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Flash Delivery partnership to bring Eastern Market's Red Truck Produce to your door

Later this month, Detroiters can go online, select from an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, and made-in-Michigan favorites, and, with a few clicks, have their order delivered directly to their home or workplace, thanks to a partnership between Eastern Market’s Red Truck Fresh Produce and Flash Delivery.
With a projected launch date of Nov. 15, Flash Delivery could help customers get turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes on the table by Thanksgiving.
The exclusive deal is a coup for Flash Delivery, the two-year-old Detroit startup led by entrepreneurs Ericka Billingslea and Tatiana Grant.
Better than planned
As a growth objective, the team sought a relationship with a regional chain like Meijer or Kroger, but when negotiations didn't materialize, Billingslea and Grant redoubled their efforts to strike a deal closer to home, and found a partnership that is more in line with their business ethos.
"To be honest, we were turned down by Meijer and Kroger, and a couple of years ago we attempted to get this off the ground, and it fizzled out and we never revisited the concept," Grant says of initial hopes with Eastern Market.
She re-pitched Eastern Market—this time with success. "We had an impromptu meeting, and they said this is something we might be able to get to work," Grant says.
It works for the bottom line too. Red Truck Fresh Produce staff will receive and package the orders for Flash Delivery drivers to collect and deliver, increasing profitability and efficiency over having drivers "shop" the orders on behalf of customers, Grant says.
A learning curve
The big picture focused quickly, but finer points required additional work, delaying the launch by a couple of months, Grant says.
"From a software perspective, we had issues synching the two systems," she says. Unlike their restaurant meal delivery service, which initiates with customer contact at Flash Delivery’s website, grocery delivery will begin from Red Truck Fresh Produce. This will be seamless to customers, as they will still begin their order at Flash Delivery's site.
"At the present we will be sending people to a specific URL," Grant says. "When the order comes in, [Red Truck] will send it to us, which is the reverse of how we started. This process makes it easier from a partnership perspective. We just get a notification, and we send it right over to our driver's phone."
Grant and Billingslea also conducted research to outfit their drivers' vehicles to best accommodate groceries.
"We settled on a combination of plastic crates and mesh containers, which keep things separated and upright," Grant says. "We also have coolers for things that need to stay cold," Grant says.
A wider customer demographic
Red Truck Fresh Produce, owned jointly by Eastern Market Corp. and the Warren-based Community Growth Partnership, accepts Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, payments. Grant says this creates opportunity for Flash Delivery to reach customers happy to save time and taxi fare by having their EBT-qualified purchases delivered.
"This will expose us to a further demographic that we couldn’t serve before. It's a win-win for both of us because we have been looking for a grocery partner and Red Truck will increase their sales volume," says Grant, adding that future growth will likely include business-to-business deliveries of fresh produce to area restaurants.
Just the right step
With Flash Delivery, Southeast Michigan Eastern Market fans can shop local, even when life gets busy and weather is uncooperative, Grant says.
"We are looking forward to giving people an Eastern Market experience direct to their door," Grant says. Customers can even take advantage of fresh, custom-designed meal ingredients, complete with chef-designed recipes already available in the store.
"Of course we were bummed when we were unable to move forward with regional and national companies," Grant says. "But the majority of our customers are pro-Michigan and pro-Detroit and for them to be able to get locally sourced fresh foods and Michigan-made products, it made more sense for us. We are looking forward to being able to tout that as well."
Claire Charlton is a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

Downtown co-working space to double in size, eyes big future

The Bamboo Detroit co-working space downtown is focused on the growth of its tenants, providing facilities, resources, and programming to freelancers and startups alike.

That commitment has resulted in the company's own expansion. Bamboo recently announced a new location twice the size of their current one at 1442 Brush St., growing from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet of co-working facilities and more.

Come January 2017, Bamboo will open its doors on the third floor of the historic Julian C. Madison building at 1420 Washington Blvd. Construction is currently underway.

