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The Craft Cafe Detroit thrives on city's lower east side

The Craft Cafe Detroit is off to a fast start. The "sip and paint" party venue opened last June on Mack Avenue, just blocks from city's eastern border with Grosse Pointe Park, and it's already turning away customers as some parties reach capacity. But that's a good problem to have.

While owner Candice Meeks is considering a move to a bigger location, she says she wants to keep the Craft Cafe in the neighborhood. Its location is part of the reason for its success.

"The location at Mack and Phillip, there's nothing like this in our community," Meeks says. "You have to drive downtown and pay for parking or drive out to the suburbs for this kind of fun. We need to keep something like this in the neighborhood."

Craft Cafe Detroit hosts a variety of celebrations, from birthdays to bachelorette parties. Guests can bring their own food and drinks while Meeks leads the party through a painting session. Subjects are pre-sketched onto each person's canvas, allowing them to paint along while Meeks teaches different techniques like blending colors. She also offers vision mirrors, where guests create collages on mirrors and then seal them with a clear coat finish.

Other parties include Eat | Paint | Drink, where refreshments are provided, and monthly date nights, where couples paint together.

Meeks credits a number of small business programs that helped her get off the ground. She graduated from ProsperUs Detroit, where she met her current landlord. Meeks was also the recipient of a $4,000 technical assistance grant from Motor City Match. She says she plans on using the grant money to help with marketing and website construction costs.

"Going through those programs really gave me a platform to open my own business," she says.

The Craft Cafe Detroit is located at 14600 Mack Ave. It's open Tuesday through Friday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Rochester company deconstructs, not demolishes, old homes

As is often the case for successful entrepreneurs, one business begets another. That's certainly true for Robert Bloomingdale, whose recently established Rochester Salvage & Supply most likely wouldn't have happened had it not been for his other booming business, Bloomingdale Construction.

Rochester Salvage & Supply specializes in reclaiming, repurposing, and reusing materials from deconstructed older houses. Bloomingdale Construction builds a lot of its houses in downtown Rochester, a town with plenty of old houses and virtually no empty lots, says Bloomingdale. That's where he got the idea for Rochester Salvage & Supply.

"We demolish a lot of older homes in the process of building new ones," says Bloomingdale. "I always felt bad about sending old, vintage materials to landfills. Now, we save what we can."

Rather than demolish the old houses, Rochester Salvage & Supply now methodically deconstructs them. Materials like shingles and siding are sent to be recycleda cost the company pays out of its pocket. Others, like salvaged lumber, are repurposed into furniture, and other items that can either be sold individually or built into the new homes constructed by Bloomingdale.

Bloomingdale contends that deconstructing a house costs more than twice as much as demolishing one. And paying for materials to be recycled isn't making him any money. But the reclaimed materials trend is a hot one right nowsomething Bloomingdale credits to HGTV shows and other media as having fosteredand he has been astonished by the feedback and interest he has received since announcing the formation of Rochester Salvage & Supply this past April.

For now, Bloomingdale says his goal is "to not lose money." It's a month into the new business and he's learning as he goesafter all, his business has been building homes, not deconstructing them. But he already has plans to expand Rochester Salvage & Supply from its base in Rochester to begin deconstructing homes in Pontiac. The business has had prior involvement in that community, donating materials to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore there and working with the Power Company Kids Club.

Rochester Salvage and Supply operates out of a warehouse on South Street in Rochester, though Bloomingdale prefers customers interested in reclaimed materials make inquiries via email. Reach him at [email protected]

U-M senior tackles global hunger and overfishing with insect feed

Eric Katz and Viraj Sikand were working at a salmon hatchery on a Native American reservation last year when they came up a business idea that called for making food with fewer fish and more insects.That was the day Kulisha was born.

Katz, a University of Michigan senior studying business, and Sikand, a Brown University senior studying environmental science, became fast friends last summer. Sikand spoke about a small village he visited in Kenya that had a big problem with overfishing. Essentially, the inhabitants were fishing not only for their own food but to also produce animal/fish feed to sell. This put a huge stress on the local aquatic ecosystem.

"We wanted to think of ways to help stop that from happening," says Katz, co-founder of Kulisha.

