By Perry Teicher, President of Detroit Nation.
I've been working with Detroit Nation for about 2 years now. A little over a year ago, the board elected me President. In that role, I helped manage and expand Detroit Nation's DRIVE program - a network-focused strategy to support Detroit social entrepreneurs. Working with our members in New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area, we conducted a series of consulting sessions to dig into particular problems Detroit start-up social entrepreneurs were having. Over the course of this process, we identified a relatively consistent major struggle - access to capital to move into a product distribution stage. While the entrepreneurs found it relatively easy to find start-up capital, whether in the form of grants or loans, at least in Detroit they found that capital dried up as soon as they were no longer working on the idea, but now on the additionally hard part of building the business.
Over the summer, while on the Ariene de Rothschild Fellowship at Cambridge, I met one of the founders of UnLtd India - an organization that is doing exactly that type of work in India. As part of exploring a U.S. expansion, the UnLtd team had a roadshow around the country. The ROI Micro Grant provided me the opportunity to participate in this event and to be able to share Detroit Nation's experience in Detroit, and strategize on potential partnerships across our network.
This opportunity was really important, both in terms of building a more substantial early stage capital infrastructure as well as creating a broader network that supports these early stage entrepreneurs. From this point, we're now able to move forward more thoughtfully with our goal to build this broader network of people who care about Detroit and are linked into more opportunities to directly support really creative people making a difference in the city. In addition to expanding the network around the country, we're also able to work with more entrepreneurs in traditionally underserved areas in the city. In addition to the hotbeds of social entrepreneurial, Detroit has a slew of neighborhoods that have missed out on attention and effective investment. A key part of our strategy moving forward is more thoughtfully working with these neighborhoods and communities, supporting community investment in ways that the community itself decides. Thanks to this ROI Micro Grant we're closer to achieving these goals.