TechTown prepares for 2024 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest with support of WSU OED team

Guiding Wayne State University’s economic impact and catalyzing business activity across the Detroit region are at the forefront of the Office of Economic Development (OED)’s work. This mission extends into our partnership with TechTown Detroit, the university’s entrepreneurship hub, and Hatch Detroit by TechTown. 

A group of people smile for a photograph, standing in front of a white-and-black step-and-repeat, featuring the logo for the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest by TechTown

The Top 10 semifinalist businesses of the 2023 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest by TechTown, with Ned Staebler (back row, far left), vice president for economic development at Wayne State and president and CEO of TechTown, and Christianne Malone (front row, far right), assistant vice president for Wayne State and chief program officer for TechTown. This year's Top 10 Reveal will take place Thursday, April 11. Photograph by J. Lindsey Photography

Small business. Big impact.

Hatch Detroit was founded in 2011 as a vehicle to champion and support small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. The Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest was created from the idea of “crowd entrepreneurship,” where residents have a role in voting for the type of businesses they want in their community.

Hatch joined TechTown’s suite of entrepreneurial programs and services in 2022. Through the annual Contest, one lucky business receives a $100,000 cash grant from Comerica Bank and a package of in-kind services from TechTown to help open their first physical storefront in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park.

A unified effort

The Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest has elevated the entrepreneurial journeys of many local small business owners, including those who are Wayne State students and alumni. Jay and Sarah Williams, the owners of Next Chapter Books and alumni of the WSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, were finalists of the 2023 Contest. Since competing in the contest, they have opened a permanent location for Next Chapter Books on the east side of Detroit.

Employees of OED and TechTown are also heavily involved in the planning and judging process for the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest. Christianne Malone, assistant vice president for economic development at Wayne State and chief program officer at TechTown, leads and oversees all programmatic functions of the Contest, including the application period and judging process.

A crowd of people sitting in an auditorium clapping, cheering and smiling during an event
Attendees cheer on contestants during the 2023 Hatch Off event for the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest. During this event, one business is awarded the $100,000 cash grant and package of in-kind services to open their brick-and-mortar in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park. This year's Hatch Off will take place Thursday, May 9. Photograph by J. Lindsey Photography

“I have been a part of the Contest as a judge and attendee for many years prior to joining TechTown [and Wayne State,]” Malone says, adding that each year she’s excited to see the variety of businesses that apply and make it through each round of the Contest. “Being in the ecosystem and a Detroiter helps me understand the community's needs and what is needed to have a successful ecosystem.”

In February, we welcomed Alexandra Borngesser as OED’s and TechTown’s new director of economic development fundraising. Borngesser supported Hatch Detroit by helping review Contest applications to determine the 25 businesses that would advance to the next round of the competition.

“Through this process, I was able to examine applicants through a fund development lens. If the applicants had the propensity to secure future funding or if they were qualified to close any current funding gaps illustrated in their budget, I viewed them as competitive,” Borngesser says. “I think this vantage point complimented that of my counterparts on the programs team, who were also part of the application review process.” 

A woman triumphantly shouts with her fist in the air as she holds a large check for $100,000 from Comerica Bank for her business, Bouncing Around The Motor City. Representatives from Comerica Bank and TechTown Detroit smile and pose beside her

Cathryn Coleman (center with fist in the air), founder of Bouncing Around The Motor City, was the 2023 winner of the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest. Photograph by J. Lindsey Photography

From pen and pad to brick-and-mortar

OED looks forward to the upcoming events of the 2024 Contest season! The Top 10 Reveal on Thursday, April 11 will introduce the 10 semifinalists of the Contest during a talk-show-style fireside chat. Afterwards, guests can mix and mingle with those entrepreneurs and enjoy complimentary drinks and small bites provided by Hatch Detroit alumni businesses.

Following the Top 10 Reveal, public voting will be open from April 12-18 for the community to determine the four finalists that will advance in the competition. The top four will be announced on Monday, April 22, and another round of voting will be open to the community from May 1-9, to vote for their favorite business.

For both the Top 10 Reveal and the Hatch Off, a donation with a ticket purchase helps provide dedicated support to Hatch alumni as they continue their entrepreneurial journeys.

To purchase tickets for the Top 10 Reveal and Hatch Off or to learn more about Hatch Detroit, visit Wayne State students interested in attending the events can use the promo code WSUSTUDENT to receive a complimentary ticket (limited tickets are available).

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