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New Economy Initiative scales model for inclusive small business growth

November 3rd, 2022 Back to Browse Stories

The New Economy Initiative’s support network helped spouses Hamissi Mamba, left, and Nadia Nijimbere navigate the small business startup process and access the tools and resources they needed to open Baobab Fare, a traditional East African eatery and cafe in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. The New Economy Initiative is an initiative of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Photo credit: Ali Lapetina

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many small business owners and entrepreneurs struggled to navigate relief programs and lacked access to the basic technical services and resources that are critical to starting or expanding a business. Those who persevered now struggle with staffing and supply chain issues, as well as historic inflation few are equipped to handle.

As a result, many have closed their doors, with a disproportionate impact on underserved local economies and minority small business owners. However, for more than a decade, the New Economy Initiative and its partners have had success in creating a small business support network in larger urban centers, including Detroit, which today are faring better than those communities without an NEI presence. 

NEI is an initiative of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. It works to help small businesses survive and thrive despite the volatile economic climate. NEI’s mission is to grow an inclusive culture of entrepreneurship and small businesses that benefits all residents and strengthens the regional economy. 

These past two years have proven that creating an ecosystem for inclusive small business growth is key to creating a more equitable and prosperous economy. The $133 million in grants NEI has made to nonprofit business support organizations since 2009 has assisted over 21,436 companies while leveraging more than $2.6 billion in the ecosystem, creating pockets of resilience throughout the region. 

Building on these results, NEI is working to expand services to underserved Wayne County communities that lack similar programming and resources. It aims to make pathways to wealth generation through entrepreneurship more accessible to small business owners throughout the region and help them recover from the negative economic repercussions caused by the pandemic.

NEI is increasing efforts to provide grants to nonprofit business support organizations and chambers of commerce in areas that lack a robust support network. Working with its partners, NEI will connect recipients to technical assistance such as accounting, legal and marketing services, or business plan development. These efforts will help small businesses grow while also preparing them for the next downturn.

For all the difficulties and pain the pandemic has brought, a silver lining is that there’s a clear path to a new economy – and it starts with building an inclusive ecosystem where all small businesses can thrive in southeast Michigan.  

Make an Impact

Visit to learn more about how the New Economy Initiative helps small businesses thrive and grow in metro Detroit. 

This story first appeared in the Fall 2022 REPORT Newsletter.