The TEN Nail Bar, Bridal House, Detroit Mushroom Factory and other startups are seeking votes to win funds for expansion
A bridal shop, nail salon, mushroom factory and several small businesses in Detroit are competing for $25,000 to expand and hire more employees.
The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest will award $25,000 and $7,500 in FedEx Office print and business services to one grand prize winner, largely decided by an online voting contest that ends April 5. The silver winner will receive $15,000 and $5,000 in print and business services, and eight bronze winners will receive $7,500 and $1,000 in services.
So far, 13 Detroit beauty, food, fashion, fitness and finance businesses from Detroit are running against over 1,000 companies nationwide. The deadline to enter is March 29.
Detroit resident Kristin London, 26, launched the Detroit Bridal House in a historic home at 17576 Parkside in September. Barely six months old (the minimum to be eligible for the grant), the bridal shop’s collection includes 50 wedding gowns from six designers.
“I just always wanted to open a bridal shop since I was a little girl, and before we opened, there were no bridal shops like ours in the city,” London says, “and there still aren’t any that represent what we call the ‘non-traditional bride,’ more like the boho style, trendy chic.”
“One thing let to another,” she continues. “I just started meeting different designers, and here we are.”
If she wins, London says she’ll use the funds to move into a building on Livernois’ Avenue of Fashion or in Woodbridge or Midtown. But it she doesn’t want a huge space.
“My vision is for something that’s still really cozy and not overwhelming,” she says.
The TEN Nail Bar also is in the running. Co-founders Kelli Coleman and Anika Jackson, both 32, opened Detroit’s first modern nail bar in Capitol Park in September.
The full-service nail salon offers complimentary wine and champagne with manicures and pedicures and has hired 20 staffers. In just six months, Coleman said they’ve grown their database to over 3,000 customers and see on average 500 people a month.
“Our books are consistently full, and we have a very healthy demand,” she said.
Coleman said they would use the grant to expand to a second location in a Detroit suburb, though she’s not ready to share where yet.
“Our plan was always to open multiple locations, and we're excited that the concept has been so well-received,” Coleman said.
Detroit Mushroom Factory co-founders Deana Wojcik, 31, and Chris Carrier, 34 also said they hope to expand their business by winning the $25,000.
The two have grown edible and medicinal mushrooms out of their home in Detroit’s North End since November 2014.
“We're at production capacity for that space and have a waiting list for customers, so we're eager to produce more,” Wojcik said, adding that they sell wholesale to local restaurants such as Rose's Fine Food, Trinosophes, Sister Pie and Brooklyn St. Local.
Last summer, they bought a warehouse in Detroit to increase production space. An ioby crowdfunding campaign has so far raised over $5,000 to help with renovation and equipment costs. The FedEx grant would go toward hiring additional staff.
“We currently have a fabulous intern who will graduate from high school this year, and we'd love to offer him a paid part-time position while he attends college,” Wojcik said.
Since 2013, the annual contest has awarded $250,000 in small business grants. Last year’s grand prize went to Ginjan Bros., a company founded by two brothers from West Africa who crafted an organic version of a West African ginger drink.
The number of online votes is a factor when the FedEx selection committee decides the top 100 finalists on April 13. The winners will be announced April 25.
Anyone is eligible to vote at smallbusinessgrant.fedex.com. Voting is limited to once every 24 hours.
Detroit contestants include: