Detroit did not have a cohesive ecosystem to support the economic growth of neighborhoods through small business ownership. Older businesses in marginalized areas throughout the city were as critical to the economy as start-ups, yet many lacked access to traditional sources of capital. In most instances, these “mom and pop” establishments were neighborhood anchors, owned by BIPOC residents, that had been catering to an underserved population for generations. And those long-time small business owners felt ignored and left behind by the attention being focused on start-ups.
Another challenge of establishing an infrastructure to support small businesses at the local level was that many of them defied the generally accepted definitions of “entrepreneur” and “business.” Enterprises without storefronts, operated out of homes, were not perceived as legitimate.
In 2014, the New Economy Initiative launched NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth, an outreach effort and challenge geared toward existing businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park – “been-ups” instead of “start-ups.” (Been-ups were businesses that had been formed for at least three years before the application submission date.)
The competition lasted five years, entertained more than
in grants to
The total number of awards represents the square miles across Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.