Detroit Today

Helping minority-owned business thrive where they are

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$1.8M partnership drives equity, inclusion among underrepresented entrepreneurs

DETROIT—Lifting up and supporting minority-owned businesses secure the tools and access networks they need to succeed is no longer a pipe dream for Detroit-area entrepreneurs— it’s an action item.

Through a $1.8 million investment in Lightship Capital from Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana and its subsidiary, The 4100 Group, underrepresented and underestimated business owners will soon have access to secure funding, mentoring and technical support to get their dreams up and running.

It’s a timely and urgent investment as minority small business owners often face roadblocks, inequitable access and social constraints that rob them of the opportunities to build and lead thriving, robust businesses.

Lightship Capital is a Cincinnati-based venture capital fund focused on funding and educating underrepresented entrepreneurs including women, people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+ or disabled.  

Delta Dental and The 4100 Group, entered the $1.8 million partnership with Lightship Capital to provide these entrepreneurs with equitable access to the tools, training, capital and a network of potential partners to build wealth.

It’s a conversation the companies have been engaged in since the start of 2020.

“We knew right from the start this partnership would allow more investors and consumers to see these founders’ full potential, help underserved communities overcome social injustice and inequity and ultimately allow our regions to thrive with local talent and ideas,” said Margaret Trimer, vice president of strategic partnerships at Delta Dental. 

According to Cornell University researcher Courtney McCluney, Black women have recently been the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs nationally, despite having disproportionate access to resources like capital. 

“The overall mission is to empower, educate, fund and scale some great companies in this ecosystem,” said Candice Brackeen, general partner at Lightship Capital. “When founders have access to these resources, their chances of scaling and making real economic impact in the region increases exponentially. And when local businesses win, the community at large wins, too.”

Detroit is set to bring in the programming, Brackeen said, since the city already boasts a vibrant tech and entrepreneur ecosystem. Programs offering underrepresented entrepreneurs access to mentorship, networks and organized guidance around scaling their businesses are likely to have a profound economic impact in Detroit.

Projects on the horizon include ventures such as pop-up restaurants and retail to mobile dental care.

Lightship Capital not only invests in startups but also offers two entrepreneurial education programs—Hillman, an accelerator, and NewME Bootcamp.

Hillman is a growth-focused, entrepreneur education program serving underrepresented, tech-driven startups through mentorship, specialized curriculum, partnerships and capital investments.

The NewME Bootcamp is a one-week retreat for a cohort of 10 founders building companies in a variety of industries, including tech and health. They live together, share meals and have their business strategies critiqued and constructed to help them reach the next level. 

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