DETROIT – Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day announced last week the 17 finalists competing for a share of more than $1 million in funding in their fourth annual entrepreneurship competition – one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. The finalists will be judged by nationally acclaimed entrepreneurs from across the country.
This year’s rebranded competition includes new categories meant to highlight innovation borne through the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as sustain anchor businesses in need of funding to weather the uncertainty ahead.
The Quicken Loans Community Fund narrowed the competitive field of applicants to 100 semi-finalists, and then a diverse panel of Detroit-based entrepreneurs and business leaders identified the 17 finalists who began recording their pitches for video episodes to be released October 20.
This year’s competition features three categories: Start, Sustain and Build. Businesses in the Start category are launching and finding traction amidst the current crisis, or have pivoted their business models to meet the needs of this moment. Businesses in the Sustain category are longstanding, community anchor businesses that can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic but require additional funding to do so. Businesses in the Build category have a business model and/or product that will allow their business to expand despite the current crisis.
The following companies will be competing for more than $1 million in funding:
Start Category (Three winners receive up to $75,000 in grant funding):
Beas’s Detroit – a place to work, eat, shop and celebrate
Gildform – on-demand jewelry manufacturing
Pivot Materials – sustainable materials manufacturer
Sfumato Fragrances – fragrance company
Shift_Up – online and in-person learning gym
Sustain Category (Five winners receive $50,000 in grant funding):
Bon Bon Bon – artisanal chocolate maker
City Bark – community pet supply shop
Build Category (Three winners receive up to $200,000 in interest-free loans or equity-like investments):
Alerje – digital patient engagement platform
Monger’s Provisions – purveyors of specialty foods
“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,” said 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 Plain Sight CEO James Chapman, who co-founded Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day with Rocket Mortgage Chairman Dan Gilbert. Chapman previously served as the Entrepreneur in Residence for the Quicken Loans Community Fund before founding Plain Sight, a mobile app that helps users make connections 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,” said 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 also sits on the board of the University of Michigan Social Venture Fund, and Delane Parnell, Founder and CEO of PlayVS.
Each episode will announce the respective category’s winners, but viewers will once again be an indispensable part of the competition – voting for three People’s Choice Grant award recipients. Voting will open on October 20 on DetroitDemoDay.com when the episodes are published, and will continue through October 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. Additionally, the Quicken Loans Community Fund’s Entrepreneurship Team provides ongoing support, networking opportunities and mentorship to Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day winners. Last year’s Downtown Detroit Markets, a partnership between the Quicken Loans Community Fund and Bedrock, featured four winners in its Detroit Demo Day Collective.
In March, the Quicken Loans Community 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, Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert and his affiliated companies have directly contributed more than $200 million to Detroit-based organizations and programming. Additionally, team members have tallied more than 400,000 hours of volunteer service in Detroit.