Kulisha, Swahili for "to feed," is their attempt to do just that. The company is creating a business model where villagers can create the animal and fish food from local insects instead of fish. They came up with the idea to use insects during a hike through a local reservation.

Today they have built out a team of five people and are planning a trip to Kenya to set up their operations this summer. They hope to begin production by July and expect to be on-site through September.

Source: Eric Katz, co-founder of Kulisha
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Final year of NEI's challenge to grant local businesses a total of $500K

On April 20, the New Economy Initiative (NEI) kicked-off the third and final year of the NEIdeas challenge, "a two-tiered challenge awarding $500,000 to existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park for their ideas to grow," as described in a press release.

The half-a-million dollar sum is divided into two grant tiers. For businesses that gross under $750,000 annually, NEI will award 30 grants worth $10,000. And for businesses that gross between $750,000 and $5 million annually, NEI will award two grants worth $100,000. Applying is as simple as explaining, in 500 words, an idea to expand your business that requires investment and is "impactful, courageous, interesting, achievable, and understandable." The application deadline ends June 1.

A key component of the NEIdeas challenge is that these grants are for existing small businesses -- those three years or older. So much reporting and grant-giving is devoted to new businesses that it's refreshing when a challenge like this rewards established businesses that haven't benefited as much from renewed interest in Detroit entrepreneurship. 

"This is a really special challenge that has had an incredible impact on local businesses and communities," says NEI communications officer Matthew Lewis by email. "In fact, we think NEIdeas is the only philanthropic challenge in the country that directly awards small businesses for their contributions to neighborhoods."

Past winners include Goodwells Natural Foods Market, which invested their reward in growing their inventory and marketing services for new bulk herbal apothecary offerings; The Hub of Detroit, which made improvements to the appearance of its storefront; and many, many more. They also released a fun hype video featuring some of those past winners

NEI will hold a series of informational events throughout May to help applicants. The next one takes place on May 4 at the Matrix Center in Osborne on Detroit's Northeast side. Click here for a complete list of those events.

NEI is a philanthropic effort that supports small businesses and entrepreneurs. It's funded by a host of foundations and institutions, and, since 2009, has awarded over $96 million in grants.

Disclosure: Matthew Lewis is a former managing editor of Model D. 

Knight Arts Challenge Detroit accepting submissions now through May 2

For the fourth straight year, the Knight Foundation will be awarding up to $3 million in grants to Detroit artists. The submission period begins today, April 4, and runs through May 2.

The Knight Arts Challenge has a broad concept, and is "open to anyone with an idea for engaging and enriching Detroit through the arts." The application is also simple. All you need to do is distill your project idea into 150 words and follow these three guidelines: 1) The idea must be about the arts. 2) The project must take place in or benefit Detroit. 3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

Two of the 170 prior winners include Hardcore Detroit, which explored the ‘70s Detroit dance craze in a documentary, and Detroit Fiber Works, a gallery and learning space that claims to be the only fiber arts studio in Detroit. 

“Almost everywhere you go in Detroit, you see Knight Arts Challenge winners inspiring and engaging our city,” said Katy Locker, Detroit program director for Knight Foundation, in a press release. “What’s next? We can’t wait to see what Detroit comes up with.”

The Knight Foundation will host two free community events on April 11 at the MOCAD and April 15 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The events are meant to support potential applicants, with past challenge winners and Knight Foundation arts program director Bahia Ramos in attendance. 

To submit your application to the challenge, click here

Build Institute hosts speed coaching event for small business owners

If you're a beverage, food, or hospitality small business owner, you should consider attending a free coaching event at the Build Institute Wednesday, April 13.

Dubbed "Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Speed Coaching," entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to get advice from experts in marketing, finance, legal advice, and much more. Attendees can sign up for stations most relevant to their business needs and receive quick consulting sessions. The organizers encourage entrepreneurs to bring samples of their product and come prepared with specific questions to facilitate the process. 

The proceeds begin at 6:00 p.m. with networking, and light fare and beverages, followed by speed coaching. 

The event takes place the Build Institute, a small business support organization that helps small businesses through classes, networking events, mentorship, and connecting owners to resources. 

Attendance to the American Dream Speed Coaching event is free. You must be over 21 to attend. To learn more, visit the facebook event page. To reserve your spot, visit the eventbrite page

Three Lyons Creative aims for big third year in Corktown

Three Lyons Creative is in the middle of its small business evolution. The media production firm is in that dynamic stage where it’s no longer just a small group of friends trying to make a job for themselves, but not quite to the point where it's an established small business in the community.

