How do you jumpstart business, Detroit style? Set up an event where 50+ of the best minds in the city get together in one room to offer their best ideas and limitless support.
On Nov. 19, more than 200 newbie entrepreneurs will hang out and learn from groups such as Kiva Detroit, Bizdom, D:hive, Hatch Detroit, Green Garage and Ponyride. It will all happen at the first “BizGrid Live!,” a free event that hopes to partner the city’s finest resources with those who need said resources.
Your ordinary “business networking” event involves people standing behind vanilla folding tables, meekly handing out brochures and pencils. “BizGrid Live!” will be the opposite of that, said organizer Stephanie Fries. This will feel more like speed dating on speed. The emphasis there is “speed.” You’ll have about two minutes to get your business idea out there, meet some folks and decide whether you’re right for each other.
What is the event’s main message, Ms. Fries? “You can come to the city, there are organizations out there to help you with whatever stage you are in, whatever help you need,” said Fries, Relationship Manager for The Front Door at Wayne State University.
Why only two minutes (roundabout)? It’s not about being pushy, Fries said. Rather, the goal is to put potential business owners in front of EVERYONE that they’ll need to get their brainstorm out of the sky and into a Detroit storefront. To achieve that, everyone needs to be ready with their best two minutes – and further conversation can take place once attendees see how much Detroit has to offer in terms of mentoring, financing, retail/office space and other support. Hey, if you can express yourself in 140 characters or a status update, you can do this.
Some background: BizGrid is this amazing, mind-blowing document (no, really. I’m not kidding) that synthesizes every asset Detroit has in terms of business development. It’s the first thing I’ve ever seen that helped me get my pea-sized brain around the many organizations here that handle startup issues in a real, easy format. In other words, you might know the name Ponyride, but do you know what they do? BOOM! BizGrid shows you. Put your finger on the lines, follow the grid and start your business. It’s super easy to understand, super easy to use and darn pretty, too. Win-win-win.
Six organizations collaborated to make this document real: D:hive, Bizdom, TechTown, InsYght, the New Economy Initiative (NEI) and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. They researched the heck out of this thing, making sure all of the big guys (U.S. Patent Office, Small Business Association) and the long timers (ACCESS, Detroit Regional Chamber) and the up-and-comers (Detroit Soup, Kiva Detroit) all got on the board. They’re all here, and it is super clear what they do and how they can help you.
Representatives from the BizGrid organizations will be at the Live! event, all hanging out at these high-top tables with open ears. They’ll quickly recognize what you’ll need to get your idea off the ground. You need real estate? Go see so-and-so. You need money? Check out this guy or that guy. Maybe you want a mentor to bounce things off of as you get started – then you’ve gotta meet blah-blah-blah. It will be individualized, specific and fast. You’ll probably never have another afternoon like it.
Figuring out how people connect – how these 54 organizations initially connected on the BizGrid work so well with one another – is about understanding how powerful Detroit really has become. Too often, businesses don’t work together to share resources because they’re scared of the competition. Not so, here.
“What I love is the message coming out of this,” Fries said. “And that is when one small company wins, Michigan wins. One small step for my business is one giant step for the state. … If my business grows with the use of BizGrid resources, it will grow my revenues, extend our tax base, create jobs and invigorate Detroit as a great place to do business.”
And if that isn’t enough, there will be four breakout sessions on topics that are real and useful. These panels will have awesome insights on topics such as “Getting out of your head: How to move your business from idea into action” and “How to turn nickels into gold: Creative ways to fund your startup.” Then there’s “Popups to Permits: Real estate for small business” and “Data for Business Decisions: How to Understand Customers, Identify Competitors, and Establish your Price.”
The NEI (which does all of its work to ensure there is a network of support for business development in the area and state) is funding this event, and it is free and open to anyone who wants to start a business in Detroit or needs support for their business. This is one of the most sincere efforts around – both BizGrid, which is a living document, and the work of every organization on that chart.
“There are organization out there that want to help business grow and develop in Detroit,” Fries said, and truer words have never been said. “There is an entrepreneurial community here. … There are 50-plus organizations out there that want to help you.”
Tipping point, people. I’ve said and written it before. I truly believe Detroit is changing and has made the turn toward becoming a serious, thriving city we can all be proud of, no matter if you live, work or play there. Events like “Biz Grid Live!” are major parts of that movement.
Kudos to Fries and Wayne State University and its partners for making this event come to fruition. It’s a great start – and Detroit needs all of the great starts it can get.
“There’s no more going down. We can only go up,” Fries said. “At the end of the day, you’re not alone in this.”
To register for BizGrid Live!, which runs from 1-5 p.m. Nov. 19, click here. (In hopes of offering complete clarity, the above-mentioned cocktails won’t be free. But the appetizers will be. So stay afterward for the afterglow if you can.)