Resources and opportunities for southeast Michigan entrepreneurs.
Volume 33, May 11, 2020

Make It Your Business is a newsletter from the New Economy Initiative highlighting events, resources, and opportunities for southeast Michigan entrepreneurs.

Taking action in this unprecedented time, NEI has formed a rapid response center to provide a source of information, inspiration, and connectivity. The New Economy Initiative is activating its resources to inform, connect, and move funding in a way that provides relief to their grantees and those they serve.


NEI is keeping a “living” list of questions and answers related to COVID-19 resources for entrepreneurs and businesses. These will be housed on the NEI website, in the bi-monthly newsletter, and shared across NEI social media platforms. If you have questions, please submit them to

1. I received PPP funding. How do I think about reopening?

If you received PPP funding, but have been afraid to use it, you’re not alone. Avalon Bakery’s Jackie Victor shared her perspective on this challenge in the New York Times. She explains the difficulties using the PPP funds: 

“It’s difficult to successfully use the Paycheck Protection Program loan. The hurdles are high. Besides rent and utilities, the loan is meant to be spent on payroll within 60 days. If employers reach the same number of employees by the end of the period, then the amount spent on pay is forgiven. Any unforgiven portion turns into a loan to be paid back fully in 18 months. Even if we do manage to hire 135 employees and pay them for the next 60 days, it will be impossible for us to retain those employees while revenue is down 50 to 80 percent. In an economy with over 26 million people unemployed, consumer demand will be severely reduced.”

Some of the challenges she outlines include:

  • Staffing, especially weighing the concerns of staff who are afraid to leave home

  • Access to public transportation and testing

  • Ability to find childcare

  • Executing CDC guidelines

  • Unpaid bills that cannot be paid with PPP funds

Emory Benefit Solutions has developed a quick-start guide to help decide who to recall from furlough. And, this New York Times article offers some perspective on the concerns of employees and employers alike.

This Fast Company piece profiles some brick and mortar approaches to reopening. Of significant note: 

“Brands think customers will be less inclined to casually browse. For many startups, this is a sea change from the recent past, when they tried to stand out by making their stores places where people wanted to linger and socialize. Instead, many are now redesigning the in-store shopping experience to make it as streamlined and efficient as possible, so customers can quickly pick up an item they’ve ordered online, return a product, or get assistance.”

Here are OSHA’s workplace guidelines and here are the FDA’s best practices for retail food stores, restaurants, and food pick-up/delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is Detroit’s Safe Workplace Standards guide. And, if you need help sourcing PPE for employees or customers, check out the running list of suppliers on the Michigan Chamber of Commerce website.

If you’re wondering what will make your customers comfortable, consider surveying them via social media or your newsletter.

2. Who can I contact to help with marketing and communications?

Foodlab’s Devita Davidson highlights a common challenge for Detroit small business owners. When you have to wear all the hats that small business owners do, it’s not uncommon to lack a marketing and communication’s strategy. An option for marketing and communications advice is TechTown Detroit’s SWOT City program which provides one-on-one assistance to help launch, stabilize and grow local businesses and strengthen neighborhood commercial districts. This includes guidance from members of their Professional Services Network on marketing and communications strategies. 

Anita.Expert is a budget-friendly option for website development and marketing strategy support. Another local service provider, Jottful, is offering free marketing services for small business owners and self-employed persons impacted by COVID-19. And, Franco Communications has developed a two-page playbook for staying connected during COVID.

Part of marketing is promotion and, especially for brick and mortar locations, it’s important to let customers know you’re open. Here are some ideas from CG Detroit for outdoor signage. And local media platform and small business cheerleader, Detour Detroit has launched their Detour Detroit is launching their Keep Detroit Local promotion. They are offering to donate a free ad (normally valued at $200) for “every current or new Detour member who signs up at our Sustainer or Builder levels. The offer is available to independently owned businesses or nonprofits with less than 100 employees (sorry, no franchises), with preference going to those organizations headquartered or based in the cities of Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck; and to organizations owned and led by entrepreneurs and founders of color." 