"We're in the in-between stage where we are going from startup to a legitimate business," says Tony Eggert, co-founder of Three Lyons Creative.

Two years ago, Eggert, his brother Daniel, and his cousin Mike Williams, launched the company in Hamtramck. They quit their day jobs so they could work to support Detroit brands and businesses through video, web, audio, and graphic artwork creation. The first year was all about getting on their feet. Last year was about something more than that.

"We have grown substantially over the last year," Eggert says. "We have worked with a lot of clients in and around the city."

Three Lyons Creative added four people to its team this year, including a CFO out of Chicago, rounding it out to seven people. Its workload has grown exponentially with Mercy Education Project, which offers support for low-income women and girls in education, and the Sugar Law Center, a legal aid nonprofit based in Midtown. Three Lyons Creative is also working on its own projects with a focus on improving the quality of life in the city.

"We designed a zine that's all about the state of the parks in the city," Eggert says. "It should launch this spring."

Three Lyons Creative moved to a Bee Hive co-working space inside the St Peter Episcopal Church in Corktown last May. The space is a little bit smaller than its previous home, but it puts the firm at the center of its client base.

"We have really been lucky to work with some fabulous local businesses and organizations that are inline with us ethically," Eggert says.

Source: Tony Eggert, co-founder of Three Lyons Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

Motor City Match seeks business and commercial property owners for third round of grants

Detroit entrepreneurs and commercial property owners are once again being encouraged to apply for the city's Motor City Match program. Applications are open for submission March 1-April 1. It's the third round of the program intended to stimulate Detroit's commercial corridors.

There are four major award categories for which business and property owners can apply for a share of $500,000 in grant funding. Each category is designed for business and property owners at different levels of building a business.

The first category is for business plans, which Motor City Match will help entrepreneurs develop. 

The second category seeks to match commercial property owners with business tenants. Buildings must be in good shape and entrepreneurs must have quality business plans or successful track records.

The third category will award architectural design assistance, construction documents, and priority permitting to business and building owners with recently signed leases.

The fourth and final category is for those with signed leases, quality business plans, and bids for building out the space, but who still have to bridge a financial gap. This category awards cash to such applicants.

Motor City Match was launched by Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation in 2015. Roderick Miller, CEO of the DEGC, says in a statement, "After two rounds of Motor City Match awardees, it's clear this program is making an impact in Detroit. From restaurants and retail establishments to service companies and even manufacturing, Motor City Match is growing neighborhood small businesses across the city."

According to officials, the Motor City Mach program has invested $1 million in 20 businesses to date, leveraging an additional $6 million in public and private investment. Motor City Match also points out that 70 percent of the 196 businesses and property owners that have received support are minority owned. Furthermore, two-thirds are from Detroit and half are minority woman-owned businesses.

Visit motorcitymatch.com for details on how to apply.

Disclosure: Model D receives support from Motor City Match to tell stories of small business development in the city's neighborhoods.

Sit On It Detroit to open furniture store and studio in Midtown

Sit On It Detroit is opening a store in the 71 Garfield building in Midtown. The custom furniture shop is renowned for the benches it's built, donated, and installed at roughly 50 bus stops around the city. The new location will serve as a space to both showcase some of its work and provide co-founders Kyle Bartell and Charles Molnar a place to sit down with clients and customers and hash out the planning and design part of the business.

While Sit On It Detroit is best known for fashioning reclaimed wood into free and creative benches at city bus stops, the company is also an accomplished designer and manufacturer of custom indoor furnishings. It's produced headboards for the home, the mason jar chandelier at Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles, and tables at Thomas Magee's Sporting House Whiskey Bar, among many other products.

The Midtown showroom gives Sit On It Detroit a more central location to display its wares and meet with clients, away from the flying sawdust and noisy tools of its workshop. It's a store-studio hybrid.

The workshop is located near McNichols and John R roads.

"There's a lot going on with this space and we're still figuring it all out," says Bartell. "It's not going to be your typical showroom or furniture store."

The duo values community engagement and placemaking, he says, and their location at 71 Garfield lends itself to those objectives. The building is an art cooperative, located along the same block as the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Among its tenants are artists, architecture firms, and pottery studios.

