By Amy Haimerl
This morning, the New Economy Initiativeannounced it will be giving out $500,000 worth of grants to existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. A standing-room only crowd showed up at Motor City Java & Tea House in Detroit’s Old Redford neighborhood to hear the announcement.
“While we recognize and support all the energy around Detroit’s startup scene, we feel it’s important to celebrate the small existing businesses that have been the cornerstone of their communities for years,” said David Egner, executive director of NEI, which is a project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.
The NEIdeas program, as it is being called, will dole out grants in two forms: 30 awards of $10,000 each for small businesses with revenues of less than $1 million annually and two awards of $100,000 for businesses with revenues of between $1 million and $5 million annually.
The money is coming from NEI as part of its recapitalization. The program is a partnership with the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., which is providing the community engagement role and will be organizing the judging.
“We are seeing more and more the impact small businesses are having in revitalizing Detroit’s economy, and programs like NEIdeas are a big part of the reason why,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Today, there are thousands of small businesses in the city of Detroit that employ only one or two people. Receiving a strategic infusion of cash like this can be just the boost that an existing small company needs to grow and create more jobs for our local economy.”
Motor City Java & Tea House is the type of business that could apply to the program.
“Having a business in the city of Detroit was always a dream of mine,” said its owner, Alicia George. “It took 10 years, but it’s now a reality. We want to expand the business and better cater to our customers. If we can purchase bigger equipment — bigger coffee roasters, bigger blenders —we can serve our customers. And I know there are other businesses here who have dreams and ideas.”
Egner is a supporter. “Alicia is one of my heroes,” he said. “She was tenacious and stuck with it.”
All businesses must be at least 3 years old to apply.
Applications will be available starting May 8 and can be found online at NEIdeasDetroit.org and in person at more than 20 community organizations around the city. Businesses seeking the $10,000 awards must have their applications submitted by June 5; $100,000 applications are due by June 26. The $10,000 winners will be announced in October and the $100,000 winners in November.