For over 50 years, small business owners and entrepreneurs across America have been recognized during the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s National Small Business Week for their contributions to the country’s economy. During the week, a virtual summit is held for small business owners to learn from experts around the country. The National Small Business Week Awards recognize small businesses assisted by the SBA and their community involvement.
TechTown Detroit supports small businesses
Here in Detroit, TechTown sees the city’s hardworking small business owners and is here to support them! The organization provides a full suite of programs under its Small Business Services aimed at helping them launch, stabilize and grow. Through TechTown’s in-depth curriculum and diverse network of professionals, local entrepreneurs learn core business skills, determine ways to increase their revenue and access capital, and much more.
“TechTown prepares entrepreneurs to participate in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in several ways, depending on the needs and preferences of entrepreneurs,” says Jeremy Lewis, TechTown’s director of small business services. “We introduce, educate and support entrepreneurs in integral facets of running their businesses, whether it be finances, marketing, operations, etc., in one-on-one and cohort settings via in-person, virtual or hybrid engagements. … When asked how I measure success, I often point to referrals. And many of our current clients are peers and friends of previous clients — that is direct feedback that tells us what we are doing is working.”
Here is a breakdown of each program under TechTown’s Small Business Services.
Retail Boot Camp
TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp (RBC) prepares local small business owners to open their brick-and-mortar in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park. During this 12-week, hands-on program, participants connect with business development and retail experts to learn about fostering quality retail operations and routines; selecting a point-of-sale and e-commerce system; identifying startup costs and funding sources; navigating brick-and-mortar regulations with legal guidance; and more. The program’s coaches also acknowledge the changing retail landscape due to the pandemic, not only in Detroit but on a global scale. To address this, RBC has new and updated program modules on e-commerce, omnichannel retail and crisis management.
During the RBC Showcase, participants pitch their businesses for the chance to win $5,000. And following the program, all graduates receive six months of coaching from TechTown’s network of experts.
“Our facilitation team has over 60 years combined experience in the retail and entrepreneurship fields, and we share a lot of the mistakes we have made over those years,” says TechTown’s Retail Strategists Carrie Vestrand and Christina Devlin, who are also coaches for RBC. “But equally important is the peer-to-peer learning that happens in the sessions. Every entrepreneur is on their own path and has meaningful experiences to share. We focus on sharing and letting yourself be vulnerable, and the bonding within each cohort is beautiful to watch. These participants become very close and are still in touch long after RBC is over to celebrate, commiserate and support each other as they continue their journeys.”
Are you a small business owner ready to open a brick-and-mortar? Learn more about Retail Boot Camp.
If you’re an entrepreneur wanting to test out your product or service in a physical location, then The SHOP is the right program for you. Hosted at TechTown, this monthly pop-up shop allows entrepreneurs to connect with the nonprofit’s community and resources, as well as receive coaching from retail experts. With TechTown’s customized fixtures, local retailers and service providers can choose the best way to display their offerings.
“The SHOP is unlike any other pop-up,” say Vestrand and Devlin. “Most venues just give you a table and a chair, but at TechTown, we understand the value of creating a brand experience for your customers. Participants get to select their own display from our custom fixture library, offering an opportunity to explore how material, color, branding and display setup can affect the customer experience and help to increase sales. Our retail strategists provide live, in-the-moment coaching for all participants and discuss topics like packaging, pricing strategies, action plans to achieve long-term business goals and marketing.”
The goal of The SHOP is to help local entrepreneurs elevate their retailing experience and attract new customers through intentional displays. For Beausuny Love, a Detroit-based, mixed-media artist and founder of Art Collectives of Beaūsuny Love, the pop-up experience did just that. After selling her handmade jewelry and accessories at The SHOP, Love emailed Vestrand and Devlin, saying, “You made me want to never look at another table again to display my products! … My items are all hand-painted, and we [needed TechTown’s display options] to make customers understand why my prices are what they are. My work spoke for itself when it was on that display. You changed my life.”
Are you interested in becoming a vendor at The SHOP? Learn more about the pop-up experience.
TechTown’s 313 STRONG program provides customized support for small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. Whether a small business owner has kept their business open, is planning to reopen or is determining the next step, the program’s coaches will help them strengthen and sustain their business operations in neighborhood commercial districts.
“Most of the time, I encounter people who are passionate about their craft but need to work on enhancing skills to make sure their business runs smoothly; the need to develop their business acumen is a very common problem for even experienced entrepreneurs,” says Mayté Penman, TechTown’s bicultural business strategist and one of the 313 STRONG coaches. “Often, they inquire about how to set up systems that will allow them to focus their attention on getting more clients and, as a result, have steady financial sustainability or even [plans to] expand.” Penman adds that cash flow, marketing, and accurately pricing products and services are other common issues that local business owners turn to 313 STRONG for help with. As for newer businesses, the program has taught owners how to obtain their LLC and EIN, as well as understand permits and city zoning requirements.
Once a small business owner is paired with their 313 STRONG coach, the two work together to determine priorities and set actionable goals for the business, address management issues and develop and refine growth plans.
“Participants are genuinely grateful for the information and services provided,” Penman says. “In addition to the coaching, they also appreciate the diversity of the trainings and workshops, and the access to experts at no cost. They are provided in English, Spanish, or both in a bilingual setting.”
Are you a small business owner interested in receiving coaching from 313 STRONG? Learn more about the program.