Detroit's newest space for growing business ideas

Posted on April 8, 2014

The rise of the business incubator, an organization that provides guidance and resources to startups, is a well-known trend in the world of entrepreneurship. In September, a small business incubator called Practice-Space (or, simply, Practice) opened its doors in what was formerly an auto-repair shop on Perry just off 14th St. in North Corktown. And its incubation model might be the first of its kind.

Three businesses will be chosen for Practice’s upcoming four-month term beginning on May 14. Model D will be given firsthand access to the development of these businesses and will relate their experiences through monthly write-ups.

Practice provides the Detroit-based businesses in its incubation program with wide-ranging counsel from a group of experts in the fields of architecture, real estate, business, and community development. In order to gain admittance, a prospective business must have a brick & mortar component, a social relevance to Detroit, and be at a particular point in its development in order to take advantage of Practice’s resources, which include access to space in addition to expert counsel. The program costs admitted businesses $3,000 per term.

One of Detroit’s overlooked assets is its underutilized property. Many, like Practice’s own building, are structurally sound, aesthetically distinct, and capable of being re-appropriated for uses for which they may not have been originally intended. Having a placed-based requirement means that businesses in Practice’s program tend towards the hyper-local.

Practice describes the period in which they specialize the “concept phase” — a pivotal developmental point where mistakes can cost a great deal down the road. Steps taken during this stage include perfecting a business plan, designing floor plans, projecting finances, developing an overall design and aesthetic for promotional materials, and more.

These wide-ranging, complex fields often overwhelm a fledgling business, especially if the owner has never attempted such a venture before. That is why businesses are given access to a team of five advisors with expertise in architecture, law, real-estate, design, and community engagement. These advisors work from Practice about six to eight hours per month and make themselves available to the businesses through email.

In addition, Practice runs a residency program, which offers office-space to young professionals seeking to hone their skills by working part-time for one of the businesses in the incubation program. Practice’s management expects to have 12-15 residents for the upcoming term. Residents pay $2,500 for their first term and discounted rates thereafter.

As stated on Practice’s website, “The program gives you the resources to fully explore the many aspects of your project, while clarifying a path forward.” Owners will leave the program with a “concept book,” or a distilled vision of the business plan, which can be presented to investors as proof of their thoughtful aproach to their business.

This forthcoming term will be Practice’s third. Their first term in September 2013 had one business (The North End Storehouse), their second term had two (Off World, Project 1417), and they hope to have three for the May-Aug. term.

Practice has been honing their model and growing in membership each term. This upcoming one should be their most comprehensive yet. We look forward to showcasing the development of the Detroit businesses enrolled and digging deeper into this new business incubation model.