Challenge Grants to Award $500,000 to Local Businesses

Apr 16

9:00 AM

By Erin Piscopink

Tagged: All Neighborhoods

Read the Detroit Free Press article in its original format HERE


Challenge Grants to Award $500,000 to Local Businesses

John Gallagher for
The Detroit Free Press

Think it's tough running a small business in Detroit? Help is on the way.

A new program being announced today will award cash grants totaling $500,000 to more than 30 existing businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. Thirty grants of $10,000 each will be awarded and two grand prizes of $100,000 each will be given.

Called NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth, the project is a joint venture by the New Economy Initiative, a consortium of local and national foundations dedicated to renewing Detroit's economy, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

To be eligible for the awards, for-profit businesses must be at least three years old and be in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service. Businesses offering any kind of product or service may apply.

Applications and full rules can be found at the website

Businesses will enter initially by submitting a 200-word essay on their enterprise and how they would use the cash award to grow their business. Once the application pool is winnowed down by an initial judging process, the finalists will meet with a jury of local business and economic leaders who will make the final choices.

The $10,000 grants will be awarded to firms with gross revenues of under $1 million a year. The $100,000 awards will go to firms with gross revenues from $1 million to $5 million a year.
The recipients of the $10,000 grants will be notified in September, and the winners of the $100,000 grants will be announced in November.

David Egner, executive director of NEI, said he expects anywhere from 500 to 1,000 businesses to enter the competition. He emphasized that the project is meant to support established firms already doing business in the city, not new start-ups.

"While we recognize and support all the energy around Detroit's start-up scene, we feel it's important to celebrate the small existing businesses across Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park that have been the cornerstone of their communities for years," Egner said.

"More importantly, by providing some capital assistance and connecting them to resources, we feel we can help them grow and create jobs, further strengthening our neighborhoods."

Besides the cash awards, businesses will be eligible to receive mentoring and other support from a variety of sources.

Olga Stella, vice president of business development at the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., added, "NEIdeas will be a critical pipeline to the business support network of services that we already convene, allowing us to help even more small businesses grow and succeed."

Mayor Mike Duggan will join Egner and other civic leaders at today's announcement of the program. The announcement will take place at the Motor City Java & Tea House, 17336 Lahser Rd., in Detroit's Old Redford neighborhood.