One of Jill Ford’s many hats for the city of Detroit is to help local entrepreneurs go from having an idea for a new business to opening their doors to customers.
It is a job she took on with Mayor Mike Duggan more than two years ago, and she is impressed and encouraged by the growing number of programs and opportunities now available to new and growing businesses, Ford said on her recent appearance on Small Talk with Mark S. Lee, which airs Sundays at 8 a.m. on WXYT 1270 AM.
From helping build the Detroit ID program to working with the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund to a visit from Vice President Joe Biden to help award the latest Motor City Match funds, Ford said the past year was an amazing ride. She said she expects 2017 to equal or exceed that for Detroit and its small-business community.
“A lot of (that excitement) comes from so much of the work that has been done and the spirit of entrepreneurship in the city,” Ford told Lee. “There is a family of support in Detroit for each other and for our businesses. That has created the foundation that has allowed so much of the greatness we are seeing in the city right now.”
As Detroit Mayor Duggan’s Special Advisor, Ford heads the City of Detroit’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives. Jill chose to come to Detroit from the San Francisco Bay Area, where as an Angel Investor and Advisor she transformed emerging businesses using strategies forged in mobile gaming. Ford also has a Wharton MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Harvard.
Ford said one of the highlights of her job is working with the Motor City Match program, which provides federal and foundation funding for matching grants, small business and construction loans and technical assistance to business owners and building owners looking to grow a business in Detroit.
Vice President Joe Biden came into Detroit last month to help celebration the success of Motor City Match, which just completed its sixth round of funding. In its most recent round, it distributed about $600,000 to help new and growing businesses expand.
“Vice President Biden has been a friend of Detroit for a while now,” Ford said. “He is so supportive and has had a great impact on the city.”
Two additional programs that started in 2016 and will continue in the New Year are the Detroit ID and Small Business Saturday, Ford said.
With the Detroit ID program, the city is working with area businesses to provide cardholder discounts at many participating neighborhood businesses from hair salons to Buddy’s Pizza. This municipal ID program provides access to key city services, savings and checking accounts, discounts at cultural institutions and more.
Ford also is expanding Detroit’s version of Small Business Saturday. The regular event that most people are familiar with happens every November on the day after Black Friday during the Thanksgiving holiday. Ford said she and her partners are boosting that effort by doing something most Saturdays in Detroit to introduce people to the city’s many small businesses.
Ford added that Detroit’s business base is growing and is lifted by an expanding roster of business owners to work with, including people like Regina Gains from the House of Pure Vin on Woodward Avenue. The House of Pure Vin was able to open thanks to the new Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, which gives people access to capital so they can grow their companies.
“The great thing about these business is they’re not only growing their own businesses but they’re creating a platform for other businesses as well,” Ford said. “Regina at the House of Pure Vin hosts other events that help people discover others around.”
Having that roadmap for one another is yet another reason why Detroit is on the rise, Ford added.
Editor’s note: Hear Jill Ford’s full interview on Small Talk with Mark S. Lee.
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Video post courtesy of Detroit-based Plum Health Direct Primary Care, an extraordinary business worthy of support. Headed by physician Paul Thomas, Plum Health was honored to receive a visit and remarks from Vice President Joe Biden who extoled the importance of small businesses and the integrity of neighborhoods . Read Thomas’ full blog post here.