New Economy Initiative announces return of NEIdeas

New Economy Initiative (NEI), a special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM), kicked-off the return of NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth, a two-tiered challenge awarding $500,000 to existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.
The 2015 NEIdeas, which will officially launch when the application period opens on Thursday, May 7, will grant cash awards to 32 existing businesses, as well as provide access to support for small businesses in all of those cities.  Businesses must be at least three years old to enter.  Last year, nearly 600 small businesses from every corner of Detroit applied to the inaugural NEIdeas challenge.  Business industries ranged from service providers to food and retail businesses, to manufacturing companies, and more.  In 2014, nearly 80 percent of the businesses that applied to the $10k challenge were minority-owned and nearly 60 percent were woman-owned.
“We were blown away by the response of great ideas for business growth put forth by so many different types of small businesses during the first year of NEIdeas,” said Dave Egner, Executive Director of NEI. “It’s been rewarding to not only see the winning businesses grow, but also see many of the applicants get better connected to the community resources, including many of the resources that NEI funds.  Small business growth is crucial to Detroit’s success, as they hire local employees, pay taxes and serve as anchors in their neighborhoods.”
The 2015 NEIdeas features two types of awards:

  • $10,000 for businesses that gross under $750,000 annually with ideas to grow
  • $100,000 for businesses that gross more than $750,000 and under $5 million annually that have ideas to grow ‘big’

Thirty applicants will be awarded $10k each and two higher-grossing businesses will be awarded $100k each. By applying for the challenge, all businesses will gain connection to other small businesses and entrepreneurs, access to resources, and exposure.
NEIdeas will once again operate in partnership with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC). DEGC will participate in the jury process and coordinate an outreach program that features more than two dozen “Ambassador” organizations and institutions throughout all three cities that will provide small businesses with information and guidance throughout the application process.  A full calendar of upcoming Information Sessions, Office Hours and Workshops are listed on
“For this second year of NEIdeas, our team has put together a strong outreach program across Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck to attract even more small businesses,” added Rodrick Miller, President & CEO, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. “We want all of the great entrepreneurs and business owners across the cities that we work with – and can’t wait to work with – to know that the application process is quick and simple, and has the potential to unlock growth opportunities for their business, beyond the NEIdeas prizes.”
The application for the 2015 NEIdeas will be available on Thursday, May 7 online at  Printed applications will also be available at more than 20 community organizations, associations and churches across Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park that will serve as “Ambassador” locations for the challenge.  For-profit businesses providing products and services of all kinds can submit completed applications online, via email or US Mail.
Application deadlines for the $10k and $100k challenges are as follows:

  • $10K applicants will need to submit their application by June 4, 2015
  • $100K applicants will need to submit by June 25, 2015

After the application period closes, NEIdeas will narrow the pool of applicants and forward the semi-finalists to a jury, which will be comprised of empathetic entrepreneurs, non-profit partners and corporate partners that will be able to evaluate applicants without themselves being able to participate in the NEIdeas challenge.   The jury will then recommend finalists. If selected, the applicants will be asked to submit some additional information about their business.  Winners will be notified in the fall, following this robust jury process.
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