Category for Blog Entries

Photo of male business owner of Baobab Fare

June is Immigrant Heritage Month

This month we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month by recognizing the huge role immigrant-entrepreneurs play by driving innovation and job growth. They are a critical component of the resilient Detroit economy.

From our last Impact Report, TechTown served 1731 entrepreneurs— 12% were immigrants. From that group, we profiled the following business owners, who shared with us their stories of how they overcame their fears and confronted the unknown, as well as what continues to inspire them to be the best they can be

Motor City Pride Parade in Detroit

Pride in Detroit

June is Pride Month, a time for the world to celebrate the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community, culture and activism. It’s also a great time to support LGBTQ-owned small businesses and organizations in metro Detroit – like Motor City Pride, a TechTown tenant!  About Motor City Pride  Motor City Pride is a volunteer-driven…

Coworking members working in TechTown coworking space

What are Drop-in Days?

What does TechTown offer? During our free drop-in day, amenities include fiber public wi-fi, free Ashe coffee and assorted tea, free parking, private phone booths and a kitchenette to store your packed lunch. Didn’t bring a lunch? We got you! Our front desk Community Ambassadors can direct you to an array of lunch alternatives within walking distance.

Janica Smith

Celebrating female entrepreneurs during Women’s History Month

By Mayte Penman, Bicultural Business Strategist, and Carrie Vestrand, Retail Strategist Women’s History Month is celebrated in March every year. We take this opportunity to acknowledge the successes and challenges unique to our female entrepreneur clients, recognizing one month is not nearly enough to honor the contributions women bring to our families and our society. The…

Bridging the gap for Black tech founders in Detroit

Dr. Marlo Rencher is an entrepreneur, anthropologist and educator with over two decades of experience in startup and small business development. She has founded or co-founded three tech startups and currently serves as TechTown Detroit’s director of technology-based programs. Detroit has a deep and growing pipeline of tech founders with validated ideas, strong value propositions…

Atomic Object Provides $5,000 Match to Help Black-Owned Tech Firms Bridge the Funding Gap

Atomic Object, a Michigan-based software development and design firm with offices in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Chicago, today announced it has committed $5,000 to TechTown Detroit’s new Startup Fund designed to grow, support and encourage greater diversity in the technological sector.   Donations to the fund currently are being accepted to specifically provide grants…

Mother’s Day Shopping Guide

Happy Mother’s Day! Treat mom today or any day of the week to well deserved treats from some of our favorite Detroit-based businesses. Ink Courage Inkcourage Encouraging stickers and tees CommiTeas Buy Tea Online in Detroit, MI | Tea Suppliers Detroit, MI – CommodiTeas For the tea lover Mama Coo’s Boutique Updates From Mama Coo’s…

Meet the Coach: Mayté Penman

313 STRONG is a customized support program for brick-and-mortar small businesses in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck neighborhoods. Our staff of passionate, skilled professionals provide one-on-one assistance to stabilize, adapt and remain responsive during COVID-19.   Meet Mayté Penman, a Bicultural Business Strategist for 313 STRONG and TechTown Detroit.   A native of Durango, Mexico, Mayté has lived in Michigan for over 25 years. Since January…

Meet the Coach: Heather Levine

313 STRONG is a customized support program for brick-and-mortar small businesses in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck neighborhoods. Our staff of passionate, skilled professionals provide one-on-one assistance to stabilize, adapt and remain responsive during COVID-19.  Meet Heather Levine, a Food & Beverage Business Strategist with 313 STRONG at TechTown Detroit. Heather just celebrated her four-year anniversary…

Meet the Coach: Warren Galloway

313 STRONG is a customized support program for brick-and-mortar small businesses in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck neighborhoods. Our staff of passionate, skilled professionals provide one-on-one assistance to stabilize, adapt and remain responsive during COVID-19.  Meet Warren Galloway, a 313 STRONG coach for TechTown Detroit. Warren, a Detroit native, has been with the TechTown team for…

Are You Ready to Facebook Live?

In these unprecedented times there is no time like the present to utilize this free Facebook tool to connect to your followers and even gain new ones. When used consistently and effectively, it could be the missing link you needed to not only strengthen your service offerings but connect to your audience and let them know you are here and ready to serve them now and into the future.  

To Pin or Not To Pin?

In this ever-changing world of retail, to the business owner it seems every time you turn around there’s ‘one more thing’ to do or pay attention to. We get it. We know how many hats a small business owner wears and that’s why we at TechTown Detroit’s Retail Services try and lighten that load where and when we can.

