Starting A Business in Detroit Using Incubators, Programs

eed help getting your business off the ground in Detroit? The Detroit Regional Chamber's Devon O'Reilly-manager of entrepreneurship and Detroit engagement-spells out four steps to consider before starting your business.

1. Brick & Mortar

Before you think about opening, consider whether or not your business needs a physical opening at all, says O'Reilly. "It's definitely something a new business should at least take into consideration. With so many businesses successfully making the jump to exclusively online, there is a blueprint; however, a lot depends on the type of business you are looking to open. Many retail and service providers have been successful online, but there remains some great advantages with being able to interact with customers and products in person."

2. Navigating Red Tape

The best way to navigate the paperwork, says O' Reilly, is to talk to someone else who has done the same. "The best way is to consult some business owners who have successfully navigated this process before. Nobody is better suited to give you an idea of the potential pitfalls and hang-ups in the process that may arise," he says. "As far as ordinances, the City of Detroit has been very good in working with entrepreneurs and new business, but getting in touch with someone from the U.S. Small Business Administration could be very beneficial as well."

3. Finding Your Path

The exact road to opening is driven in part by what you're doing, O'Reilly says. "This can vary greatly depending on the type of business, the scale you are looking to grow and so on," he explains. If you want to find examples of success, start with organizations that deal with small businesses and startups such, as the U.S. Small Business Association, Small Business Development Centers and Michigan Economic Development Corporation, says O' Reilly. "Also, it may make sense to get involved with one of the many great (Detroit) business incubators and working spaces such as Ponyride, Bamboo and TechTown. Places like this can help you get your business off the ground and provide some temporary work space while you grow your idea and vision."

4. Preparation

When it comes to starting a business, O'Reilly explains you can never be too prepared. "Enlist the help and advice of friends, relatives, mentors, business owners-and make sure you have a strong support system behind you. Also make sure you are thorough in your preparation," he says. "I know many potential business owners who showed up at meetings about their business without a complete business plan. They simply weren't prepared, and investors, landlords, city officials need to see that you have done your homework, assessed your risks and potential, and put down on paper a viable plan to open and thrive in your business."


You should also consider the city's selection of co-working spaces and incubators.

Co-working spaces in Detroit

The genius of a co-working space is in creating a community of entrepreneurs who can help inspire and influence each other's businesses, says David Anderson of the Bamboo Detroit co-working space. "Starting a business is hard enough. Don't make it harder by trying to do it alone. Co-working is an affordable option that gets you out of the house and around other entrepreneurs that have most-likely faced similar challenges." He adds, "If you want your business to grow, you need a supportive community."

Bamboo Detroit

  • Location: 1442 Brush St., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-288-2298
  • What is it: Provides workspace, resources and networking for local creative entrepreneurs.
  • Apply: Bamboo Detroit is open to any people looking to grow their business, and it starts with applying online. Plans for space rental start at $99 a month for a yearly contract.
  • Alums: Michigan Nightlight, Social Sushi, Cafe Con Leche


  • Location: 1401 Vermont St., Detroit
  • What is it: Ponyride is a 30,000-square-foot warehouse turned collaborative workspace offering nonprofits and socially conscious entrepreneurs space to rent below market value.
  • Apply: Apply online for the $60 per month co-working membership program.
  • Alums: Beard Balm, The Empowerment Plan

Incubators in Detroit

Incubators can turn your business idea into a reality by opening up your access to local resources, ideas and, sometimes, money! But it's important to do your research to find which incubator works best for the business you want to open. Here are some options.

FoodLab Detroit

  • Location: 4444 Second Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-799-3468
  • What is it: An incubator for food-related businesses designed to help entrepreneurs "grow and experiment" in and around the city through mentorships and partnerships.
  • Apply: Apply online to become a member. Cost starts at $35; increases with revenue.
  • Alums: Cook Lola Cook international street food caterer, Nikki's Ginger Tea

Green Garage

  • Location: 4444 Second Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-444-4054
  • What is it: Green Garage helps develop businesses that want to be profitable, sustain the planet and help the community.
  • Apply: Sit down and have a conversation with cofounders Tom and Peggy Brennan about your commitment to developing a triple bottom line business.
  • Alums: De-tread (aids in recycling tires in the city), Great Lakes BioGrease


  • Location: 440 Burroughs St., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-879-5250
  • What is it: Founded in 2000, TechTown connects burgeoning entrepreneurs in retail and technology with available resources in Detroit through its Blocks Retail Boot Camp (business development) and SWOT City (neighborhood business development) programs.
  • Apply: Experienced entrepreneurs can apply for the yearly Blocks Retail Boot Camp (fee, upon acceptance, is $499) or established business owners can apply to bring the SWOT City neighborhood development program to their community.
  • Alums: Love. Travels. Imports., The Smile Brand, Rose's Fine Food

Cash rewards opportunities in Detroit

Need a business boost? There are some cash rewards available for existing businesses that need a bump in funding to improve. The Motor City Java & Tea House located in Old Redford recently was voted to receive a $10,000 NEIdeas award. Co-owner Alicia George says the opportunities to receive money for your business are there, but they won't land in your lap. " We the people who are wanting to be entrepreneurs, you've got to do the work. You got to do the research."


  • What is it: This foundation- and corporation-funded program celebrates existing businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park with rewards of $10,000 and $100,000 to businesses with the best ideas for growth.
  • Apply: Every year winners are chosen and there is no fee to apply online.
  • Alums: Café Con Leche, City Bird, Corridor Sausage Co., Sweet Potato Sensations


  • Location: 1528 Woodward Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-833-7800
  • What is it: An arm of Dan Gilbert's Rock Ventures Family of Companies, Bizdom offers $25,000 investment in startup funding in exchange for 8 percent equity of new businesses
  • Apply: No cost to apply. Look for an upcoming startup event for opportunity to meet investors.
  • Alums: Foodjunky, Backstitch (website organizer)

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