Entrepreneurs and small businesses in Detroit suffer from a well-documented lack of access to capital, to business skills and legal advice, and to networks for mentoring and sales opportunities. Women and minority entrepreneurs often face the greatest difficulties in getting access to these essentials to business success. The Detroit Neighborhood Business Project is a new action-based learning experience focused on assisting neighborhood-based small businesses in Detroit. The goal of the project is to draw on the skills of faculty and students at the University of Michigan Law School, the Ross School of Business, the College of Engineering and other University schools and departments to work closely with neighborhood-based Detroit entrepreneurs to solve problems and address barriers to growth. Clients will include borrowers of the Detroit Development Fund's Entrepreneurs of Color Loan Fund, launched with $6.5 million from Kellogg and Chase Foundations.
Twenty-two students participated in our first interdisciplinary project, under the supervision of nine faculty from three schools. One of our clients, who was on the brink of closing her retail shop, hired her first part-time employee after only...