The spring is a busy time for Sit On It Detroit. The company hopes to install another ten benches at city bus stops as the warm weather comes. They've teamed with artists and sponsors to create new takes on the already unique benches.

Bartell says to expect a soft opening some time in mid-March. As for the official opening, they've set a target date of April 8, opening day for the Detroit Tigers baseball season.

Detroitists wanted: Challenge Detroit, DTX, NextEnergy seek applicants

The new year is well underway and that means one thing for current and aspiring Detroiters looking for an opportunity: it's application time.

Several of the Motor City's top fellowship programs and incubators are currently taking applications, including Challenge Detroit, TechTown's DTX Launch Detroit, and NextEnergy.

DTX Launch Detroit is accepting applications for its student tech accelerator. The 10-week program is geared toward college students and recent graduates, helping them figure out their startup's value proposition, conduct customer discovery, and build a team. An information session for the program will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at TechTown, 440 Burroughs in New Center.

NextEnergy is looking for entrepreneurs and researchers for its I-Corps Energy and Transportation program. The commercialization training program equips researchers and entrepreneurs with tech-to-market skills to move their ideas out of the lab and into the market.

Challenge Detroit is recruiting applicants for its yearlong leadership-development program aimed at attracting and retaining talent in Detroit. The fellowship program, which is aimed at recent college graduates, provides a living stipend, a full-time job, and community development opportunities.

Challenge Detroit has been bringing in dozens of fellows each year since its launch in 2012. It currently has 90 alumni and 30 people in its 2015-16 fellowship class. It plans to bring on another 30 fellows starting this summer. To shake it up, the nonprofit is recruiting participating host companies to nominate existing employees this year.

"We realized we want to be more inclusive of companies that want to participate in Challenge Detroit but can't afford a new hire," says Shelley Danner, program director for Challenge Detroit. "It's also a way for us to broaden our network."

Source: Shelley Danner, program director for Challenge Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Goodwill Industries opens new store, donation center in Ypsilanti

Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit is opening its sixth store in Metro Detroit on Ypsilanti's Carpenter Road near Ellis Road. The new facility will offer options for both donations and retail with the idea of serving Washtenaw County residents.

"It's a brand-new building from the ground up," says Jim Kornas, vice president of growth and marketing initiatives for Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. "It's our first store in Washtenaw County."

Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit is a non-profit based in Detroit’s North Corktown neighborhood. It focuses on helping provide job training, employment attainment, and similar opportunities for southeast Michigan's poor and working-class populations. One of its larger operations is its retail outlets. The stores not only help raise funds for the organization but provide retail jobs to people in its job-training programs.

"We provide that work experience so people can build a resume so we can essentially vouch for them to future employers," Kornas says.

Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit's Ypsilanti store employs 22 people. It's 14,378 square feet sell everything from gently-used clothing to kids games to books. There is also a donation center on site.

"Ypsilanti is a great area for donations," Kornas says. "One of the things a store like our's needs is great donations."

Source: Jim Kornas, vice president of growth and marketing initiatives for Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Boots on the Ground puts veterans to work making boots in Detroit

Boots on the Ground sees an America that doesn't only help its veterans find work but helps them create a career by making boots in Detroit.

The downtown Detroit-based nonprofit is working to create a jobs program for veterans through manufacturing an urban utility boot.

"There is a large population of veterans and young people who are unemployed or underemployed," says Jarret Alan Schlaff, co-founder and CEO of Boots on the Ground.

Boots on the Ground wants to help put those veterans to work. The organization has designed a high quality, ecologically conscious boot. The goal is to create the world's most sustainable boot. It is also aiming to create other products like shirts and hoodies.

Boots on the Ground has been working with New Work Collective in Detroit and has come up with prototypes and logos. Now it’s working on its manufacturing process and is aiming to launch a crowd funding campaign this summer.

"We will be doing a limited run [of boots] this year," Schlaff says, adding he expects them to sell out quickly.

The important part is to help transitions veterans into quality jobs and then careers. The 1-year-old non-profit wants to help the veterans fighting things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other challenges overcome to find a job, housing, and whatever else they may need to lead a successful life. The nonprofit has already hired its its first veteran and gets help from another 17 volunteers.

