Entrepreneurs get shot at sharing $2.5M

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Shared workspace company WeWork and Quicken Loans are giving away $2.5 million in funding on Thursday to Detroit entrepreneurs to build on the momentum in the city’s small business community.

The company and loan giant are joining their own events — WeWork’s Creator Awards and Quicken Loans’ Detroit Demo Day — at Detroit’s Gem Theatre and Cadillac Square, where finalists from Detroit will compete for funding from each company.

WeWork will be awarding $1.5 million in funds to 30 Detroit area entrepreneurs, artists and nonprofits and a chance to advance to the Creator Awards global finals in November where additional prizes will be awarded.

Quicken Loans, which received more than 600 applications for its program, will provide a total of $1 million in capital to eight Detroit small businesses.

The programs will be interlaced and kick off at 4:30 p.m. A job fair and creator market begins at 11:30 a.m. It will have performances by Wyclef Jean, workshops and master classes with leaders from Shinola and Ford.

Josh McManus, COO for Rock Ventures, part of Quicken Loans, said anyone in Detroit can be an entrepreneur.

“I often hear people wonder if (Quicken Loans founder and chairman) Dan Gilbert will do this or that, and I want to remind everybody that Dan is a guy who started in an office by himself,” McManus said. “Anybody can start a business and make a business. We want as many people as possible to follow that dream.”

Twenty businesses in the Quicken competition will present their ideas. The top eight companies will receive capital in amounts ranging from $50,000 to $200,000 — totaling $1 million. The capital will be in the form of an interest-free business loan with a five-year term after a one-year payment-free holiday.

A people’s choice award will also be presented as part of the Quicken program. The people’s choice winner will be chosen by the audience at the event by voting with a mobile app.

WeWork will be awarding grants to business and organizations in its incubate, launch and scale categories. Spokeswoman Jennifer Skyler said the company is excited about the partnership. It has two Detroit locations.

“What is amazing about the 35 finalists is they range from social advocates to artists. All the Detroit entries are really inspiring. This is a city that has been fueling entrepreneurs over the last decade,” Skyler said.

WeWork will have a “live pitch booth” in Campus Martius starting on Saturday, Sklyer said, where anyone can do a 60-second pitch with social media.

“It’s a way for the general public to participate in the Creator Awards,” Skyler said.

The Creator Awards is an international initiative that will grant more than $20 million to entrepreneurs, small businesses, growing companies, nonprofits, artists and other creators benefiting their communities.

Between the awards from both companies, Gilbert will interview WeWork founder and CEO Adam Neumann at the Gem Theatre. The conversation will focus on both leaders’ experiences, their thoughts on Detroit’s business atmosphere and advice for entrepreneurs, a press statement said.