Detroit Means Business is more than a mantra for the city’s persistence and tenacity – it’s also the name of an organization that is making Detroit the place for small business owners to thrive. The organization, Detroit Means Business (DMB), acts as the open door to entrepreneurial success and is dedicated to driving a strong small business community.  

DTE Energy is dedicated to improving lives with its energy. Part of that is equipping people in the communities to thrive economically.

Recently, DMB hosted The Inaugural Detroit Means Business Summit with the help of DTE. The day-long event was a tremendous success with approximately 400 small business owners in attendance.    

“A thriving small business economy is essential to the success of every city, township and state, but business owners who run the shops, restaurants, grocery stores and other vital services in our communities were ravaged by COVID-19,” said Jay Williams, strategy and special projects manager, Public Affairs at DTE. “As we begin to rebound from the devastation of the pandemic, the need for equitable access to critical services that help businesses grow and prosper remains imperative.  DTE’s support of Detroit Means Business helps get much-needed assistance into the hands of local businesses that catalyze development and strengthen the neighborhoods where we live and serve”. 

While onsite, small business owners participated in one-on-one consultations for expert advice, learned about accessing small business capital in Detroit, heard professional tips for managing a successful digital business and so much more.  

“The Detroit small business community was ready for an event like this. We had all the relevant resources in one room – business owners really got access to information in a unique way at this inaugural event,” said Lily Hamburger, director of DMB. “Our goal was to provide business owners with tangible takeaways to help their businesses succeed, and the buzz around the 1:1 meetings with experts, the grants, the industry roundtables, and the educational workshops was just palpable. Of course, the only downside is that we could not foresee such an enthusiastic response – we had a waitlist of nearly 300 people who could not join us. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from business owners and experts alike, and I hope the Detroit Means Business coalition will do an event of this nature again!” 

With almost 70 organizations onsite that were ready to give small business owners and entrepreneurs advice on establishing and maintaining successful business practices, the takeaways were immeasurable. 

“The summit was invaluable in being able to connect with fellow entrepreneurs and continue building community as we face struggles and joys of doing business in the city together,” said Erin Pineda, events manager and co-owner of 27th Letter Books. “It was also nice to have so many resource providers in one place to chat with and share feedback on our needs. Plus, finally getting to see friendly faces in-person and not through a video chat screen!” 

Detroit Means Business was established at the height of the pandemic due to the urgent need to support local small businesses.  

With DTE’s leadership, over 60 organizations came together to create a coalition that offered access to resources, information, and experts, ensuring businesses could safely reopen and operate. DTE provided thousands of pro bono consulting hours to launch DMB, along with financial support from our Foundation, and communications resources to get it off the ground. This included the creation of reopening playbooks, distribution of PPE, free financial coaching and information on available procurement opportunities.  

What started as an emergency pandemic response group, has now become a permanent small business assistance program. To date, thousands of small businesses have been helped through DMB’s website and contact center, connecting them to critical resources. While most sectors have reopened, entrepreneurs require ongoing support to recover from the pandemic-driven crisis and reimagine their businesses to build future resilience.