Retail 2020: Reflect and Recharge

We all love progress, but no one enjoys seeing the orange barrels come out during Michigan’s road construction season. Additionally, it takes on a completely different meaning if they appear outside the front door of your small business. For business owners on Livernois, Grand River and Bagley, this has been their reality all summer. Diggers, cement trucks, backhoes and semi-trucks zoom up and down the road, park in front of their businesses and rip up their sidewalks, making it even more difficult than normal to execute a marketing strategy.

Neighborhood Construction + Open Office Hours for Marketing

We all love progress, but no one enjoys seeing the orange barrels come out during Michigan’s road construction season. Additionally, it takes on a completely different meaning if they appear outside the front door of your small business. For business owners on Livernois, Grand River and Bagley, this has been their reality all summer. Diggers, cement trucks, backhoes and semi-trucks zoom up and down the road, park in front of their businesses and rip up their sidewalks, making it even more difficult than normal to execute a marketing strategy.

UNESCO Month of Design: Good Design is Good Business

Good design is good business. One could also say, good business is good design. Every touchpoint a customer has with a business — from the visual display on a website and store fixture to the way phones are answered and customer service issues are resolved — should be designed to attract revenue and invite loyalty. One touchpoint that many businesses use to engage with customers are pop-up events.

All Saints Literacy Center: A place to learn… A place to grow…

SWOT City alum All Saints Literacy Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit located in southwest Detroit that is committed to helping adults reach their educational, social and career goals by improving their literacy skills right in the heart of MexicanTown. The center is a welcoming place for learners to improve their reading, writing, math and English skills. The program serves adult learners ages 18 and older and welcomes all levels whether the person is a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner.

Shears & Shaves

Dawn Sanford always dreamt of opening her own salon. After a career spanning over 30 years, Dawn’s wish has finally come true with the grand opening of Shears & Shaves on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion.
Shears & Shaves offers a full spectrum of luxury grooming and spa services for men and women, including haircuts and styling, coloring, beard and mustache shaves and trims, nail care, skincare, fusion massage and aromatherapy, as well as shoe shining.

Collaborations Matter

TechTown’s SWOT City team is a customized support program for brick-and-mortar small businesses in Detroit neighborhoods. As part of this support, SWOT City team members (Portfolio Managers) connect small businesses to a rich network of subject matter experts in support of their coaching efforts. This group of professionals cares about strengthening Detroit through a unique approach to commercial corridor revitalization, job creation and economic development.There are many important aspects to running a small business. In today’s competitive omnichannel sales environment, a website that connects you to customers, represents your brand, provides sales opportunities and enhances your online presence is vital.On July 3, TechTown partnered again with Rebrand Cities, a global civic design partnership with, and Venture for America Fellows (VFA) to host a hackathon style event, in which 30 Detroit small businesses were assisted in developing their first websites. Two hundred VFA Fellows created new websites for businesses, led workshops and provided one-on-one sessions to help educate business owners on brand building, domain research and design.Six SWOT City businesses (including a Retail Boot Camp graduate) worked in partnership with VFA Fellows to produce new websites:Razzle Dazzle Nail Supply, Chasity Jones | Triangulo Dorado, Adrian and Karina Torre | triangulo-dorado.comMangonadas del Barrio, Antonio and Maribel Hernandez | Mangonadas del BarrioLa Rosita, Angelica Saenz | larositarestaurant.comEl Caporal, Antonio and Aracely Canchola | elcaporaldetroit.comQuince Primaveras, Eulalia Piña |“For so many years I tried to have a website for my business,” said SWOT City client, Eulalia Piña, owner of Quince Primaveras.” This seemed almost impossible since they are very costly. Finally, I have a website where customers from Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County can see the variety and brands of gowns we carry. I am really loving my website.”SWOT City Portfolio Managers at TechTown are here to support, encourage and connect businesses with other professionals who will offer the specific expertise needed to grow your business.  TechTown has a broad network of tools and resources, including subject matter experts, workshops and the Accenture Skills to Succeed online learning platform. At TechTown we know, collaborations matter!

Next-Level Pop-up Merchandising

With a little planning and purposeful decision-making, you can create a visually stunning pop-up display that can be scaled for a variety of spaces, make a strong statement about your brand and gain the interest of new customers.Pop-ups are a great way to test products, broaden brand exposure and awareness and gain new customers. Unfortunately, many vendors underestimate the value that well-executed visual merchandising can have on gaining new customers and increasing sales. If your display is boring or unattractive, customers will keep walking by, but if you can gain their attention, you have an opportunity to convert them to a customer for life.The effort you put into your pop-up display can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Visual merchandising is an art. It doesn’t need to be complicated, simply make thoughtful and purposeful choices and create a set of tools to convey your brand story to potential customers.TechTown now offers a custom fixture library to vendors at our monthly pop-up, The SHOP, to help entrepreneurs learn and practice these three tips for next-level pop-up merchandising:

Featherstone Moments

For many minority entrepreneurs, it’s difficult to discover the proper support in communities that have not always been inclusive of everyone. Juan Carlos Dueweke-Perez created his marketing agency Featherstone Moments to address the challenges faced by businesses owners of color, women and the LGBTQ community. Find out more about how his company works with entrepreneurs and why he loves coworking at TechTown.

