ProsperUS Detroit: New $3M Initiative to Cultivate Entrepreneurs Starts This Fall

August 1st, 2012
Helen Shaw started her own hair salon called Model Behavior in southwest Detroit two and a half years ago. The small business is doing well. The goal of the new ProsperUS Detroit program is help cultivate more minority-owned businesses in Detroit.

A promising entrepreneurial-training and micro-lending program for low-income Detroit residents called ProsperUS Detroit begins this fall and aims to establish at least 70 new minority-owned businesses.

“Cultivating small businesses is essential for job creation and the economic vitality of the city and our region, and this program will have an important impact in metro Detroit,” said Kimberly Faison, director of Entrepreneurial Relations for ProsperUS Detroit. Before joining ProsperUS, Faison served as Real Estate and Business Development Coordinator for the Woodward Corridor Initiative, and she has more than ten years experience in community economic development.

ProsperUS Detroit is funded through a three-year, $2.6 million grant from The Kellogg Foundation, as well as a one-year $335,000 from New Economy Initiative (NEI).

The program is a collaboration between Global Detroit, Southwest Solutions and numerous community partners. ProsperUS is modeled after Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), a proven and highly successful initiative in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

NDC, which began in 1993, is founded on the premise that “residents of low-income neighborhoods have the talent, energy and ideas to revitalize their own communities.” This same premise underlies ProsperUS.

ProsperUS targets prospective entrepreneurs, particularly those who are African-American, Arab-American or Latino. In the next three years, ProsperUS plans to:

  • Hold 60 entrepreneurial-training workshops, conducted by established community partners that work closely with ethnic or minority populations, to train 600 aspiring entrepreneurs
  • Facilitate 70 new minority-owned businesses
  • Lend more than $650,000 to those new small businesses
  • Provide post-training coaching, technical assistance and ongoing support services to help the businesses sustain themselves

These new enterprises are expected to employ 300 individuals, with an annual payroll of $3.6 million, and contribute $10 million a year to the regional economy.

“ProsperUS is a place-based economic development strategy designed to empower ethnic and minority individuals and families,” said Tim Thorland, executive director of Southwest Housing Solutions. “The project also incorporates a lending component to lend to those who have been traditionally categorized as ‘unbankable’ by the banking industry.”

In its first year of operation, ProsperUS will serve three neighborhoods and respective ethnic populations: Chadsey-Condon and Cody-Rouge (Arab-American); the North End (African-American); and southwest Detroit (Hispanic/Latino). In the second and third years, the program will expand to the additional communities of Hamtramck (Bangladeshi), Seven Mile (Chaldean), and Grandmont-Rosedale. In each neighborhood, trusted and experienced community partners will work with the particular ethnic group.

“Research shows that would-be entrepreneurs in immigrant communities or minority neighborhoods are more likely to engage in programs that are embedded in their community,” said Thorland. “These entrepreneurs have a higher level of comfort and receptivity when being guided by trainers and coaches of similar ethnicity and language of origin.”

The ProsperUS initiative builds upon groundwork done by Global Detroit, which focuses on the significant contributions of immigrants to the southeast Michigan economy.

“Nothing is more powerful for remaking Detroit as a center of innovation, entrepreneurship and population growth, than embracing and increasing immigrant populations and the entrepreneurial culture and global connections that they bring and deliver,” said Steve Tobocman, director of Global Detroit.

Tobocman closely studied the NDC (Minneapolis/St. Paul) model and its applicability to Detroit. The model features six principles that work together to cultivate homegrown businesses and revitalize inner-city neighborhoods:

  1. Find the untapped talent of entrepreneurs in low-income communities
  2. Eliminate barriers through highly accessible, multi-cultural programs and services
  3. Take a comprehensive, long-term approach that helps entrepreneurs succeed
  4. Work at scale while communities retain ownership and enjoy the benefits of success
  5. Link energy to place in order to create the critical mass needed to revitalize neighborhoods
  6. Build local and national capacity of individuals, organizations and communities

NDC staff will consult on the ProsperUS project to review, evaluate and refine its effectiveness.

A part of the Kellogg grant will also fund a regional “Welcome Mat” that will serve as database and clearing-house of social services for new immigrants.

To learn more about ProsperUS, email the program.

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