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Despite the gloom and doom, there are a number of innovative companies expanding in the area, sparking hope of economic recovery. The D-Hive puts on events such as this Failure Fest which gives entrepreneurs a chance to hear stories of failures from currently successful business people in Detroit on March 18, 2013. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Despite the gloom and doom, there are a number of innovative companies expanding in the area, sparking hope of economic recovery. The D-Hive puts on events such as this Failure Fest which gives entrepreneurs a chance to hear stories of failures from currently successful business people in Detroit on March 18, 2013. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Small business briefing

As Detroit sinks deeper into debt, entrepreneurs offer hope Add to ...

The latest news for entrepreneurs from the Report on Small Business. Follow us @GlobeSmallBiz

Saddled with debt, Detroit is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Its population dwindling, the question of generating new income has become more urgent than ever.

But in its depression are opportunities –  such as affordable housing and office space –  one of the many reasons why entrepreneurs are attracted to the Motor City. But whether or not the emergence of entrepreneurs is enough to prevent Chapter 11 is yet to be seen.

In last months issue of Fast Company, Chuck Salter explored how a young group of entrepreneurs are rebuilding Detroit. The following is an excerpt from his article:

"Detroit has often sought salvation in big solutions...nothing has worked. But the city’s depression – and the depressed real estate prices that came with it – created opportunities. And opportunity lures entrepreneurs. The startup types...and the ones with lots of money."

In a panel discussion, Mr. Salter said he was drawn by the tension of Detroit’s two opposing narratives. On one hand, he explained, you have a city declining financially and on the other, a group of entrepreneurs that is creating a sense of hope for the first time in years. He wanted to meet those who chose to stay, and those who came from elsewhere to become a part of what’s happening in Detroit. He also wanted to know why they thought they could succeed in the face of such insurmountable problems.

Agnes Crane of Reuters Breakingviews also points to the success of entrepreneurs in attracting young professionals to the downtown core. Training for local businesses has become more accessible, he says, but it might not be enough. After all, he points out that, “88 per cent of its citizens lack a college degree...one of the highest rates in the country.”

But despite the gloom and doom, there are a number of innovative companies expanding in the area, sparking hope of economic recovery. Here are three of them:

1. Dedicated to producing American-made products including timepieces (their first batch sold out in three hours, and they’re now available at Barneys.com), bikes and stationary, Shinola chose Detroit to open its first factory. Visit the website and a pop-up box cleverly reads: “the long tradition of watchmaking in Detroit has just begun.” In this Q&A from Forbes, the company explains what spurred the idea, why it chose Detroit and how it trains its staff.

2. When you think of Detroit, home of Little Caesars Pizza (and crazy bread!), the words ’healthy, organic or raw’ probably don’t register. But a fast-growing little company is trying to change this. Drought is a raw juice maker based in metro Detroit, founded by Caitlin James and her four sisters. Initially they were thinking the idea would work at local farmer’s markets, but a solid cash infusion of $16,000 on Kickstarter set them on their way. They’re now looking to hire and expect $1.5-million in revenue this year.

3. Detroit Labs is another success story. Founded by Paul Glomski two years ago, the mobile app development company has 40 full-time employees and is expected to hire another 20 this year, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. Their clients include GM, Domino’s Pizza, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans.

Kaplan’s new accelerator announces first class

Today the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator announced the 10 startups that will participate in its three-month mentoring and business development program. One of four programs ‘powered by TechStars’ (the others include Nike+, Microsoft and Cloud), Kaplan’s is the first corporate sponsored accelerator focused exclusively on the education sector.

Each startup will be awarded $20,000 in exchange for 6 per cent equity, and the possibility of a $100,000 convertible note. Of the 350 applicants, here are the 10 startups in the accelerator’s inaugural class:

  1. Degreed (San Francisco, CA): a credentialing solution for lifelong learning that scores and validates a host of different learning inputs
  2. Flinja (San Francisco, CA): a peer-to-peer, college-centric job marketplace for students and alumni
  3. MentorMob (Chicago, IL): a crowd-sourced platform that curates the best learning resources for any skill
  4. Modern Guild (New York, NY): online career prep service with a learning platform, 1-on-1 mentors and customized curriculum
  5. PanOpen (New York, NY): an open educational resource platform providing a framework for shared content
  6. Playpower Labs (Pittsburgh, PA): an online platform of web and mobile math games for students in grades
  7. K-8 Ranku (New York, NY): a platform for ranking and marketing online, non-profit degree programs
  8. Uvize (Boulder, CO): a service to help military veterans succeed in college academics
  9. Verificient Technologies (New York, NY): a solution to scale online proctoring with machine learning
  10. Whipsmart (New York, NY): personalized literacy solutions using current news content

EVENTS AND KEY DATES

Young Entrepreneurs Night

Report on Small Business invites you to the next Young Entrepreneurs Night, Friday, July 12, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Montreal. Join us for food and drinks (on us!), and networking (hashtag: #youngtreps), with startups and established small-business owners who can talk about their successes and challenges.

Start Your Business Bootcamp

The organizers of this day-long seminar claim it will give you everything you need to know to start a successful business you’ve been dreaming to start. In fact, they’re so confident that they’re offering a 110 per cent money back guarantee. It takes place in Burlington on Oct. 5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

EDITOR’S PICKS

‘I had to bootstrap...but I wouldn’t do it a different way’

Graeme Scott is the owner of Modern Amplification, amps that are influenced by mid-century modernism. In this edition of our new series, How I Started, he explains why he was compelled to start a company that makes clean yet rugged amps that look great in a living room.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Vintage trailers add cool factor to bright, beautiful office

Its towering wall of windows and killer views are enough to make anyone jealous. But it’s the company’s three restored trailers which serve as a recording studio, cafe and workspace that put The Metrick System’s office squarely at the centre of cool. In this edition of The Amazing Space, Laurence Metrick, the creative director of this Toronto-based advertising and digital agency, shows off the space, while proving that the ’work hard, play hard’ corporate culture is alive and well.

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