No city can be labeled “broken” when it has something like Comerica Hatch Detroit shoring up its weaknesses.
And nothing can crush our hustle when a room full of 10 entrepreneurs with face-cracking smiles can create excitement not only about what we are lucky enough to have now but what could be in the future.
Comerica in partnership with Hatch Detroit went through nearly 200 business plans to pick the top contenders to be Metro Detroit’s next Big Business Thing. I mention the larger region because the companies in question can set up in one of three cities: Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park. This is new twist to the three-year-old contest, and it seems fitting considering how much real estate in available in these three struggling cities.
But when you build in a struggling city, you tear away a small part of the damage and put something with possibility in its place. And that is what Hatch also has done – instead of just announcing some really smart business ideas and then crowning one winner, it gives every finalist the support it needs to truly see what was written on paper be brought into being. Oh, and the biggest vote getter will win $50,000 and a ton of business services and support from the small-business experts at Comerica.
“The contest is only as good as the contestants,” said Hatch co-fouinder Nick Gorga, an attorney at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP in Detroit.
Gorga said he and co-founder Ted Balowski thought up Hatch at a bar about three years ago. Their goal was to do something that could help revitalize the city and, in turn, its neighborhoods. It was a small contribution, they thought. But its impact has been significant – many of the Hatch contestants from those first two rounds now have viable businesses or in the process of development within Detroit and Hamtramck.
“We’ve always seen independent storefront retail as the lifeblood of a community,” Gorga told the audience of about 50 people who attended Thursday’s event.
When the public voting starts on Monday via the Hatch website and Facebook, you then will be able to narrow down the Top 10 to the Final Four. When voting ends Aug. 28, the four will be presenting in a “Hatch Off” event scheduled to be held the next day, Aug. 29.
But between then and now, it behooves you to meet these urban entrepreneurs. Most already have businesses in various stages – either working out of a cooperative kitchen, sharing space within a larger facility or available via delivery to your home. Getting to sample their wares, talk to their founders and hear their stories Thursday night during the Top 10 announcement was extremely helpful in determining where my valuable votes will go.
Without further blathering, here are your Comerica Hatch 2013 finalists:
Batch Brewing Company is in the process of becoming Detroit’s first nano-brewing company. Its proposed home will be 1444 E. Michigan Avenue, where the process of uncovering its original beauty, said founder and head brewer Stephen Roginson. The IPA Batch offered Thursday was extremely smooth and shows how tasty nano will be. Another bonus: Batch will have a “Feelgood Tap,” a monthly rotating tap with a percentage of its proceeds going to a local charity partner. It also will help other small breweries develop their brand through their “Brewery Incubator” program.
Busted! hopes to become the go-to location for fashionable females (and smart male shoppers who know their women). The local bra boutique will carry sizes from 30A to 56K when it is at full capacity. Owner Lee Padgett notes, “There are 700,000 people in this city, and 53 percent are female,” so there is a need for her useful yet beautiful items. Specializing in making “the perfect fit”, Busted! also will offer parties for small groups and private events.
Corktown Cinema is the sequel to the celebrated Burton Theater. During its early run, the Burton was the place to see films that you could not find among mainstream move houses: arthouse, independent, LGBT, foreign, second-run mainstream, local and cult films. Although they closed unexpectedly, this revised version has promise and will be even more entertaining the second time around.
Detroit Barber and Shave Shop takes the style of a former Michigan State University basketball player Isaiah Dahlman with the brains of CPA Brandon Maake. Their goal is to open an upscale barbershop in downtown, giving world-class haircuts, haves and products. Think of warm towels, intellectual conversations and chess boards, and you’ll get the feel for this potentially swanky hot spot.
Eartha’s Natural Hair & Body Boutique will take the best local and nationally available hair and skin products and bring them into Detroit. The boutique is the brainchild of owner and founder Dr. Dameshia Edwards, who has a doctorate degree in pharmacy. So she can offer advice, education and more along with her selection of chemical-free, all natural and organic products for hair and skin.
HenriettaHaus Coffee Roasters operates now inside Ferndale’s Rust Belt Market, and there are plans on opening a storefront in Hamtramck. The store is inspired by owner Amy Duncan’s favorite painting of a woman named Henrietta, whose face is as memorable as her hand-made coffee and snacks. Plus, there are sweet, sticky waffles that are finger-licking good.
Mama’s Sweet Side is a family-owned bakery established in 2011 that specializes in cakes. Specifically, rich, decadent cakes that have surprising flavors and textures. Siblings Anthony and Kathleen Haralson can make anything you want, he told me, as long as it is within their expertise to make it melty and awesome. And based on tasting their pineapple-coconut cake, I’d say they have the power. Their goods are sold at Whole Foods and by special order.
Spielhaus Toys will be an independent specialty toy store serving the families of Detroit and its visitors. The toys sold here will be silly yet smart, giving its potential owner hours of pleasure (and the owner’s parents hours of quiet…a true win-win for everyone). Based on how much fun Kurt Spieles was having Thursday night playing there, I’d say the environment here would be a joy for all ages.
Treats by Angelique is an artisan sweet shop that specializes in a wide variety of cookies, cakes, cupcakes, brownies and more. Angelique Robinson makes everything from scratch with real butter and with local ingredients. Let’s just say that trying her cookies Thursday made me realize that I would drive across the state to have another one. Robinson is thinking of settling in Midtown or the Avenue of Fashion, and her store would be a destination location.
Voigt’s Soda House is a young, interesting take on the old-fashioned soda counters of Detroit’s recent past. Sarah Pavelko’s homemade concoctions are inventive and tasty. Let’s just say I’ve never thought that a celery flavor would be refreshing – but I was wrong. It is the definition of summer. And, don’t worry, adult beverages as well as tasty sandwiches will be included.
Vote Monday. Vote often.