If you have or are thinking about an online option, Shopify has released a new app to connect local businesses with nearby customers. And, USAToday has added a Support Local Business feature. Check to see if your business is included.

3. If my business survives COVID-19, how can I shore things up to reduce future vulnerabilities?

According to The Atlantic, half of America’s startups had less than two weeks’ worth of cash on hand. The same article reports “that one in four small businesses does not expect to survive; an additional one-third are uncertain of their potential to withstand the cataclysm.” 

Harvard Business Review has suggestions for repurposing, engaging, learning, and letting people go, written for organizations, but still useful for small businesses. They also have five suggestions specific to family business playbooks. For nonprofits, Bridgespan shares four different categories of principles to help nonprofits avoid “extinction-level” events.

It’s worth considering COVID’s potential to impact different industries and thinking about whether opportunities exist that your business can address.

This podcast has some considerations for reskilling workers that are relevant to today’s challenges.

Talking with other small businesses can help mitigate future challenges. Susannah Fox, a researcher who tracks peer-to-peer innovation, highlights how communities work together to solve problems. She posits the following stages based on a COVID example, which we’ve adapted for local small business:

  • Stage 0 = people are wondering how to [reopen their business], but they have no community to turn to (isolation)

  • Stage 1 = people connect with each other and start looking for data (connection)

  • Stage 2 = data sources are identified; two [groups] create and refine [ideas]; volunteers start gathering to help (small-group innovation)

  • Stage 3 = [A public/private partnership emerges and the entity] agrees to publicize and host the project, including designating a staffer to make it their full-time job; volunteers are organized (infusion of resources)

Grocery store, HEB, has a director of disaster preparedness position, but they also stay ahead of challenges by collaborating with peers, in this case retailers in China. Here is an article featuring a pivot from another local company, Akkerval Technologies.

4. Let’s talk about rent and other bills.

Here, Michigan Retailers Association provides five proactive measures and rent structures that can increase your chances of working out an arrangement with your landlord. Also, the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation has a helpful guide to managing finances for businesses who can’t pay on their Instagram page. The Harvard Business Review offers some guidance for how to make a proposal to your landlord. Marketplace has a few suggestions in the top of this blog post from early April.

Credit bureau, Experian, has a resource site with links to numerous financial institutions providing specific guidance on how they are handling COVID-19. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) has a robust online Coronavirus Financial Toolkit. One of these services includes emergency credit card payment relief. Anyone needing assistance can call 844-865-1971 or visit this site

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has a comprehensive site full of resources (available in several languages), including how to avoid being scammed.

Chief Executive has seven insightful considerations for staying afloat here.

5. What resources are available for 1099 employees, freelancers, and independent contractors (etc.)?

Vox offers some background information on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) which has been expanded to include gig workers and freelancers impacted by COVID-19. They also have a comprehensive Q+A site related to unemployment. NPR also offers some useful considerations. But, both refer readers to their state-specific unemployment sites.

Here is the verbiage from “With Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), many people, including those who don’t typically qualify for unemployment benefits, such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, low-wage workers and those with limited work history may qualify for PUA. Under PUA, individuals will receive an established weekly benefit amount and an additional $600 per week in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.” Applying online is the fastest method (though there have been technical problems and long delays). The chart below illustrates some of the unemployment benefits for different types of workers.

6. We’re not going to make it. What should we do next?

If circumstances are going to require you to close permanently, here is a thoughtful 10-item checklist of next steps from Intuit, including this sentiment, which we share: “If you’re thinking of closing your doors for good, our hearts go out to you.”

The Small Business Administration has a list of considerations for closing or selling your business, including linking you to one of their local business counselors.

Here are some things to think about including bankruptcy and some input from local small business advisor Kimberly Ross Clayson in The New York Times written by local small business owner and journalist, Amy Haimerl.

Communicate with your customers. Consider referring them to other local businesses. 

Seek legal advice. Michigan Community Resources and Miller Canfield have teamed with the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation to provide a nonprofit and small business legal clinic for organizations with 25 or fewer employees. 

