When pitching a permanent business plan to a room of media types and potential investors, it helps if you have a homemade cake or cup of micro-brew to share. Naturally, six of the ten semi-finalists in the third-annual Hatch Detroit contest were up to par, with cakes, cookies and soda samples to spare in the Hall of Legends at Ford Field.
"We always have seen independent storefront retail as being the lifeblood of the city's neighborhoods," said Hatch Detroit co-founder Nick Gorga in opening remarks at Thursday's semi-finalist reveal. If any of the ten semi-finalists take root in the neighborhoods they claim to have their eyes on, that business-centered lifeblood could soon be flowing strong through some unlikely neighborhoods.
It's true that most of the food-focused semi-finalists are setting up in some of the city's already buzzy neighborhoods — the Corktown Cinema (formerly Midtown's Burton Theatre) on Trumbull in Corktown, Treats by Angelique in either Midtown or Sherwood Forest's Avenue of Fashion, HenriettaHaus Coffee Roasters in Hamtramck and Mama's Sweet Side bakery somewhere in the Midtown neighborhood.
But these businesses, some already well-established in their own way and some still looking for a building to call their own, all seem dedicated to putting down roots in their respective neighborhoods and changing the sometimes-negative perception of opening a business in the city.
For some of the semifinalists, existing economic factors in the city's more popular neighborhoods could force future development choices. Sarah Pavelko, founder of Voigt's Soda House, a homemade seasonal soda shop with plans to eventually serve lunch and dinner, originally looked at Capitol Park and Midtown when she realized that her own North End neighborhood might better fit her needs.
"I liked those historic buildings in Capitol Park, but there are plenty of historic buildings in my neighborhood, too," Pavelko said.
For other semi-finalist contestants, the hardest part of Thursday's reveal was seeing the kinds of competition they would face — not for the competition factor, but for fact that the other entrants had good ideas themselves.
"I'd really just like to see all of these places open up," said Batch Brewing Company's Jason Williams. Batch has previously turned to crowd-funding sites like Indie Go-Go to help spur development of their Corktown Microbrewery, and they hope to use the $50,000 Hatch Grand Prize — provided by Comerica Bank — to go the final distance on their buildout.
Past Hatch contestants used their exposure in the competition, which now turns to a public voting process, to eventually open on their own, regardless of the grand prize victory. Businesses like Rock City Pies, set to open in Hamtramck last this fall, or the Detroit Institute of Bagels, making fast progress on their Michigan Ave. storefront, were originally Hatch contestants who missed the final cut, but opened up anyway.
"We're here to support not just the one winner, but the nine others who don't prevail," Gorga said.
The public voting process begins on Monday, Aug. 12 and continues through Aug. 28 on the Hatch Detroit website, on Facebook and at select in-person sites throughout the city, and results in a final four "HatchOff" pitch competition on Aug. 29 at the M@dison Building downtown. The winner will be announced at the HatchOff.
Ultimately, it can't help but feel like a big win for the small business community in the city.
"It definitely feels like two different worlds, two different cities right now," said Hatch co-founder Ted Balowski . "Despite the city's larger problems, these small businesses are growing, and they've all got great community support behind them."
· Hatch Detroit [Official]
· Hatch Reveals Top Ten Semi-Finalists Tonight [-ED-]
· For Hatch Pitch, Batch Brewing Keeps It Familiar [-ED-]