business
July 27, 2023
The proprietors of a food co-op, a program focused on teaching skilled trades, an upholsterer and a neighborhood cafe are among the winners in the latest round of Motor City Match cash grant awards.
Round 23 award winners include 19 new and eight existing businesses. Each of the 27 businesses earned a share of $1.2 million. The awards will go toward establishing new brick-and-mortar storefronts and making improvements at existing businesses.
The new businesses will split $1.05 million and set up across 16 Detroit neighborhoods. The eight established businesses will share $155,000, with those awards coming from American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The Detroit People’s Food Co-op earned the top prize of $100,000. The co-op’s Detroit Food Commons project, to be located at 8324 Woodward Ave. in the city’s North End, is a Black-operated community grocery store.
The co-op has a member-owner group of more than 1,900 people from all over the state, according to board President Lanay Gilbert.
“Those people are definitely part of something bigger than they know,” Gilbert said. “In this predominantly Black city, we often have to explain to our children why there are no Black-owned grocery stores. We’d be the second in the city. This is unapologetically Black-led. It’s 12 years in the making. Everybody who’s involved is so excited. I look forward to seeing what the young people do over the coming generations with this democratically-owned store.”
Morningside Cafe owner Jeff Lewis earned a $50,000 cash grant for his restaurant at 16369 E. Warren Ave. Lewis said getting to this point in his entrepreneurial career has been a journey.
“I had this idea in 2016. We were two weeks from opening last year and the building next door to ours caught on fire, so we lost a year. We battled with insurance companies, banks. It’s been a long road. I had a lot of sleepless nights, but I stayed true to my mission,” he said. “Morningside is where I grew up. That’s my home. I knew this was needed. Anybody on this journey: Stick with it.”
Michigan & Trumbull pizzeria co-owner Kristen Calverly accepted a $55,000 cash grant as the business works to relocate from Corktown to the Dreamtroit development in the city’s Elijah McCoy section. Calverly said the award will help facilitate the move.
“We didn’t renew our lease in Corktown in an effort to pay our staff what they deserve, to keep our prices down, and to continue our monthly contributions to Detroit organizations,” Calverly said. “Moving to the Dreamtroit development in Elijah McCoy will allow us to do that.”
Antonio Powell’s Maniac Mechanics business earned a $65,000 cash grant. The business, slated to open on Juneteenth next year at 13126 Harper Ave., teaches skilled trades to inner-city youth aged 13-17 with a goal of developing the students into business owners.
“This is a catalyst to go from one step to the next,” Powell said. “It’s a four-week program. Each day they come, they’ll learn something new. We’re looking forward to being a beacon in the community.”
In addition to the cash grants, Motor City Match also awarded 49 other businesses in its business plan, develop and design tracks. Those grants go toward technical assistance, including business services, training and one-on-one advising.
Motor City Match is run by the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Since 2015, Motor City Match has awarded more than 1,800 businesses. Through 23 rounds of the program, Motor City Match has helped facilitate the opening of 150 businesses, with 77 more under construction. The program has awarded more than $14 million in cash grants, with a total leveraged investment of more than $73 million. Around 82% of businesses are minority owned, about 71% are woman owned and 67% are owned by Detroit residents.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the growth of the program is a testament to its impact on the city.
“When we started this, we did eight or 10 (winners) a quarter,” Duggan said Thursday. “The early applicants were almost all on Jefferson, in Midtown or downtown. We had an idea that with there being so much talent in the city, so many people with so much drive, that we wanted to see if we could advance it out a bit.”
Integrating ARPA funding into the program represents a continuation of the city’s efforts to support businesses in combating the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The DEGC administered more than $15 million in pandemic relief grants between March 2020 and March 2021 and introduced the Detroit Means Business platform to provide wrap-around services for businesses. ARPA funding distribution, approved last year by Detroit City Council, has allowed Motor City Match and the DEGC to continue those efforts and target support to underserved Detroit entrepreneurs. The city received nearly $827 million in ARPA funds.
Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield on Thursday commended the entrepreneurs on their work ethic.
“I’ve seen how tough it is to start a business in Detroit,” Sheffield said. “You all have had the courage to stick with this and see it through. Entrepreneurship is challenging. To be able to see you all and your dreams come to reality is truly an honor. I’ve been to many of the ribbon cuttings. To see so many types of businesses coming to our neighborhoods is great to see.”