Motor City Match Grants Help Detroit Entrepreneurs But Patience Key

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Several programs are helping Detroit entrepreneurs develop their businesses. However, launching a business takes time and as many entrepreneurs are realizing receiving a check does not equal overnight success.

Detroit Free Press

Without her Motor City Match grant, Detroit entrepreneur Ayanna Williams-Jones wouldn’t be in business. But even with her grant, it’s challenging.

Williams-Jones owns the Pedicure & Shoes 2 Go boutique at 243 W. Congress. It’s a unique, little downtown shop that blends a women’s shoe store with manicures and pedicures. She opened late last year with the help of a $50,000 grant from the city’s Motor City Match program, an innovative city effort that since 2015 boosts start-up businesses using federal grant funds.

Motor City Match is one of several such entrepreneurial assistance programs in Detroit. Others funded in various ways include NEIdeas, Hatch Detroit and Accelerate Michigan. There’s also a variety of training and incubation centers and programs that offer networking, co-op space, advice and general hand-holding for entrepreneurs.

As Detroit and Michigan try to evolve their fading 20th-Century economic model into a more nimble entrepreneurial one, programs like Motor City Match ease the way for business owners. But easier never means easy, as Williams-Jones quickly found when she opened her shop.

Working capital remains the biggest problem. There’s never enough. Williams-Jones, along with almost all start-up owners, found that building out a retail space costs more than they anticipated. And often there’s not enough left over for marketing, so they struggle to get their word out.

“Day-to-day operations kind of eats away, and you’re hoping to make those numbers that you projected, but those numbers don’t come right away,” Williams-Jones said.

Motor City Match’s first-year results spotlight how tough it is to start a business. In four rounds of funding in the first year of the program, the city has announced awards of $2 million to 65 start-up entrepreneurs. But so far only about seven of those start-up businesses have actually opened their doors.

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