FALLing in love with Detroit’s Entrepreneurs

Well folks, it’s officially fall and this week there’s more to celebrate in Detroit  than crisp mornings and the smell of donuts in the air.  Detroit’s entrepreneurial spirit will be resonating across the entire city as finalists of the 5th annual Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day compete for over $1 Million in funding to winners across four categories: Start, Scale, Pivot, and—new this year—Youth.  This event has become the largest entrepreneurial competition of its kind in the Midwest.

Each year, there are hundreds of small business owners, tech savvy go-getters, makers and creatives, and others that submit their plans to the Demo Day team.  From there, competitors go through several rounds of pitch competitions—think Shark Tank—and refine their presentation for a shot to appear in the final round and win funding grants & interest-free loans to bring their ideas to the next level.

The final event normally takes place in one of Detroit’s historic venues (Gem Theatre, Music Hall, etc.) but given the climate with the ongoing pandemic, this year’s competition will again be broadcasted virtually to the world.

This year YOU can be part of the action!  By voting in the People’s Choice category, you can sway the favor towards the business of your choosing, and the best part: crowd favorites in each category will walk away with a $25,000 prize.  Be sure to tell your friends & family, but hurry because voting closes on Friday (9/24/2021).  CLICK HERE to learn more about this year’s competitors and place your vote.

There have been some great success stories from winners of Detroit Demo Days past.  Every entrepreneur has an amazing story, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Pastry chef April Anderson, whose bakery Good Cakes and Bakes won a grand prize in the competition’s inaugural year in 2017, saw her brand elevated far beyond their brick-and-mortar location on the Avenue of Fashion in the city’s northwest side; Anderson was featured in Food & Wine magazine, she appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to demonstrate her grandmother’s Lemon Velvet Cake recipe, and her business even garnered additional recognition & grant money from the James Beard Foundation!
  • Local founders Kelli Coleman & Anika Jackson founded The TEN Nail Bar, Detroit’s first “modern nail bar” focused on head-to-toe service(literally) with the customer experience at the forefront (including complimentary champagne). The TEN won the grand prize in their category in 2018, where they used their winnings to open a second location in New Center!
  • Chef Godwin Igentuge is an immigrant from Nigeria who brought an amazing Afro-Carribean restaurant concept to Detroit. Yum Village walked away with a grand prize in 2020; they are located on Woodward Ave. in New Center and offers scratch-made dishes & fresh juice, priced to please.  Godwin also uses his space—at least pre-pandemic—to offer djembe classes to the public.  (Djembe is a type of drum that is native to West Africa & traditionally played with bare hands).  Definitely worth checking out!

If you didn’t make the deadline for applying your idea to this year’s competition, don’t worry!  Applications for the 6th annual Demo Day will open early next year, with the deadline set around mid-June 2022.  Be sure to follow the event’s Twitter page to stay updated on the latest news.

Again, don’t forget to get your VOTE in for your favorites in this year’s “People’s Choice” award and be sure to follow Opportunity Detroit on social for special coverage of a live Demo Day event later this week.

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Taylor Hunter is the Workforce and Business Development Lead at Rock Ventures.  He has been connecting people & living, working, and playing in the city since 2008; connect with him on LinkedIn

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