New Economy, Small Business

You wanna see someone sweat? Offer them $50K and a chance to fulfill a dream


If you agree that “Detroit Hustles Harder,” then you’ll definitely be impressed with the hustle of the Hatch Detroit Final Four.

Because that’s exactly how they ended up there – they hustled. And it wasn’t just the Twitter, Facebook or other social-media type of hustle. They got out there, pressed the flesh. They met endless streams of people, even if it was out of their comfort zone. They talked to anyone they could, telling them all about this great contest that would reward someone for having a Big Idea and wanting to be in Detroit.

Yes, Dear Readers, your Hub correspondents have heard all about the glad-handing and flyer work being done by (and in no particular order but ABC) Detroit River Sports, Detroit Vegan Soul, La Feria Detroit and Rock City Pies. These are the hardest working entrepreneurs in show business, and I would honored to hold any of their capes.

“We’ve definitely been out at all of the events,” said Alex Howbert, one of the three fine fellows who will run Detroit River Sports. Howbert also is owner/operator of West Village Real Estate and a resident of West Village (as well as a lifelong city dweller).

They were at Tour de Troit, meeting the cyclists and sharing their love of the city, its waterways and beautiful surroundings. They put their pitches inside a tank at the Belle Isle aquarium. They went to the triathlon on Belle Isle and pressed the flesh there as well.

Erika Boyd of Detroit Vegan Soul said they “intend to continue being out and about connecting with and mobilizing people who want to see a healthy positive shift in Detroit retail.”

Rock City Pies’ Nikita Santches has been handing out pieces of paper to anyone he passes to talk about Hatch. Pie and fliers – that’s his work these days. Oh, and caters meals five days a week to some school kids. And then he makes more pies and more fliers. (He even brought pie to the Compuware headquarters Monday when the final round of voting started – he’s dead serious about winning this thing. He also brought free slices to Great Lakes Coffee Tuesday. Love seeing what everyone is up to on Facebook!)

“I’m competing against some really big guns, so I have to get out there,” Santches told me. He got big-time fired up to do more when he saw his idea for a pie shop was No. 5 – and that he would miss the chance to be in the top four.

Truly, the pie man stepped up big time. He single-handedly informed hundreds of attendees at the Ferndale DIY festival about Comerica, the Hatch competition and why the $50,000 prize matters so much to him. His friends even got involved, handing out fliers at the Tour de Troit and the corresponding beer tent. That’s dedication, baby.

Elias Khalil got out in front of every face he could during that first round of voting. He hung out at Campus Martius, hoping to grab those Quicken and Compuware kids. He bothered people on their lunch hour, chatting up anyone who would hear his message: Vote for La Feria Tapas.

He’s even been wearing the same outfit so people remember him – a red La Feria shirt and a news boy-style cap. Or a golfer cap. He’s not sure what to call it. But he just wants people to remember the restaurant’s name and that every vote counts.

“I’ve been doing what I thought was necessary to get the vote. I wanted them to pay attention,” Khalil said. “It’s been a great experience but also very humbling. … We have been and will continue to pound the pavement asking people to support Detroit’s First Authentic Spanish Tapas Bar. It’s intense yet exciting. The taste of tortillas and the scents of Sangria are pushing us ahead.”

For a second-generation Lebanese man, he feels like personal touch is what will make the difference between campaigning with a hash tag and actually shaking someone’s hand. Just like a peddler of old, he’s peddling his idea, a concept, a dream. Even his partners, who normally don’t seek the attention, got out there and caught the bug, Khalil said.

“I was impressed – it’s their dream as well,” Khalil said.

The feeling is mutual, sir.

P.S. Vote here and on Facebook. Want to meet the finalists? You have two chances! Hatch Detroit will be providing another in-person voting booth at The Town Pump Tavern (100 W. Montcalm) from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (9/25). And don’t forget about the big Hatch Off Party from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Majestic Theater. Don’t forget to get your ticket beforehand!

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