If you ever thought small business was boring, you probably haven’t heard of Comerica Hatch Detroit. Because anyone who follows it knows Wednesday night’s reveal of the semi-finalists in this retailer-to-be contest was about as exhilarating as it gets.
The big takeaway to me was that multiple finalists are coming from other areas – as close as Clawson in one case and as far as Chicago and Alaska (!) in others – to build a business in the city.
It’s a common refrain: Detroit needs retail. The city also needs fresh blood, people whose work ethic is as soulful as their food, their beer, their design aesthetic and their love of this region. Hatch’s Top Ten seem to meet those criteria and then some.
The reveal was dramatic, suspenseful and glorious. In the moments before the names were read, you could feel the collective weight of the $50,000 prize and how important it is to the dreams of so many. Nearly 300 applicants wanted it so badly their teeth hurt. Then, the sigh of relief. The shock of failure. The surprise of success and the confirmation that your idea is something worthwhile.
“We are very excited to have made the final ten applicants for the 2012 Hatch Contest. The competition has some amazing business concepts that would all be a great benefit to the city of Detroit’s business community,” said Aaron F. Wagner, Co-lead Organizer of the Tashmoo Biergarten, a “pop-up European style beer garden with Detroit sensibility” located in the West Village neighborhood.
Whip Hand Cosmetics described it as the “Best. Night. Ever. So excited.”
“We’re thrilled to be in the Top 10 of this year’s 2012 Comerica Hatch Competition. We think Detroit is ready for vegan soul food and looking forward to more healthy food options,” said Detroit Vegan Soul’s Kirsten Ussery (also known as the baker), who along with Erika Boyd (the chef) provides catering, meal delivery, kitchen makeover and, soon, a pop-up shop experience.
Their goal? To open a café in West Village, one of Detroit’s historic neighborhoods. Their vision? “Our vision for Detroit is one of walkable communities with an abundance of healthy, quality food experiences.” Yes. Table for the whole city, please.
Finalists were just coming down from their highs Wednesday. Some were doing so literally, like Emily Miller of The Collective Tap (cool beer tasting and educational spot) who landed at Metro Airport around 9 p.m., fielding calls from strange journalists (sorry!) as she was trying to find her baggage from her flight from Alaska. The rest staggered home after the sweet celebration at the Centaur Bar to accept the accolades, congrats and “thumbs ups” of it all on Facebook from friends and strangers.
There are those with years of experience, such as Kim Dao-Waldis, co-creator of Da Nang, a celebrated Vietnamese food restaurant in Clawson that wants to open its second location in Detroit. But many of these entrepreneurial enterprises are so fresh that I was the first person to become the fledgling company’s follower on Twitter or Facebook fan. Now that their name is legend, it is time to get savvy pretty tout de suite, me thinks.
In case you didn’t catch the list, here are the finalists in alphabetical order: Detroit River Sports, Detroit Vegan Soul Café, La Feria, Motor City Design, Pho da Nang, Rock City Pies, Tashmoo Biergarten, The Collective Tap, Vividbraille Studio Boutique and Whip Hand Cosmetics.
Here are your key dates to remember. The key here is to vote early and vote often.
* Sept. 10 – Voting begins to pick the four finalists
* Sept. 17 – Voting ends
* Sept. 19 – Four finalists are announced
* Sept. 26 – The Hatch Off
* Sept. 27 – The Winner is crowned