The new Bamboo location will count 20 dedicated desks, seven private offices, and three conference rooms among its new features. The private offices are in direct response to customers' needs, co-owner Amanda Lewan says. The current location doesn't offer private offices, a fact that Lewan says led to a loss of potential tenants.

The top floor of the new location boasts a loft-style events space, something Bamboo will use for job fairs and other pro-business programs. Also planned is a large cafe area, complete with coffee and snacks. In April, Bamboo won a $30,000 Motor City Match grant to help build the cafe.

"Be really clear about what you need; have a really clear budget," Lewan says to future Motor City Match applicants. "It might not be perfect, you might still be playing around with it as you get close to the end, but if you have a really clear plan, people can get on board with it."

The company believes that the expansion will result in significantly more tenants, with Bamboo expecting the amount to grow from the current count of 120 to 300 tenants. 

Bamboo currently has a pop-up co-working space at MASH Detroit on the city's east side. Lewan says Bamboo may one day have multiple co-working sites throughout the city and its neighborhoods.

Landline Creative Labs receives $56,000 grant from Ann Arbor SPARK

Landline Creative Labs' plan to create a complex of nine low-cost creative studio spaces in Ypsilanti has received a big hand from Ann Arbor SPARK in the form of an Innovate Ypsi grant.

Mark Maynard, co-founder of the $650,000 mixed-use development in downtown Ypsi, says the $56,000 performance-based grant will help with the costs of getting the project up and running. The Landline team has completed demolition in the former Michigan Bell building the project will occupy, and is now turning towards building out studio spaces.

“It'll help tremendously, and it's really helped us to move quickly,” Maynard says. "Today we have carpenters in the space, a historic window restoration team, plumbers, and electricians."

Expected to open in early fall, Landline will complement the SPARK East Incubator in Ypsi, according to Jennifer Olmstead, a senior business development manager at SPARK who oversees the Innovative Ypsi program.

“In order for downtown Ypsi to be successful, it needs to develop a critical mass of successes and a mix of businesses, retail and residents,” Olmstead says.

SPARK's support for the project isn't necessarily limited to providing funds. SPARK has also helped Landline secure a tax incentive from the city of Ypsilanti. Olmstead says SPARK is committed to helping Landline, and similar efforts in the area, succeed through access to its range of development and talent services.

"The success of Landline Creative and the momentum it is building in Ypsi is an important next step for downtown Ypsi, and certainly a story that Ann Arbor SPARK can use to highlight the types of businesses that can achieve success in Ypsi," she says. "Entrepreneurs at all levels...are looking for communities that provide a sense of place and affordable rents and downtown Ypsi has all of these ingredients."

Pro-granny flats ordinance moves forward in Ann Arbor

Granny flats are a major step closer to coming to a college town near you. An ordinance that would allow the addition of granny flats, technically known as accessory dwelling units, to single-family homes in the city of Ann Arbor has been recommended for approval by the city's Planning Commission. A vote for approval of the ordinance could come before the end of summer.

Accessory dwelling units are small apartments homeowners building on their property. It could be anything from constructing a mother-in-law suite above a garage or a basement apartment for a son who just graduated. Theses units are typically used to house family members while giving them their own private space or to allow older people to generate a little rental income.

"They increase the opportunities for the homeowner to age in place," says Chris Cheng, planner for the city of Ann Arbor.

The ordinance has run into some opposition from people who are afraid this will open the door to create more student rentals in traditionally family oriented neighborhoods. And there has also been the predictable backlash of NIMBYs who don’t react well to change.

However, Cheng says the city has taken steps to help ensure this doesn't turn into a loophole for owners of single-family homes to turn them into student-rental duplexes. For instance, the property must be the homeowner’s principal residence except for temporary absences up to six months.

"We are trying to make this as simple as we can but still keep up with the neighborhood concerns," Cheng says.

The granny flats ordinance received its first reading in front of Ann Arbor's City Council in July. The second reading is set for August. Once that happens the City Council can vote on it or table the issue.

