Detroit — Yolanda Massey plans to move her Hooked on Books Childcare business from a home-based operation in Redford to a 1,500 square foot building in Detroit this summer.
On Monday, she came to the Detroit Means Business Summit at the Roostertail to network and learn how to grow her customer base as she transitions.
“I’m here for the marketing,” she said. “To learn how to do this so I can get that waitlist.”
Massey is among 400 business owners who attended Monday’s inaugural summit of Detroit Means Business, a public-private coalition of 60 organizations that formed in May 2020 in response to an outcry of support during the pandemic from of the small business community.
“The pandemic has created this urgent need,” said Danielle Parker, spokeswoman for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, which runs the program.
Monday’s all-day event was an opportunity for businesses and resource providers to meet in person, some for the first time since the pandemic began. The free summit was so popular that registrations filled up within days, officials said.
“It speaks to the ecosystem,” Parker said. “I think Detroit has a really unique and robust entrepreneurial ecosystem and there are so many entrepreneurs out there who want to grow their business and might not be connected to the resources and tools that would allow that business to thrive. We are able to help support their business growth in a way that allows them to scale. »
Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of the DEGC, said Monday he hopes to hold another summit in late summer or early fall.
Among the organizations available to help business owners were financing institutions, various Detroit city departments, TechTown, and accounting departments. The companies represented ranged from startups to long-time companies. Sectors included mobility, retail, childcare and beauty services.
In welcoming remarks to event attendees, Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist spoke about the many funding opportunities the state has made available to small businesses, including 23 support programs to help 25,000 small businesses across the state.
Additionally, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a $2.1 billion MI New Economy program that would help Michigan’s middle class and support small businesses and $500 million in Michigan Mainstreet Initiative grants for restaurants, businesses, and businesses. event venues, personal service organizations and micro businesses.
Gilchrist said the well-meaning federal paycheck protection program excludes companies with fewer than nine employees.
“In Michigan, 94% of businesses started by black people have fewer than nine employees,” Gilchrist said. “There was a structural ineligibility, it was a structural inequity.”
In response, the state created a $125 million micro-business support program for businesses with fewer than nine employees, as well as new businesses.
“We want people to succeed in Michigan,” Gilchrist said. “We’re willing to put our money where our mouth is.”
Among the micro-entrepreneurs in attendance on Monday was Achsha Jones, founder of Trip Slip, a tech company that creates digital exit slips and related services.
Jones said she applied for grants and received help from TechTown to help her grow her business and develop an app for iOS and Google Play.
“As CEO and founder, I’m the only employee,” she said. “I’m doing all of this out of my own pocket. All by myself. I’m the IT guy, the customer service rep, the salesperson, all of the above. What I’m doing now is applying for a lot of grants , lots of programs, accelerators to be able to give us money to do that…to help bring in somebody else who can help me expand the program and grow it.”
Jones said she was excited to attend an in-person event and have access to resource organizations. She spoke with a tech support company, Proxie, and a marketing agency, Coates Communications.
“There’s a lot that can happen on Zoom, there’s a lot that can happen on phone calls and emails and messages, but it’s nothing like having a one-off conversation, a face-to-face interaction with people,” she said.
Latricia Wilder, owner of group fitness business The Vibe Ride Detroit, said she struggled to find a space to open her studio, which offers cycling, pilates and other services in a high tech environment. Months after it opened in 2019, the pandemic hit and the studio was closed for nearly a year, she said.
Wilder, a member of Detroit Means Business Small Business Owner Advocates, said with the support of her fellow advocates and her owner, Bedrock, she was able to avoid permanent closure.
“It’s always an uphill battle,” she said. “There are so many people like me if they haven’t closed already.”
Wilder said she hoped to see as many business owners at the event.
“There are so many businesses that don’t have access to it,” she said. “I was one of them. And then you start meeting the right people who know the right things. It shouldn’t be just that if you happen to meet the right people. It should be equal to the access to everyone. That’s what it is. That’s why there’s so much hope.
“I’m thrilled to see this continuing to happen every year and people continuing to get more and more information. It’s the only way small businesses can survive,” she said. . “And Detroit was built on the backs of working class, small business, blue collar workers. It’s nice to see the city recognize that.”