Challenge to award $400,000 in cash prizes to existing businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park for their ideas for growth. Application period is open May 1-June 1 (11:59 p.m.).


DETROIT (18 April 2017) – The New Economy Initiative (NEI) announced today that it will begin accepting applications on May 1 for its fourth annual NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth challenge, which will award a total of $400,000 to more than 20 existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park for their ideas for growth.

Applications can be submitted online at between May 1 and June 1 at 11:59 p.m.

Small business owners can learn more about NEIdeas and receive tips on filling out an application at the following information sessions:

  • 4/25, 6-8 p.m. at Bel Air Theatre (10100 East 8 Mile Rd, Detroit, MI 48234)
  • 5/8, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Focus:HOPE (1400 Oakman Blvd., Detroit, MI 48238)
  • 5/18, 6-8 p.m. at Grand River Workplace (19120 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48223)
  • 5/22, 6-8 p.m. at SER Metro Detroit (9301 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48210) – bilingual session in Spanish and English.
  • 5/30, 6-8 p.m. at TechTown (440 Burroughs St., Detroit, MI 48202)

A full list of NEIdeas info sessions can be found at

Since its launch in 2014, NEIdeas has awarded 96 local businesses a total of $1.5 million to help them realize their ideas for growth, as well as connected hundreds of others to technical assistance opportunities. Nearly 70 percent of past NEIdeas winners are minority-owned businesses, and 65 percent are woman-owned businesses. Thanks to an extensive outreach campaign, NEIdeas has received applications from businesses located in every ZIP code in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

NEIdeas is a special program in that it targets existing businesses in neighborhoods, which are critical job creators in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park,” said Pamela Lewis, NEI’s director. “Since it launched in 2014, NEIdeas has celebrated the importance of neighborhood businesses, not only to the communities they serve, but also to the regional economy. While new businesses and startups are both exciting and important, our existing small businesses need to be valued as well.”

The premise of NEIdeas is simple – business owners have ideas to grow their businesses, they just need capital to realize them. NEIdeas offers a total of $400,000 in grants to for-profit businesses that are at least three years old and located in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park – regardless of their type or industry. Those businesses are asked to share their idea to grow in a straightforward, 400-word application that can be submitted online at

NEIdeas features two types of awards:

  • $10,000 for existing businesses that gross less than $750,000 annually
  • $100,000 for existing businesses that gross more than $750,000 and less than $5 million annually

Twenty businesses will be selected to win $10,000 awards, and two businesses will be selected to win $100,000. Applications are reviewed by a jury of local small business owners and past NEIdeas winners.

“When NEIdeas launched, it was challenging for existing small businesses in Detroit to access the capital they needed to grow,” said Michael Rafferty, vice president of small-business development at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. “While there is still much to be done to make it easier for businesses to access capital, NEIdeas has helped change the landscape of what’s available. Since NEIdeas launched in 2014, a variety of new programs and capital sources, including Motor City Match, have come online, in part because of the success of this program.”

Several past NEIdeas winners, who represent a variety of industries, have experienced significant growth since implementing their ideas. “We’re very proud of our growth,” said A.K. Bennett, project manager at Benkari Mechanical, a Detroit-based mechanical contracting firm and a 2015 NEIdeas winner. “We secured a contract with the first project we estimated using bidding software we purchased with our NEIdeas grant funds. Without it we may not have been able to bid the project in the time frame provided.”

For a full list of past winners, visit

Applicants who applied to NEIdeas in the past but did not receive an award are encouraged to apply again this year. In 2016, nearly a third of winning businesses were repeat applicants from previous challenge years.

NEIdeas is operated in partnership with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), which coordinates the challenge’s outreach program that utilizes 29 “Ambassador” locations – community organizations, associations, and faith-based institutions across Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park – that are available to assist small business owners with filling out and submitting their applications. A full list of NEIdeas Ambassador organizations can be found at


About the New Economy Initiative

The New Economy Initiative (NEI) is a philanthropy-led regional economic development initiative working to build a network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses in southeast Michigan.  A special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, NEI is supported by 13 local and national foundations. The mission of NEI is to create an inclusive, innovative regional culture by reawakening and leveraging Detroit’s creative entrepreneurial drive. The overarching goal is to establish a more diverse economy where opportunity, wealth and prosperity are available to all. To learn more, visit:

The New Economy Initiative is supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Ford Foundation, the Hudson-Webber Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the McGregor Fund, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the William Davidson Foundation.

Heather George, 248-417-5773 (mobile),
Sara Campbell, 315-727-3280 (mobile),