Visit our  Q+A page for more answers to your COVID-19 questions. 

Events + Opportunities

Many around the ecosystem are offering virtual webinars, events and office hours. NEI will also share these on their website. If you are an organization hosting webinars or events or providing technical assistance, please let us know at

Join ProsperUS Detroit today at 2:00 p.m. for their Managing Online Ads Webinar. Juan Carlos Dueweke-Perez of Featherstone Moments will guide participants through an overview of tools and best practices for creating and managing online ads. Topics will include shipping/delivery setup, e-gift card sales and ad management via social media platforms.

Ready to get your business online and start selling today? This webinar hosted by Mailchimp on Thursday, May 14, at 1:00 p.m., will walk you through the quick process of creating a shoppable landing page in Mailchimp. 

Nonprofit organization leaders, mark your calendars for Bridgespan’s webinar on “Decision Making in Times of Stress,” Thursday, May 14, at 3:00 p.m. Sign up here

Startup Detroit Open Pitch Night is going virtual this month on Thursday, May 14, at 6:00 p.m. This is a great way to connect to Detroit's growing startup community. Anyone launching a new product or technology is invited to share and present. Register here

The May Citywide virtual SOUP is Sunday, May 17, at 5:00 p.m. Get your tickets here

Michigan Community Resources’ COVID-19 legal clinics are an opportunity for Detroit’s nonprofits, small businesses, and entrepreneurs to receive free legal advice during a 45-minute remote consultation with a volunteer attorney. More information and the form to request an appointment can be found here

Still need to file taxes? VITA ACE is a safe and reliable way for the Accounting Aid Society to prepare your federal, state and city tax returns without in-person contact and at no cost. Using a secure, IRS-approved software, VITA ACE lets you use your smartphone, tablet, or computer’s camera and email address to upload your tax documents and electronic signature – without leaving your home. Make an appointment here

AaDya is offering free cybersecurity support for small businesses right now to help them navigate this new world of remote work, and all the threats that come along with it. Reach out to them through to send in your questions or concerns and they will have a member of their team get back to you with help. Tune into their social media to know about upcoming webinars on cybersecurity for small businesses. 

SCORE has been hosting free, LIVE webinars every week on small business tips and strategies. See their upcoming offerings on their website.

The Michigan SBDC has been hosting informational webinars. Watch past recordings and register for upcoming small business support webinars.  

Bamboo Detroit has a lunchtime series bringing local and national founders and investors live to do Q&A on specific topics with local startup companies. Check their site for more details and to sign up.

TechTown Detroit is also offering free consultations with members of their team using digital platforms. Schedule an appointment to be supplied with a link to join the meeting using video conferencing: Open Office Hours and Ask An Expert

The University of Michigan's "Free Accounting Fridays" program is available to help you with accounting/finance concerns (profit and loss statements, cash flow analysis, balance sheets, etc.), and consult on the various loan/grant opportunities related to COVID-19 and help prepare applications. You can make appointments here.

In Good Company: Stories of Resilience

This is a community of opportunity, brimming with stories of small business resilience and survival. 

Submission opportunity: ICIC Stories of Resilience 

Businesses and individuals around the country are stepping up to provide aid during the COVID-19 crisis. Whether you're a restaurant delivering food to healthcare workers, or a software provider lending assistance to your local governments, your story wants to be heard. Please submit 250 words or less to so that they can share your story with the community.

Here are local news stories of inspiration and resilience:

Follow In Good Co. Detroit on Facebook and Instagram for their latest entrepreneur story features and to hear stories of resilience from local entrepreneurs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including Mariyah Saifuddin of Innovative Solution Partners, Kimle Nailer of Nail-Rite Construction, and others.

You are not alone. 

We are here to serve the community and stand as a resource for you. Have any questions related to COVID-19 resources for entrepreneurs and businesses, or have a resource or opportunity to share with the metro Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem? Contact us at


For more entrepreneurship virtual events, resources, and opportunities:

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