Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day has announced its 17 business finalists competing for a share of more than $1 million in funding in the fourth annual entrepreneurship competition.
The virtual event is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S., and the finalists will be judged by entrepreneurs from across the country. This year’s competition includes new categories meant to highlight innovation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as sustain anchor businesses in need of funding to weather future uncertainty.
The Quicken Loans Community Fund narrowed the field of applicants to 100 semi-finalists, and then a panel of Detroit-based entrepreneurs and business leaders identified the 17 finalists. Video episodes showing pitches and announcing the winners will be released Oct. 20.
This year’s competition includes three categories: start, sustain, and build. Businesses in the start category are launching or have pivoted their business models to meet current needs. Businesses in the sustain category are longstanding community anchor businesses that can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic but need funds to do so. Businesses in the build category have a business model or product that will allow them to expand despite the current crisis.
The following businesses are in the start category. Three winners will receive up to $75,000 in grant funding:
- Bea’s Detroit – co-working, shopping, eating, and event space
- Pivot Materials – sustainable materials manufacturer
- Shift_Up – online and in-person learning gym
- Gildform – on-demand jewelry manufacturing
- Sfumato Fragrances – fragrance company
The following are in the sustain category. Five winners will receive $50,000 in grant funding:
- Bon Bon Bon – artisanal chocolate maker
- The Kitchen By Cooking With Que – demonstration kitchen and culinary shared space
- The Peacock Room – women’s boutique
- Yum Village – Afro-Caribbean restaurant
- City Bark – community pet supply shop
- Narrow Way Café and Shop – coffee shop
- Pingree Detroit – socially conscious design and manufacturing house
The following are in the build category. Three winners will receive up to $200,000 in interest-free loans or equity-like investments:
- Alerje – digital patient engagement platform
- Paralee Boyd – streamlined salon
- Skinphoria – facial bar
- Monger’s Provisions – purveyors of specialty foods
- RIZZARR – content marketplace for creators
“This year’s Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day finalists include a diverse set of leaders who have built businesses that are an integral part of the fabric of our community and innovated through the current crisis to offer unique products and services,” says Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Quicken Loans Community Fund, the philanthropic arm of Rocket Mortgage. “In a time when our entrepreneurial community is at risk, it is imperative that we arm Detroit-based small businesses with the capital they need to persevere and prosper.”
Three episodes – one per category – will be hosted by James Chapman, CEO of Plain Sight who co-founded Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day with Dan Gilbert, chairman of Rocket Mortgage. Chapman served as the entrepreneur in residence for the Quicken Loans Community Fund before founding Plain Sight, an app that helps users make connections with other professionals and support their local business community.
“This year’s Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day finalists embody the type of grit and resilience that you can only find in Detroit,” says Chapman. “We have to continue to band together and lift up small and early-stage businesses across Detroit because they are the cornerstones of the community.”
The 90-second finalist pitches, filmed while observing COVID-19 safety protocols and social distancing, will be judged by Candice Matthews Brackeen, founder and CEO of Hillman and general partner at Lightship Capital; Jamie Shea, a Detroit-based entrepreneur who sits on the board of the University of Michigan Social Venture Fund; and Delane Parnell, founder and CEO of PlayVS.
Viewers can participate in the People’s Choice Grant. Voting will open on Oct. 20 when the episodes are published and continue through Oct. 25. Each category’s People’s Choice Grant recipient will win $25,000.
Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day has invested $3.4 million into Detroit-based businesses over the past three years. The Quicken Loans Community Fund’s entrepreneurship team provides ongoing support, networking opportunities, and mentorship to winners. Last year’s Downtown Detroit Markets, a partnership between the fund and Bedrock, featured four winners in its Detroit Demo Day Collective.
In March, the fund invested $100,000 in TechTown’s Detroit Small Business Stabilization Fund, which provided working capital grants up to $5,000 to qualifying small businesses in Detroit. The Quicken Loans Community Fund also partnered with the city of Detroit and Rebrand Cities to get Detroit businesses online through an accelerator providing participants with a business website, free hosting for three months, guided website development training, and more.
Since 2010, Gilbert and his affiliated companies have contributed more than $200 million to Detroit-based organizations and programming. Team members have also tallied more than 400,000 hours of volunteer service in Detroit.