Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund Grantee

[Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund] allowed me to invest into the company...and provided me the funding.

Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund

Since the economic crisis of 2008, banks have been hesitant to make loans to startups and small businesses. Entrepreneurs often launch startups with combinations of their own cash and investments from friends and relatives, but additional capital is needed to keep their businesses growing. Yet obtaining traditional financing is the major obstacle faced by many entrepreneurs who are poised to grow their businesses and create jobs.

The Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund helps small businesses in Detroit obtain financing unavailable to them from traditional banks. Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund is concerned more about the character and personality of their borrowers and the strength of their ideas than their credit score—and they’ve enjoyed a 97 percent success rate so far in the repayment of their loans.

Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund’s loans, which range between $10,000 and $50,000, fill a gap in the lending market and help local startups build the track record they will need to get larger loans as they grow.

Karen Gage

Wheelhouse Detroit

Karen Gage

Detroit may be the Motor City, but it's also a pretty good place to be a cyclist. Flat ground, a growing network of bike lanes and greenways, and the beautiful River Walk are a few of the amenities that have bolstered cycling culture in Detroit in recent years. As Karen Gage, co-owner of Wheelhouse Detroit, put it, "I used to bike the city and know pretty much anybody that was on a bike. Sometime around 2009 or 2010, all these people I didn’t recognize were out riding bikes, and that’s pretty cool to see.”

Karen and her business partner, both avid cyclists, realized that a market was emerging and decided to open a full service bike shop and rental house in the city of Detroit. Needing capital to get the shop operational, they turned to the Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund for a 3 year loan.

After they paid off that first loan, they applied for another to help them buy a trailer for their bike rental business. Now WheelHouse Detroit can lead multiple tours, deliver bikes, and develop bike programs with area schools.

Sheila McBride

GradeCheck

Sheila McBride

Sheila McBride’s son was a high school athlete who had dreams—and the skills—to play Division I basketball. But Sheila was worried he wouldn’t meet NCAA academic eligibility requirements. She also wanted to ensure that her son would be in a position to succeed with or without basketball, so she sat her son down and together they set out a path for him to succeed in school and meet NCAA guidelines. Her son received a full scholarship to the University of Ohio, and Sheila found herself using her expertise to help other moms get their children into college.

This continued as a side project until one mom suggested she turn it into a business.

She founded a company called GradeCheck, which became one of the first tenants of TechTown in 2004. There GradeCheck grew its client base, but soon Sheila realized she needed more funding if GradeCheck was going to keep growing.

She discovered the newly-formed Detroit Micro-Enterprise Fund and became their first loan recipient. With the Fund's help, Sheila was able to build out her website, get marketing material, and expand from the 2-3 volunteers she started with to the 8 full time employees she has now. GradeCheck is now working with students across the country to remove the mystery around college applications, and helping them achieve their dreams.