Join WSU, TechTown Detroit at Toast of the Town: TechTown's annual celebration of entrepreneurship
TechTown Detroit, Wayne State University's entrepreneurship hub, is bringing back its annual Toast of the Town fundraiser on Thursday, Oct. 5. The event honors Detroit’s hardworking entrepreneurs and the role that TechTown plays in strengthening the city’s economy.
This year’s theme is “Innovate. Accelerate. Celebrate. Entrepreneurs are Everything!” In addition to Wayne State, Toast of the Town is made possible with support from Accenture, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, EY, Henry Ford Health and Michigan Central.
TechTown provides programs, education and resources for early- to growth-stage small businesses and tech entrepreneurs. Since 2007, the organization has supported more than 5,300 businesses, in turn creating nearly 2,300 jobs and raising more than $385 million in startup and growth capital. Toast of the Town is just one way that TechTown shows its appreciation for the many businesses and individuals that have worked with the organization. It is also an opportunity for the community to support TechTown’s mission.
Toast of the Town festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with the 8th annual Salute Awards at the Wayne State Industry Innovation Center (Doors open at 5 p.m.). WSU President Kimberly Andrews Espy will speak at the beginning of the ceremony, welcoming the university and TechTown communities to Toast of the Town. Following the ceremony, the event will continue at TechTown from 6 to 9 p.m., with immersive experiences, tech startup demos, displays from independent retailers and tastings from food entrepreneurs. Tickets start at $20 for the “networking ticket” and go up to $150 for the “pay-it-forward unlimited ticket,” which provides admission and unlimited food and drink tickets and covers the cost of a budding entrepreneur to attend Toast of the Town.
To encourage Wayne State students' attendance at this event, several university schools, colleges and divisions have made 20 free tickets available through their generous joint sponsorship of the event. University sponsors include the College of Engineering, the Mike Ilitch School of Business, the School of Medicine, the Law School, the Office of the CFO, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and Government and Community Affairs. These tickets include admission to Toast of the Town and 10 food and drink tickets. To receive a free Wayne State student ticket, please reach out to Christianne Malone, assistant vice president for economic development, at email@example.com.
“We’re excited for the Wayne State community to be a part of this impactful event, and we’re thrilled to make Toast of the Town as accessible as possible for our students,” Malone says. “This event will feature phenomenal Detroit businesses, organizations and resources — with many of them being available to students right on or nearby campus — making this a great way for students to network with the business community.”
Honoring Detroit entrepreneurs at the Salute Awards
For the 8th annual Salute Awards ceremony, four local entrepreneurs will receive TechTown’s highest honor for their embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit, as well as their leveraging of resources at TechTown. These individuals are: Achsha Jones, co-founder and CEO of TripSlip, a company that provides field trip planning services for schools; Lydia Michael, owner of multicultural marketing agency Blended Collective; and Jerome Brown and Sam VanBuren, co-owners of soul food restaurant Detroit Soul.
Maria Mendez, small business accountant at Accounting Aid Society, will receive the Marlowe Stoudamire Small Business Champion Award. Mendez is a dedicated advocate who exemplifies the late entrepreneur and philanthropist’s spirit of collaboration, regularly partnering with TechTown and other business service organizations to catalyze community business growth.
The ceremony is open to all Toast of the Town ticketholders and will be hosted by Orlando Bailey, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and the engagement director for BridgeDetroit. The ceremony will also be livestreamed in English, with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish.
The party continues
Following the Salute Awards ceremony, attendees can head to TechTown’s indoor and outdoor spaces for food, shopping, immersive experiences and technology demonstrations, from 6 to 9 p.m. These will all be provided by TechTown clients, alumni and building community members, along with Hatch Detroit alumni who participated in the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest by TechTown, a retail competition that gives entrepreneurs the chance to win a cash grant and package of in-kind services to open their brick-and-mortar storefront in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park.
At this year’s Toast of the Town, 36 businesses will be onsite to provide experiences — more than any year in the history of the fundraiser. TechTown has provided full details on all of the participating vendors on their website.
For food, attendees will enjoy bites and refreshments from BrownieDr, Cafecito Alvarez, Detroit Soul, For the Love of Cheesecake, Gajiza Dumplins, Ice Cream Detroit, J&T’s Kitchen, Konjo Me, La Terraza, Little Liberia, U Drink I Make and Waka by Baobab Fare.
Once attendees are ready to shop, they can check out apparel, accessories, art and more from Black Rose Gallery, Boho Luxe Detroit, Halie & Co. Lynzi, Naturally ILLustrated LLC, Not Sorry Goods, Quince Primaveras and Rosemarine Textiles.
From drone cameras to a rage room, attendees can check out experiences by local businesses, organizations and tech entrepreneurs, including 482 Forward, ART CLVB, Cocoon Technologies, Dovetail, Drone Capital, Featherstone, Genesis Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, Global Ties Detroit, Grounded, LIVAQ, My Beauty Kit, No Fear Café, Ooh La La Events & Design LLC, The Damage Zone, Urban Electronics and Zero to Wear.
“Last year, we threw a party for the books, and we’re going to make it even bigger and better this year,” says Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State and president and CEO of TechTown. “Join TechTown as we celebrate Detroit’s amazing entrepreneurs and ecosystem partners that fearlessly innovate and accelerate progress of an equitable economy.”
For more information on Toast of the Town, tickets and participating entrepreneurs and organizations, visit techtowndetroit.org/toast. Check out this Instagram Reel to see highlights from last year's event!