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Have a bright idea for Detroit? These grants, programs hope to hatch the next great retailer

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So if you’ve got a free moment and a business plan brewing, the next few weeks are kinda a big deal around these parts if you want to open the Next Great Detroit Hot Spot.

Hatch logoAnd if you have the goal of becoming a “known by his/her first name” kind of big shot around here, you’ve got to get busy. That’s because applications for some of the most financially advantageous contests are all due in just a few short weeks.

Want free rent to figure out of your store has a shot at success? Then check out D:Hive’s Pilot project (those applications are due June 20). Want to work with one of the most creative pop-up shop designers in the nation and put $10,000 toward your dream shop? Then you need to apply before July 8 to Revolve Detroit’s shout-out for proposals improving the Livernois fashion district.

The big daddy of them all is the Comerica Hatch Detroit contest, which provides one lucky winner with $50,000 and all of the business support a fledging entrepreneur could dream of in one grand package. But Hatch – and, honestly, all of these projects mentioned here – are doing so much more for the spirit of growth, development and retail in the city.

What these retail throwdowns are doing, in reality, is revving up people’s creativity. They are making the business of opening a business something fun – instead of frustrating, intimidating and, let’s face it, insurmountable for some. Because when you add the time element, the component of a public vote and tons of publicity for the top contenders, then you bring a whole new audience to Detroit’s need for shopping destinations.

That’s what makes D:Hive, Revolve Detroit and Comerica Hatch Detroit so innovative – they are a glimpse into the day-to-day work being done to dust off Detroit’s collective brain. Have an idea for a crazy flower shop with arrangements out of a Jim Henson fantasy land? Want to open a water-sports mecca? Think Detroit needs more coffee (yes, please!)? Then someone is willing to give you the resources and in some cases even the money to make it so.

La Feria in progress.

La Feria in progress.

This is Comerica’s second year of supporting Hatch Detroit’s goals of opening more retailers and more minds to the potential of Detroit. The financial services company (bank to you non-industry types) provides both the $50,000 grant to the winner and support in areas of legal, marketing, accounting and information technology.

“What (Hatch Detroit) has done is to bring attention to the fact that there are so many newly minted and long-term entrepreneurs in Detroit,” said Linda D. Forte, senior vice president of Business Affairs for Comerica Inc. She also is a member of Comerica’s Senior Leadership Team. “When you see their energy and enthusiasm, you get a feel for the retail environment and business in general in the city.”

And the effort of just writing a business plan of sorts to apply for any of these monies is significant to Detroit’s creative spirit, Forte added.

“The money is critical – after all, cash and capital is king — and it does motivate people to create a plan,” Forte said. “Even those businesses that don’t win the money benefit because the process is an education in and of itself. And in the three years Hatch has been around, there are so many finalists who have moved forward with their businesses. We’re seeing the fruits of that entrepreneurial activity, and these businesses will employ people.”

Plus, Forte notes, when an idea receives Hatch-quality publicity, there is a greater chance that they will be able to find funding somewhere. Being part of the final 10 or Top Four means you will see your name pop up on blogs, traditional media and social-media sites across the state. It puts your idea in front of key decision makers. And having 40,000 people vote for you or your co-finalists invests them in your potential store. It’s like having an instant audience for your products or services.

Hugh, the 2011 winner, is making men across the Metro Detroit more fantastic every day from its location in the Auburn. Last year’s winner, tapas restaurant La Feria, is well on its way to opening. So when you see last year’s finalists (Rock City pies, Detroit River Sports, Detroit Vegan Soul and Pho da Nang)  opening up locations this year, it means that publicity and support has done its job.

hatch logo 2“It gives them the confidence to take the next leap,” Vittoria Katanski, Hatch Detroit executive director. “They becomes a little more recognizable to funding opportunities. … But we need to do more beyond the contest in terms of supporting these businesses. We’ve spent the last year working with the semi-finalists and finalists to give them that encouragement. If there’s a way to help, we try to do it.”

That’s because in Detroit, the more retail, the merrier.

“It’s awesome to have one new business. But it’s even more awesome to have four,” Katanski said.

All applications must be submitted online at For complete submission guidelines and contest rules, visit The deadline for submissions is July 13, 2013. And here’s the legal stuff: Hatch Detroit is a Michigan based 501(c)(3) organization that champions and supports independent retail businesses in Detroit through funding contests, education, exposure, and mentoring.  Hatch Detroit was co-founded by Nick Gorga and Ted Balowski, Detroit natives who are passionate about the revitalization of the city and inspiring others in the community to create change.

Full Contest Schedule:
Submission Period:  June 3-July 13
Top Ten Announced:  August 8
Vote Opens Round 1: August 12
Top 4 Announced:  August 19
Vote Opens Round 2: August 19
Hatch Off/Winner Announced:  August 28

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One comment on “Have a bright idea for Detroit? These grants, programs hope to hatch the next great retailer

  1. This is a great idea for Detroit to expand and the surrounding suburbs. Please, please, please tell us how to vote i.e. what site(s), how to log on to sites, what to do when we get to the sites. So far I have spent hours on line just to find out where to do the voting – and I still haven't found it. I have left my email address )( with no responce. Why is voting such a mystery. It should be the easiest part of the contest, yet it's impossiabl to find. Please help! Thank you.

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