"It's more than just a job," Schlaff says. "We don't want to just pay a living wage. We imagine what it means to wage a living."

Source: Jarret Alan Schlaff, co-founder & CEO of Detroit Boots
Writer: Jon Zemke

Girls With Guts founder grows nonprofit into full-time job

Jackie Zimmerman helped launch Girls With Guts in 2012 with the idea of helping women battling Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Today her side project has turned into her full-time job.

Zimmerman has been working as a contractor for one of the Big Three in recent years while working to establish Girls With Guts on the side. Last fall the organization grew to the point where she was able to leave her day job to serve as the nonprofit's full-time executive director.

"We had this great problem of having a lot of money but not enough time to do anything with it," Zimmerman says. "We had to make a change of risk losing everything we had built."

Girls With Guts got is start at Wayne State University, where Zimmerman recently graduated from, with the help of Blackstone LaunchPad. The initial concept was simple: create a haven for women dealing with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It accomplished that by helping educate these women on the basics of managing the disease, finding new solutions to live a healthier life, and sharing information.

One of Girls With Guts' most popular programs is its annual retreat, which attracts dozen of women every year. The nonprofit’s online presence has steadily grown, too. Its Facebook page had 7,000 likes a little more than a year ago. Today it has more than 10,500.

Zimmerman and her team of volunteers are now working on grant applications to raise more money. They are also working to expand the offerings of Girls With Guts, including planning its fourth annual retreat.

"Our growth plan for 2016 is extensive and will likely grow exponentially the further we get in," Zimmerman wrote in an email. She adds, "We have expanded our programming a lot in the last two months."

Source: Jackie Zimmerman, executive director of Girls With Guts
Writer: Jon Zemke

The ascendance of metro Detroit's family foundations


It's hard to believe, but just 30 years ago, metro Detroit had no endowed family foundations. In recent years, however, names like Erb, Fisher, Davidson, Taubman, and Wilson have become well known to the people of metro Detroit—and for not how members of those families made their fortunes, but for how they are giving them away.
 
"The patriarchs of several major philanthropic Metro Detroit families have died in the last two years, leaving survivors, younger generations and foundation employees to carry on their legacies," writes Jennifer Chambers in a recent feature in the Detroit News on the increasing economic and social impacts  family foundations are making on metro Detroit.
 
"The impact of family foundations will be felt far and wide in the next decade, with billions of dollars coming into Detroit and the region, said Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan."
 
Read more in the Detroit News.

Paintings in Eastern Market, Woodbridge to celebrate Detroit's literary heritage


Ten writers, poets, and publishers, each with their own unique connection to the city of Detroit, will be the focus of an art unveiling Sunday, Sept. 20. The writers are featured in the latest installation of the Detroit Portrait Series, and each is the subject of one of 10 large portraits to be unveiled at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Shed 3 of Eastern Market. A poetry reading and book signing by five of the poets will follow the big reveal.

The Detroit Portrait Series is the work of artist Nicole Macdonald. The latest round includes Detroit literary figures Naomi Long Madgett, Bill Harris, Lolita Hernandez, Terry Blackhawk, Melba Joyce Boyd, Philip Levine, Mick Vranich, Dudley Randall, Robert Hayden, and Sixto Rodriguez. Each is the subject of a 5 ft. by 7 ft. portrait.

According to the artist, the Detroit Portrait Series was initially inspired by Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and its style of history-telling from the bottom up. Macdonald's previous portraits have included such Detroit luminaries as Hazen Pingree, Yusef Shakur, and Grace Lee Boggs.

The current round of portraits went on display Saturday, Sept. 12. The official public unveiling on Sunday, Sept. 20 will feature a meet-and-greet with Macdonald and readings from Long Madgett, Harris, Hernandez, Blackhawk, and Boyd. The readings will take place from 1-3 p.m., followed by a 3-4 p.m. book-signing.

After a month-long stay at Eastern Market, the portraits will be permanently installed over the boarded-up windows of the Liquor Store at Trumbull Avenue and the I-94 service drive in the Woodbridge neighborhood. The reason is two-fold; the series is sponsored by Woodbridge- and public art-boosters Dr. Lilian Lai and Larry John, and the party store location is across from Wayne State University, with which many of the subjects have some connection.

Writer: MJ Galbraith
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