Flamingo Vintage

Hailing from Texas, Nikki Neuzil has always had a passion for vintage fashion. After opening and running a successful vintage store in Austin, Nikki and her husband relocated and opened a new store in Southwest Detroit. Flamingo Vintage offers men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from the 1920s through the ’80s as well as furniture and mid-century home decor. Learn more about Nikki’s time in TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp.

Meet Irma Fuentes, owner of ESI

Technology can be daunting, and the use of it to increase awareness for your business can be especially intimidating if you haven’t been exposed to it. Irma Fuentes, owner of ESI Hardware in Southwest Detroit, credits the training provided by a TechTown Professional Services Network (PSN) member as the reason why she’s been able to manage her fear of technology. When ESI Hardware opened in 2003, Mexican-American immigrants Irma and Edgar Fuentes relied on word of mouth to gain more customers for their business. After opening, however, they struggled to keep the store in business amidst many personal tribulations, including the death of Edgar and Irma’s battle with cancer. Irma found that social media would be a powerful tool to increase awareness and gain more clientele. Small businesses can have the best products, prices, location and customer service, but if the surrounding community isn’t aware, they must find additional avenues to gain recognition.

Headshot of Warren Galloway

How to identify the right Microloan for your business

Most people believe that when you apply for a microloan the “one fits all” concept will be the norm. With microlending, this is not true. Microlenders lend up to $50,000 with slightly higher interest rates than bank loans; however, they have a much more flexible underwriting criterion. Are microlenders lending in Detroit? Absolutely. They are providing access to much-needed capital for entrepreneurs throughout the city. Microlenders usually will lend to entrepreneurs if they don’t qualify for traditional small business loans, but what we are seeing in Detroit is that microlenders and traditional lenders are partnering on loan deals with entrepreneurs. Community lenders are filling in the lending gap between microlenders and traditional lenders (i.e. Detroit Development Fund, Invest Detroit and other similar lenders).

Micro Buoy: Erie Hack Providing Platform for Lake Erie Solutions

In 2017, a group of doctoral students from Wayne State University’s College of Engineering came together to create a nanosensor designed to detect contaminants in water. The company, Micro Buoy, was born during Erie Hack — a tech-driven international water innovation competition and accelerator program created by the Cleveland Water Alliance, in conjunction with numerous partners, including TechTown Detroit.

Steps to Launch and Grow Your Family Business

Rivers Realty, a family-owned full-service real estate brokerage company, has been a part of Detroit’s small business community for over 40 years. Founder Ron Rivers started his company after seeing a need in the black community for property managers and experts in the real estate industry. Ron’s daughter, Lauren Rivers, joined the business in 2014 as their managing broker. Today, Rivers Realty serves clients throughout Metro Detroit and has become a model for family business in the city.

Meet the Director of Detroit Urban Solutions – Paul Riser Jr.

Paul Riser Jr., the Managing Director of Technology-Based Entrepreneurship at TechTown Detroit, has been named the director of Detroit Urban Solutions. Detroit Urban Solutions is a consortium, founded by Wayne State, TechTown, NextEnergy and numerous other organizations, that will focus primarily on mobility, digital health, civic technologies and smart city technologies. Last May the consortium announced its first major in

Benefits of Attending Retail Boot Camp? Grad Gary Mui Tells All.

“The greatest benefit from attending RBC has to be the ecosystem and all the resources that are available to us to help us open our business,” said Gary Mui, co-owner of Alma Kitchen. Opening soon in Jefferson Chalmers, Alma Kitchen is a fusion restaurant that will feature food blended from the owners’ Mexican and Chinese cultures. Co-owners Gary Mui and Alicia Sanchez named the restaurant Alma because it means “soul” in Spanish. They believe that food is a universal language, and theirs comes straight from the soul, which is why their space will welcome all generations and backgrounds.