New subdivision, North Oaks, breaks ground in Ann Arbor

Earth is moving at one of the largest development projects in Ann Arbor this summer. Workers have begun construction on the North Oaks of Ann Arbor subdivision.

The North Oaks of Ann Arbor development calls for nearly 500 new homes on the north side of Ann Arbor over the next decade. Toll Brothers s redeveloping 109 acres of former farmland at the intersection of Nixon and Dhu Varren roads into a sub division of townhomes, carriage houses, and green spaces. Toll Brothers plans to keep 42 of the 109 acres as forest/green space when everything is built out.

"It flows really well with what is up there already," says Jeff Brainard, assistant vice president of the Michigan Division of Toll Brothers.

The development is divided into two sections bisected by Dhu Varren. The north parcel will constitute 208 carriage houses where the living quarters will be above the garage. The south parcel will be made up of 264 townhouses.

The carriage houses will be about 1,900 square feet each with three bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Prices for them will start in the upper $200,000. The townhouses will be about 2,200 square feet with either three or four bedrooms each. Those are priced in the upper $300,000s.

Brainard points out that the master plan calls for a combination of dense housing and some commercial development. Toll Brothers is planning to remove the commercial aspect and focus on creating a medium-density of housing.

"We are also at half the density of what we could build there according to the city's master plan," Brainard says.

Greening of Detroit program helps unemployed harvest careers

The Greening of Detroit is heading up an initiative that aims to give careers to the chronically unemployed, while also beautifying the city.

The Detroit Conservation Corps provides unemployed residents in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park job training and certification in the landscape industry. It's recruiting people who have struggled to overcome barriers to maintaining a full-time job, such as incarceration, substance abuse, homelessness, lack of education or job skills.

Helping these people become part of the everyday workforce isn't a simple task.

"Being able to recreate hope in the first couple of weeks is the biggest challenge," says Devon Buskin, workforce development director of the Greening of Detroit. "We have to build a trust because they have been disappointed so many times before."

The Detroit Conservation Corps does this by harnessing the wrap-around services and resources of several partners, including Focus: HOPE, Neighborhood Services Organization, and the McGregor Fund

The hope is for members of the Corps to start over and stabilize their lives. Participants receive training in landscaping, forestry, snow removal, and floral decor. Each eight-week session provides participants with technical training, work readiness skills, and case management services. Upon graduation, trainees are placed directly into jobs. It graduated 54 people from the program in June.

The Detroit Conservation Corps is partnering with the city of Detroit to work on local projects that are transforming the neighborhoods where the participants live into healthier, greener spaces. One such project is clearing and prepping nearly 300 vacant lots in the Fitzgerald neighborhood on the city's west side.

Greening of Detroit has set a goal to train and employ 2,500 Detroiters by 2020.

Go! Ice Cream targets opening own shop in downtown Ypsilanti

Rob Hess has a dream, a dream that includes opening up a new ice cream store in downtown Ypsilanti. And he would like your help to make it happen.

The Ypsilanti resident has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help him finance the opening of the first permanent home of Go! Ice Cream. Today the fledgling business that makes craft ice cream is sold from the cooler of his tricycle and at the events he caters. Hess aspires to open an ice cream store at 10 N Washington, activating a vacant storefront and deserted alley in downtown Ypsilanti.

"I searched high and low for the right place," Hess says. He adds he spoke to local developer Stewart Beal and other local stakeholders to find the right spot. "I really want a space in downtown Ypsilanti. When you walk through downtown you can see a lot of vacant storefronts."

And that means opportunity for Hess. He has raised a little more than $6,000 of his $30,000 goal as of Tuesday afternoon. If Hess raises the money he plans to have the kitchen ready by early next year and the storefront open to the public by May.

Hess got started making ice cream as a hobby a few years ago. Check out a previous feature on Go! Ice Cream from Concentrate here. The videographer at the University of Michigan quickly got sucked into the craft of making ice cream.

"I got interested in the chemistry behind it," Hess says. "You can do a lot of subtle things to tweak the texture and flavor."

Soon he had a freezer full of his homemade ice cream and no room for any of his vegetables. So he started giving it away to friends and family. They started offering to pay him for it and the entrepreneurial light went off over his head. He started working with Zingerman's, which agreed to pasteurize the ice cream for him, and he had a real business on his hands.

"Once I figured that out I thought, 'Let's see if people will respond to $9 a pint ice cream?'" Hess says.

They responded well. Hess, an avid bicyclists, bought a tricycle to sell Go! Ice Cream's flavors across the city. He now sells ice cream to about 700 people per month and growing. He hopes to grow that number even faster when he has his own store where people can come to him.

Source: Rob Hess, owner of Go! Ice Cream
Writer: Jon Zemke

Fortune Magazine highlights growth of black women-owned businesses in Detroit

The number of women-owned businesses is on the rise in the U.S., having grown by 74 percent over the last 18 years.  The number of businesses owned by black women, however, is growing at an even more astounding rate of 322 percent over the same period. That makes black women the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country, according to a recent story by Amy Haimerl for Fortune Magazine.
Haimerl highlights Build Institute, an organization dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs grow their businesses, and Detroit small business owners Danielle Smith of Detroit Maid and Carla Walker Miller of Walker Miller Energy Services.
Writes Haimerl:
"In Detroit, where city leaders, foundations, and even President Obama have promoted entrepreneurship as an economic development tool, a tiny nonprofit is making outsize efforts at helping black women become business owners. Since it was formed in 2012, the Build Institute has graduated nearly 600 students from its eight-week courses, which teach the basics of starting and running a business, including such topics as money management and how to determine your break-even point. Nearly 70% of those students are women, and 60% of them identify as a member of a minority group."
Read more: Fortune

MEDC pledges aid for N'Namdi-led arts district

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has launched another matching grant program for a successful crowdfunding campaign, this time by influential Detroit art dealer and developer George N'Namdi. If N'Namdi can raise $30,000 in 30 days, the MEDC will award N'Namdi another $30,000.

George N'Namdi is the owner of N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Midtown. His goal is to establish a new arts district around the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard. The crowdfunding campaign will help finance Quarter Pop on Grand River, an arts incubator and gallery and retail district that will rotate entrepreneurs in and out of renovated storefronts in three month increments. The 4200 block of Grand River Ave. is the focus of the project.

"The vision for the Quarter Pop is to create and activate a space where Detroit creatives can gain success for their businesses while strengthening the neighborhoods around them," says N'Namdi. "Quarter Pop will be a huge catalyst for creative cultural change in the Grand River Creative Corridor, Detroit, and beyond."

Quarter Pop occupants will receive marketing, accounting, and legal advice along with entrepreneurial mentorship. An emphasis will be put on creative retailers. Money raised will be put toward construction and business service costs.

This is not the first time the MEDC has pledged matching grant money toward crowdfunding campaigns. In November 2014, a campaign was announced to fund the construction of a skate park at the old Wigle Recreation Center. That campaign was soon aborted as it was discovered that the city of Detroit seeks to sell the property. In August 2014, the MEDC pledged matching grant money toward a new green alley in Midtown, which began construction in September of that year.

N'Namdi has until Feb. 13 to raise the $30,000. As of this reporting, the project has already received over $17,000 in pledges from just 6 donors. The campaign is being hosted by crowdfunding site Patronicity.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative intern to live in city's first shipping container house

A lucky intern at the nonprofit Michigan Urban Farming Initiative will become the first person to inhabit a house made from a shipping container, reports the Detroit News.

The container is currently being converted into occupiable housing in the parking lot of General Motor’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. Once completed, it will be moved to Michigan Urban Farming Initiative's headquarters on Brush Street in New Center.

The nonprofit purchased the container for $3,000, but estimates that it will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to convert it into a home. According the News, "Local GM workers will volunteer to convert the container into a home and 85 percent of the materials will be scrap from local GM plants."

