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 Wordpress.com, 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 | razzledazzlesupply.com 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 | 15primaverasllc.com“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.

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).

Boutique Doubled Sales Since Opening Permanent Location

Voluptuous Bien’Aime Boutique specializes in apparel and accessories for every curvy woman, sizes 0 to 5X. Nicole Bien-Aime, CEO of the company, Retail Boot Camp graduate and lover of fashion, was labeled plus size when she began her journey. After routinely spending all day searching for the right outfit, Nicole realized her shopping experience felt more like a job than an experience, which encouraged her to launch a clothing business catering to curvy women in 2013.

Meet Ingrid Macon, Detroit Teachers’ Store CEO

Retail Bootcamp Graduate and Kickstart Award winner Ingrid Macon, owns the only pre-K through 12 educational retail center in the city of Detroit. After traveling to surrounding cities for years to purchase supplies for her classroom, this teacher turned CEO decided to attend Retail Boot Camp and open a store to fill the need. Click the link below to watch a video of Ingrid discuss her motivation behind Detroit Teachers’ Store and experience in Retail Boot Camp.

Design Guide: Neighborhood Business

Design directly impacts the bottom line of the business, which directly connects to its ability to serve the community long-term. A business is rooted in its brand design, and each of the other design mediums speaks to each other – from the digital voice on social media, to the colors on the wall to the size of the table and the tabs on the website – to all directly to serve the customer. Which is why TechTown (has been or was) proud to collaborate with Design Core Detroit and its network of design professionals on creating the Design Guide for Neighborhood Business to help brick-and-mortar businesses, from pop-up to permanent, think about design for their business in an intentional way.

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.

Meet Our Diversity and Inclusion Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Marlo Rencher, the first Managing Director of TechTown, is returning with an important task ahead of her: to establish dedicated resources and more intentional strategies to increase engagement of women and minority tech entrepreneurs at TechTown, and throughout the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Detroit. With over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and marketing, Rencher has served as vice president for innovation, entrepreneurship and diversity at Cleary University and created their Founders Farm student incubator.

Joy Community Receives First Sit-down Restaurant in 20 Years

Fusion Flare Kitchen & Cocktails is the first full-service restaurant to open in the Joy community in almost 20 years. Located at located at 16801 Plymouth Rd., the restaurant features a fusion menu of cuisine from many cultures, including American and soul food. The lunch and dinner menu will offer a variety of meals including chicken Fusion Flare Chicken & Waffles, Catfish, and vegan and vegetarian options.

College Students & Recent Grads -Launch Your Tech Startup

DTX Launch Detroit is offering college students and recent graduates the opportunity to get paid to work on their tech startup–and potentially win a grand prize of $15,000 for their business, courtesy of General Motors. The 10-week accelerator is accepting applications for summer 2019. Applications are open through April 5. The final information session will be held, on March 20, from 5:30-8pm at TechTown Detroit and will be live streamed on Facebook.

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.

Tech Startup Peerstachio Helps College Students Thrive

University of Michigan startup Peerstachio is changing the way college students find resources. Peerstachio is an online community connecting undergraduate students or high schoolers preparing to transition to college with upperclassmen for assistance with classwork or to talk about university life. During her first year as an international student in the Ross School of 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…

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…