Two Resources to Help Launch Your Business

Are you looking to launch a tech startup or move your retail business from a pop-up to a permanent space? TechTown’s long-standing Retail Boot Camp and DTX Launch Detroit programs have helped numerous businesses launch and succeed. Among the graduates are tech startups such as Peerstachio and MySwimPro, and retail businesses such as Urbanum and Live Cycle Delight. Apply now to one of the programs below to kickstart your business.

Kylee Guenther: Spectalite

Kylee Guenther is the CEO of Spectalite, a woman-owned company that manufactures lightweight, sustainable bamboo fiber composite materials suitable for making products such as automotive interiors, houseware, consumer products and more. Working with Gerry Roston, an entrepreneur-in-residence in TechTown’s Labs program, she has gained critical support in preparing for the growth of her company. A…

DTX Launch 2017 Grads: knoME

 knoME is a software company dedicated to boosting retention rates of early career professionals by improving communication between managers and employees. Through the DTX Launch Detroit program, they were able to redefine their original business idea and create a new concept that better attracts their target audience. Learn more about knoME and their experience…

DTX Launch 2017 Grads: Deelio

Deelio gets an independent retailer’s customers talking about them on social media, turning their posts into sales. During their time in the DTX Launch Detroit program, the Deelio team learned the importance of customer discovery and understanding your audience. Meet Deelio and see how the DTX Launch Detroit program prepared them for entrepreneurship. If you’re…

RBC Grad: Ojas Akolkar, Tribalfare

 Ojas Akolkar is the founder of Tribalfare, an online retailer offering handcrafted clothing, accessories and home decor from India. In 2015, Ojas graduated from TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp program, which she won a Kickstarter award, which provided a rent subsidy and services to support her business. In 2016, after operating a pop-up space in Detroit’s Sugar…

Art In Motion

Art in Motion is a ceramic studio and gallery located on Detroit’s famous Avenue of Fashion. After participating in Detroit Economic Growth Corporation’s REVOLVE Detroit program, which matched businesses with empty storefronts, owner Marlynne Kay Willingham became one of TechTown’s first SWOT City clients, where she gained the resources needed to further grow and sustain…

Learning to Pivot: DTX Launch Grads EnBiologics

EnBiologics is the perfect example of a pivot. The three Wayne State University biomedical engineering graduate students who make up the team– Gregory Apers, Sean Carrol and Ramy Habib–began exploring their idea for a medical hydrogel for human burn treatment last summer in the DTX Launch Detroit student accelerator.

Gary Wozniak: RecoveryPark Farms

Gary Wozniak founded RecoveryPark Farms (RPF) in 2013 to grow specialty produce on vacant Detroit land. Gary was raised in a farming community, and during his early 20s he struggled with drug abuse and ultimately served time in prison. In 1987 he became clean and sober and graduated from Self-Help Addiction Rehabilitation (SHAR) Inc., a…

Ronnie Golightly: Motor City Popcorn

Why did you choose popcorn? I was looking to open a soul food restaurant, and as I was prepping to do that, I went to Chicago for another business, and that’s when I came across Garrett’s Popcorn. So I look at the line for Garrett’s, and it’s wrapped around the building. My friend and I…


In the summer of 2014, the City of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department faced widespread scrutiny after shutting off water to more than 20,000 residential customers unable to pay their water bills. Abess Makki wanted to help the City counter the negative attention while providing residents with tools to better manage water usage and costs.…

Answering the Call – Aisha Warren of Posh Fashions

Aisha Warren believes fashion is her calling. Her business is Posh Fashions, a women’s boutique on East Jefferson. A TechTown SWOT City client, Aisha celebrated the grand opening of Posh Fashions on May 6. Aisha began her career with the national chain Dots, serving as a store manager for over 21 years and learning about…

Jason Wolfe-Greer: CarePRN, LLC

Like many entrepreneurs, Jason Wolfe-Greer’s startup idea stemmed from personal experience.Training to be an RN while caring for his fiancee’s grandfather in hospice, Wolfe-Greer recognized that stressed and overworked family caregivers need a break. So he developed Care PRN, an app that matches caregivers with qualified respite providers. Greer’s journey with CarePRN is a true…

Following Your Passion: Detroit Fiber Works

Mandisa Smith of Detroit Fiber Works is a Detroit native artist whose vision has brought an incredible corps of local artists together under one roof. DFW hosts classes, exhibitions, and events on top of being a working studio and boutique within the University District on Livernois. We chatted with Smith about her involvement with SWOTCity…

A crazy, perfect idea

by Ned Staebler It’s been a busy two months since I became CEO of TechTown, succeeding the indomitable Leslie Lynn Smith. And in this time, there is one refrain I have heard more than any other: “Are you crazy?” Not because this isn’t a great gig, mind you. But because it is a demanding position,…