A new resource center in downtown Detroit is expected to serve as a hub for Black-owned businesses to utilize free resources and build connections. And a new training program for Black-owned businesses has launched.
The Black Business Resource Center, created by the Metro-Detroit Black Business Alliance, is located at 1234 Washington Blvd., in downtown Detroit. It offers free internet, co-working spaces, a conference room and printing. There will also be opportunities to attend workshops and seminars, along with gaining connections and community resources.
And the National Business League, Comerica Bank and General Motors are collaborating with the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City to offer free education and training to Black-owned businesses through the Black Technical Assistance Initiative. This program will offer 40 hours of education, webinars and coaching to 75 to 100 business owners in Detroit.
Here’s how both groups are planning to provide resources to Black-owned businesses:
Resource center launches in Detroit
The Black Business Alliance has a goal to close the racial wealth gap. All Black-owned businesses will be able to utilize the Black Business Resource Center for free during the month of September. When the month is over, MDBBA members will be able to utilize the space for free and nonmembers can use the space at a cost.
“I am excited about this place because it’s a tangible representation of the work that we’ve been doing for the past five months,” said Charity Dean, president and CEO of the alliance. “Ultimately, our goal is to be present and a tangible resource for Black-owned businesses. So if you’re a Black-owned business in metro Detroit, you know that you have a place for you to come and use our internet and do your printing.”
At the grand opening Monday, people were inquiring about hosting meetings in the conference room or giving presentations in the co-working space. The organization is also planning to purchase computers for people to use.
“The biggest thing is the collaboration,” said Kai Bowman, COO of the alliance. “I want this to be a space where Black business owners and great minds come together to collide and come up with even better ideas. In our membership, we’ve got a good cross section of new entrepreneurs and seasoned entrepreneurs. I really want it to be a place where great Black minds come to meet, innovate, create together and hopefully generate something amazing.”
The group is accepting applications for a new program called Capital Connect, which will take business owners through the process of obtaining capital for their businesses.
“Essentially, what we’re doing is helping (business owners) with all of the processes that it takes for them to build a loan or grant application to then apply for Detroit’s various funding resources,” said Autumn Kyles, the group’s program manager for Capital Connect. “Our goal is to make sure that just about every business who goes through the Capital Connect program gets some type of funding at the end.”
Black-owned businesses often face barriers in obtaining capital. Kyles said they have developed partnerships to make the underwriting process transparent, along with assisting in creating a business and finance plan. The deadline to apply for the first Capital Connect cohort is Friday..
The organization has over 200 members after launching five months ago with a $1 million contribution from Huntington Bank. It currently hosts a Black-owned business directory website called the Hastings Street Index, and has assisted business owners with seeking over $2 million since its launch.
Training program to provide mentors
Black-owned businesses in Detroit can now apply to receive free training from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City’s program called Inner City Capital Connections, what they call a “mini-MBA” program. This program is being brought to Detroit’s small business owners by the National Business League, Comerica Bank and General Motors.
The 40 hours of training, mentorship, coaching and webinars will start in October, and will offer virtual strategy planning for businesses that are in underserved communities and have been affected by COVID-19.
“As a response to the severe impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Black businesses in the city of Detroit and nationally, it is important that our national organization provides measurable solutions in response to economic problems,” said Kenneth Harris, president and CEO of the National Business League, in a news release.
“Being that there are more than 49,000 Black-owned businesses in the city of Detroit, which comprise 80% of Detroit’s 62,000 small businesses, the Black Technical Assistance Initiative will aim to help these neighborhood enterprises build the necessary capacity, scope, and scale to compete in the growing minority marketplace throughout the United States of America and globally.”
Business owners will also be able to attend a national conference by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, which will connect them with those who provide capital and work on resilience strategy building. This will be the fourth Detroit small business cohort of the ICCC program, which graduated 171 business owners and raised $129 million in capital from 2011 to 2013.
“There are a large number of businesses in Detroit that are poised for growth, but do not have access to the resources needed to grow,” said Steve Grossman Initiative for a Competitive Inner City CEO, in a news release. “The Inner City Capital Connections program aims to create sustainable small business ecosystems in which their owners prosper, helping to reduce concentrated poverty, close the racial wealth gap and revitalize communities.
“We are thrilled that this partnership with GM, the National Business League, and Comerica Bank is supporting the ICCC program’s return to Detroit and supporting the region’s small business owners.”
A virtual information session will be held 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 15 for business owners to learn more about the program.
The deadline to apply for the program on the ICIC website is Sept. 24. Some of the qualifications include: being a for-profit, nonprofit or independent corporation, partnership or proprietorship; having a headquarters or 51% of operations in an economically distressed area or 40% of employees living in an economically distressed area, have your business operating for two or more years; and have history of revenue for more than two years.