To download a PDF of the full Program Guidelines, click here
Program Vision and Description
We believe that a great idea can help a good business grow. NEIdeas celebrates existing businesses in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park – rewarding those with the best ideas for growth. There will be a total of $500,000 in cash awards, in addition to business support, to over 30 businesses.
NEIdeas has two types of awards:
The $10k Challenge – Provides awards of $10,000 each to 30 businesses that gross under $750,000 annually with ideas to grow.
- The $100k Challenge – Provides awards of $100,000 each to 2 businesses that gross over $750,000 and under $5 million annually with ideas to grow ‘big.’
NEIdeas is about more than just the money. NEIdeas is intended to help all applicants – those that win and those that do not win. All businesses that apply are welcomed into the NEIdeas network, where they may access further opportunities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. NEIdeas All-Applicant Assistance offers (1) catered matchmaking to small business service providers; (2) workshops around business growth topics; and (3) connections to other applicants and NEIdeas Ambassadors.
Purpose of NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth
NEIdeas is intended to support existing businesses in a way that will maintain and strengthen them in the cities and the neighborhoods that need them most. The program provides an opportunity to connect small businesses to both investment and resources. In doing so, NEIdeas will help to sustain businesses, strengthen neighborhoods, diversify economies, and grow jobs for residents in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.1
In addition to supporting businesses, NEIdeas strengthens the entrepreneurial ecosystem – the current network of service providers that help small businesses grow. NEIdeas recognizes gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. These gaps are (1) that many existing business owners are not aware of the business support resources available to them; and (2) that existing businesses may not feel welcomed and included in the broader entrepreneurial activity of the city. NEIdeas addresses these gaps by deeply engaging service providers throughout the duration of the program. This strengthens the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which in turn attracts, services, and grows businesses and jobs for residents of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.
NEIdeas works to promote economic development activities and, ultimately, the creation of jobs through several distinct but related goals: (1) engage existing neighborhood businesses in Detroit’s entrepreneurial movement and connect them to available resources; (2) continue to fill the pipeline for business service providers; (3) further connect and deepen relationships among services providers to strengthen network behaviors; and (4) generate energy and interest in entrepreneurship in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.
NEIdeas is a program of the New Economy Initiative (NEI) and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) operated with assistance from Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC).
1 CFSEM is committed to the economic revitalization of distressed areas and the combating of poverty through the creation of jobs for unemployed and underemployed populations in Southeast Michigan. The NEIdeas program specifically targets economic development activities in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.
Both the $10k Challenge and $100k Challenge are for existing for-profit businesses physically located and operating in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. An ‘existing’ business is one that is at least three years old by the application deadline of June 1, 2016.
If a business has moved to Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park from elsewhere, NEIdeas requires at least one year in those locations before being eligible to apply.
Majority owners of existing businesses must be legal U.S. residents 18 years of age or older.
Businesses must be in good standing with the IRS.
Home-based businesses are eligible to apply.
Independently owned businesses that participate in retailers’ cooperatives are eligible to apply.
Regional businesses that are based in Southeast Michigan are eligible to apply; however, award funds must be directed to their Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park-based operations.
The $10k Challenge is for existing businesses that gross under $750,000 annually that have ideas to grow. Businesses may be Sole Proprietorships, General Partnerships, Corporations (Inc., Corp.), Limited Liability Companies (LLC)*, or Limited Liability Partnerships (LP, LLP).
The $100k Challenge is for existing businesses that gross over $750,000 and under $5 million annually that have ideas to grow ‘big.’ Growing ‘big’ means a potential gross revenue increase of 20% or more per year in coming years. To be considered, a business must presently demonstrate growth. Businesses may be Corporations (Inc., Corp.) Limited Liability Companies (LLC), or Limited Liability Partnerships (LP, LLP). Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships are not eligible.
*The following are NOT eligible to apply:
- Franchises are not eligible to apply.
- Low-Profit Limited Liability Companies (L3C) are not eligible to apply.
- Not-for-profit organizations are not eligible to apply.
- Business owners who are: (1) employees and board members of the New Economy Initiative (NEI), Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), Michigan Community Resources (MCR), or the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM); (2) current contractors affiliated with the NEIdeas program; (3) current NEIdeas Jurors; (4) spouses and dependents of (a) employees and board members of NEI, DEGC, MCR and CFSEM; (b) current contractors affiliated with the NEIdeas program; and (c) current NEIdeas Jurors; (5) employees of NEI grantee organizations; (6) NEIdeas Trustees and Ambassadors; and (7) past NEIdeas Winners are not eligible to apply.
Building A Strong Application
NEIdeas is not interested in just giving out cash. NEIdeas is interested in inspiring and enabling your ideas. Applications must consider the purpose of the program: to sustain businesses, strengthen neighborhoods, diversify economies, and grow jobs for residents of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. The best applications will have ideas for growth, consistent with this purpose, that are:
- Impactful – Tell us how your idea will – first and foremost – grow your business. Then tell us how that growth can impact where you are located and who you are serving. The idea that increases your business’s bottom line may also be one that positively effects your customers, clients, or community; and/or one that can positively change your building, block, neighborhood, or city.