Read more in the Detroit News.

LOVELAND Technologies previews Motor City Mapping

Evolution. It's becoming an increasingly important word in describing the Motor City Mapping project.

The ambitious initiative originally set out to produce a comprehensive list of all of Detroit's blighted properties. It quickly became an effort to catalogue each of the Motor City’s 400,000 properties. The database will contain pictures and the condition of each property in Detroit, regardless of whether it is blighted or in pristine shape, contains a building or is vacant land.

The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force sent 100 surveyors and 50 drivers out to start taking pictures and assessing the condition of each of the city’s properties. They are passing the halfway mark (200,000 properties) this week. That information is compiled and sorted by teams from Data Driven Detroit and LOVELAND Technologies in TechTown where they are being catalogued into a digital database that will be made public.

"It's WhyDontWeOwnThis-like in that it's an individual parcel map,” says Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder of LOVELAND Technologies. "It's kind of like a coloring book. When you survey something it goes from red to green in the microhood."

Paffendorf and his team launched WhyDontWeOwnThis.com a few years ago as a way to sort through the thousands of tax foreclosed properties in Detroit. The website provided basic information about the properties, such as year built and building size, while tracking the tax auction bidding and sales.

Motor City Mapping’s website promises to be similar, providing a picture of the property and an assessment of its condition. Other information, such as ownership and tax status, might also be available further down the line. Paffendorf makes sure to reinforce the idea that the creation of the website is sill in the development stage and the concept of what it will provide is evolving.

Paffendorf says he wants it to serve as "an overall picture of occupancy in the city." However, ensuring that it stays up to date and accurate means it will have a public interaction component. Local residents and stakeholders will have the ability to further elaborate on the condition of property and even update the property's photo.

"This is sort of the people’s property catalogue," Paffendorf says. "It recognizes that there is only so much information the city can collect."

That means if a property devolves from occupied to abandoned or fire damaged, the community will be able to track it or even be given a more comprehensive depiction of its condition than the original surveying team. On the other side of the coin, people who improve property will be able to update the website’s information to reflect that.

"It also records when things get better as well," Paffendorf says.

Paffendorf expects the survey work will finish up in February as long as the weather doesn’t get too extreme. Surveying teams were kept at bay in recent days because of the recent large snowfall and subzero temperatures. Paffendorf declined to estimate how long it will take to get Motor City Mapping’s website up and running because the development process is still evolving.

"We're still up to our eyeballs trying to get this survey done," Paffendorf says.

LOVELAND Technologies has grown its team to seven people over the last year, including three recent hires. The new hires include one software developer and two community planners. It is also looking to hire one more software developer.

Source: Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder of LOVELAND Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mitten Crate helps locals discover Michigan-made foods

Andrew Chmielewski is a foodpreneur, running a small toffee company called Dave's Sweet Tooth. Cory Wright is a restaurateur who ran his own restaurant in New York City before recently moving back to Metro Detroit.

The two friends came together to start a new venture called Mitten Crate. The Royal Oak-based firm sends a package of Michigan-made food products once a month to people who subscribe to the service.

"It is a great way to be introduced to Michigan-made products," Chmielewski says. "They might not be able to pick them up at a store otherwise."

Chmielewski and Wright noticed that while Michigan-made food products are quite popular with their local audience, that sphere of influence is often limited to about a 30-mile radius of where the company is based. Mitten Crate helps Michiganders overcome that barrier by introducing them to a handful of new products each month.

"There is a wide range of products," Chmielewski says. Some of those products include McClary Bros. Old Timey Drinking Vinegar (Ferndale) and Al Dente Pasta Co (Whitmore Lake).

The company got its start in August. It sold 70 boxes in its first month and 144 last month. Chmielewski expects to see those numbers to continue to grow exponentially in the near future.

"We hope to have triple-digit growth going into the holidays," Chmielewski says.

Source: Andrew Chmielewski, co-founder of Mitten Crate
Writer: Jon Zemke
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