LaunchDETROIT now accepting online applications from Detroit area entrepreneurs
LaunchDETROIT is spearheaded by Rotary volunteers from Rotary District 6400, this multi-faceted program has assisted nearly 80 entrepreneurs since it began in 2012.
“Just as businesses and organizations have had to pivot since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve done the same,” said Margaret Williamson, chair of LaunchDETROIT. “While meeting virtually and providing online education opportunities, we continued this program in 2020 with the selection of 12 entrepreneurs.”
Williamson shared how several alumni of the program including Willie Brake of All About Technology, Dazmonique Carr of Deeply Rooted Produce, and Latricia Wright of Olive Seed LLC, were able to expand their businesses despite the pandemic and generously shared their experiences with the current class of LaunchDETROIT entrepreneurs.
According to Williamson, the LaunchDETROIT committee thoroughly reviews the applications to invite a select number of applicants to be interviewed about their business goals and interests in participating. In addition to business training, mentorship and networking, qualifying participants are eligible to apply for a micro-loan of up to $2,500.
“As our program has evolved, recent participants have expressed their greatest interest in mentorship and networking,” added Williamson. “Participants also receive access to the wealth of information and variety of expertise from our Rotary volunteers.”
One of the expert presenters to this year’s class of entrepreneurs was Plymouth Rotarian Wayne B. Titus, III, CPA/PFS and author of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Financial Well-Being.” Titus is also a past district governor of Rotary District 6400.
“Not only did Wayne give a copy of his book to each entrepreneur, but he also provided an excellent presentation about financial topics for entrepreneurs that prompted a very positive response and plenty of questions from all who participated,” said Dearborn Rotarian Bob Ziolkowski, who serves as a LaunchDETROIT mentor and trainer.
For more information about LaunchDETROIT and to apply, visit www.launchdetroit.org.
Entrepreneurial spirit is alive and being nurtured in Lenawee County by business development program Launch Lenawee, which has helped start successful local businesses like Harvest Chocolate in Tecumseh and The Marks Trading Co. in Adrian.
Part of the Adrian Armory Events Center, 230 W. Maumee St., Adrian, Launch Lenawee was started in 2018 with the mission of supporting and developing entrepreneurs and small businesses in Lenawee County through access to business development services, mentorships and networking opportunities. Launch Lenawee essentially offers a 12-week, mini-MBA program over the summer to aspiring business owners at a cost of $149. Launch Lenawee seeks a 50% participant composition of women and minorities. For participants in these categories and for others who may lack the necessary financial resources, Launch Lenawee works with the participants on payment arrangements and financing for the $149 cost.
The cost and time commitment pales in comparison to MBA programs and other graduate and undergraduate business programs where much of the same material is covered and much of the remaining material is related to theory and not necessarily application to business practices.
The program continues to offer support to new business owners well after the training ends for sometimes two to three years. This year’s training program just wrapped up.
The program teaches aspiring entrepreneurs what they need to know about starting and running a successful business, like developing an elevator pitch or a one- to two-minute speech that summarizes how their business can serve customers and attract capital.
During the program, entrepreneurs create a one-page (front and back) business plan to show to investors. The plan is kept short to quickly spark interest for the venture in a world where attention spans are limited.
As part of the program, entrepreneurs learn to test their assumptions about the success of their businesses to reduce risk, define the business features, generate solutions and get customer feedback prior to expending resources on the venture.
Many times, those who attend the training program find that their business idea is not sound enough to continue into the financing and startup process. They are not able to get past the customer acquisition development and due diligence phase of the program. Some of these entrepreneurs further develop their business ideas or generate new ideas and later return to finish the program, according to Launch Lenawee Program Director Mark Murray.
The program typically starts out with about 12 students, but only graduates approximately eight to nine people. Since its inception, Launch Lenawee has had around 80 to 90 people successfully complete the program, Murray said.
By the end of the program, participants have created a formal business entity, crafted a unique value proposition, defined a viable business model and sketched out a marketing and sales plan.
But the support does not end there. Launch Lenawee continues to offer these entrepreneurs mentorships with business professionals within the community, networking opportunities at the Armory and through the Greater Lenawee Chamber of Commerce, and in some cases microloans from $1,000 to $2,000.
Launch Lenawee is a volunteer-led organization. The instructors for the 12-week training program are typically businesspeople from the Lenawee County community with real-world experience who are experts in their fields. They come from banking, marketing, accounting and other business sectors and disciplines. They are often local business owners or executives at local businesses. Launch Lenawee also has a partnership with Siena Heights University for instructors and has partnered with Adrian College for business development consulting through a team of students in its business administration program.
Launch Lenawee was born when Adrian Rotary members attended a 2018 lunch where the Launch Detroit program was discussed. Launch Lenawee is part of the LaunchMyCity family of programs and is modeled after Launch Detroit and Launch Raleigh.
LaunchMyCity began in 2013 when Rotary clubs and their community partners came together to develop a sustainable model to offer budding entrepreneurs access to capital and community support. Since 2013, Rotarians across the country have been refining their programs to help kickstart their local economies in areas with the greatest need, according to the LaunchMyCity website. In Adrian, Detroit, Raleigh and across the country, Rotarians have brought community leaders and institutions together to help entrepreneurs start a variety of businesses such as barbeque sauces, cookies, welding and marketing consulting.
These entrepreneurs are getting the training, mentorship and support they need to build and scale their businesses and create stronger, more sustainable local business communities.
Launch Lenawee is supported by Rotary, Kiwanis, community resources, volunteers, sponsors and donors. In addition to this support, Launch Lenawee actively seeks grant funding.
For example, in 2019 as part of the crowdfunding Patronicity program, Launch Lenawee raised $50,000 from the community and received a 50% match from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to build its Makerspace Community Kitchen where aspiring entrepreneurs in the culinary arts develop and refine their skills. Harvest Chocolate owners Elizabeth Gentry and Matt Cross and The Marks Trading Co. owners Gwynne and Jay Marks are successful graduates of the program.
Launch Lenawee went on to raise $25,000 from the community and received a $25,000 Match on Main grant from MEDC to expand the Makerspace Community Kitchen over the summer and add a large cooling space.