TechTown Takes Business Acceleration Services to Brightmoor Neighborhood
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programs in Brightmoor and they jumped right into the work. Mayes says that by the end of the calendar year, 40 to 50 small businesses will have benefitted from the SWOT programs, which, in addition to the business analysis piece, also include help with ideation, marketing, back office support, and connecting entrepreneurs to the right suppliers.
“The idea was to start with low-hanging fruit,” Mayes adds. “”We’re not starting on Fenkell; we’re not starting on 6 Mile. We wanted to work with the businesses already here to showcase Brightmoor as a spot for new business development. “Before we get back to bustling economic corridors, we need to revitalize the entrepreneurial spirit of the neighborhoods, so we’re starting with what we know has taken root already.” ”
Operating out of the Old Redford Community Resource Center on Lahser, TechTown’s business coaches are now fully embedded in the community, attending community events and meeting with entrepreneurs by appointment. Mayes says the next goal is to reach out to entrepreneurs who are less established, or to those who are still in the idea phase of starting a business.
Smith says she’s so pleased with how quickly the Brightmoor operation came together, and the immediate positive outcomes that she saw, that she’s eager to replicate the model in other Detroit neighborhoods. “If a community group is interested in our support, that’s where we can partner,” she says. “We can really apply our resources. Between our interns, volunteer mentors, and access to partners like Americorps, we’re telling other neighborhoods we’re ready to come when you’re ready. We can stand up a team in a day.”
That legitimacy that TechTown lends to the entrepreneurial ecosystem makes them the perfect entity not only to start doing this kind of business outreach work in Detroit’s outlying neighborhoods, but also to set the pace for other organizations who might be interested in similar efforts. “TechTown has a strong track record—those who have seen that growth in downtown and Midtown have seen the success.”
Though Mayes appreciates the renewed business interest in Midtown and downtown Detroit, he says the whole city will need to be part of the revitalization efforts to truly fix what ails Detroit. “It’s great that people are finally realizing the gem of the central city, but it’s my job to make people remember that the neighborhoods of Detroit, in their heyday, were some of the best in the world,” he adds. “We can bring that back, but we need to reevaluate the post-industrial culture, and that takes time.”