- Courageous – Tell us how your idea reinforces the passion for what you do. It may be one that allows your business to take a little more risk; one that challenges your vision for growth; or one that encourages innovation. Don’t be afraid to be practical. Practical ideas are courageous too.
- Interesting – Consider your competition. There are likely many applicants that have the same type of business. Show us an interesting idea that sets you apart from the others and you are more likely to get our attention.
- Achievable – You only have a certain amount of time and money to turn idea into reality. Choose your ideas wisely. If they are grand or complex, pick apart the most manageable parts and make your pitch. If it is uncommon or unconventional, consider the legality of the proposition.
- Understandable – The jury who reviews your idea is made of a diverse group of individuals who may or may not be familiar with your industry or your request. Describe your idea for growth clearly so that anyone can understand it.
Here is some basic advice: We do not know your business like you do so, whatever the idea, it’s up to you to tell us. Follow the directions and make sure your application is complete. Be concise, specific, and honest. – If you have questions, attend an NEIdeas Information Session & Workshop or reach out to an NEIdeas Ambassador for help.
Please note the following:
- On an NEIdeas Application, the “Business Street Address” should reflect where a business is physically located and operating. This may be different from where a business is registered or incorporated.
- On an NEIdeas Application, businesses should consider the number of years operating when listing “Date Business Founded.” This may be different from the number of years registered or incorporated.
- On an NEIdeas Application, businesses may “Designate a Contact Person” who is not a business owner. In cases where an individual has assisted on an application or applied on behalf of a business owner, NEIdeas recommends that they are listed as the designated contact person.
- Businesses can apply to either the $10k Challenge or the $100k Challenge – a business can not apply to both.
- Businesses are limited to one application. If a business submits multiple applications, they will be removed from award consideration.
The NEIdeas application process is catered to the busy business owner. Whether a business owner has participated in a challenge before or not, this is a chance to practice pitching an idea for growth through a very simple application process.
ALL APPLICANTS There are three ways to apply to NEIdeas:
- Apply Online here
- Mail a printed application to:
NEIdeas Outreach, c/o DEGC
500 Griswold St, Suite 2200
Detroit MI 48226
- Turn-in a printed application to an NEIdeas Ambassador
If applying online, applicants will receive an automatic confirmation email after submitting. If applying by mail, or in person, applicants will receive a confirmation email once applications are processed. It may take several weeks to process applications. Please note that an email address is necessary in order to receive confirmation that an application has been received.
Applicants can get help completing an application at NEIdeas Ambassador locations throughout Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.
NEIdeas Info Sessions & Workshops will also be held for applicants while the application process is open. Please visit our Events page here for the most updated schedule.
After the application period closes, NEIdeas will narrow the pool of Applicants and forward these semi-finalists to the NEIdeas Jury. The Jury will recommend Finalists. NEIdeas will notify all Finalists.
Finalists will be asked to submit additional information for final consideration:
$10k Challenge Finalists will be asked to submit (1) their most recent tax return, (2) a completed 2015-16 financial questionnaire, and (3) additional information about their proposed use of the award.
$100k Challenge Finalists will be asked to submit (1) their most recent tax return, (2) a completed 2015-16 financial questionnaire, (3) a 2-year plan that outlines timeline and budget, and (4) additional information about how the business will grow ‘big’ through the award.
Finalists can get help with the request for additional information. If selected, Finalists will receive more information and an invitation to a voluntary workshop dedicated to the financial questionnaire. We will post Finalist announcements on our News and Events page.
Finalists will have a limited amount of time to turn in the required additional information. If information is not turned in on time, an Applicant may be disqualified. The Jury will use this information, along with original applications, to recommend $10k Challenge and $100k Challenge Winners. (Please note that Jurors do not directly handle sensitive financial information.)
Jury recommendations will be reviewed by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) which will make the final determination of all Winners.
CFSEM will officially notify all Applicants by mail.
Expectations of Winners
Award winners will be expected to attend events where they will be connected to other award winners and resources. They will also be asked to share their story through a variety of media opportunities. These types of opportunities will be determined after winners are announced.
$10k Challenge Winners are expected to use their award within 1-year of payment and provide a final report on the use of the award.
$100k Challenge Winners are expected to use their award within 2-years of payment and provide periodic reports on the use of the award.
All awards are taxable income.
Use of Applicant Data
Whether Applicants win cash awards or not, NEIdeas wants to help businesses grow through connections to business support. Applicant information will be shared with Michigan Community Resources (MCR) to assist NEIdeas in connecting nonprofit business support providers to NEIdeas applicants. Many of these business support providers are featured on the BizGrid, a list that is designed to help businesses find business support: www.detroitbizgrid.com.
Applicant data will not be shared beyond the purposes of review during the award selection process and providing business support. Applicant data will not be sold.
The information contained herein is subject to the actual grant-award documents and the written terms and conditions of the NEIdeas program and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) which govern the program, as the same may be amended from time to time. CFSEM also reserves the right to make the final determination of any person’s or organization’s eligibility and/or qualifications for program benefits, and to make allocation of program benefits as it may, in sole discretion deem appropriate.