Hatch Detroit Business Contest Down to Four Finalists; Voting Ends Nov. 2

The ideas have been pitched, the public cast their votes online and through social media for the semi-finalists, and now the Hatch Detroit retail business contest is in its final stage. This is the hard part, where we choose the winner. Will it be the wine bar or the tea room? The pop-up furniture store or the storefront laboratory for local fashion designers?

Through Wednesday, November 2, Detroiters are being asked to vote for one of four brick-and-mortar startups that Hatch Detroit’s contest organizers hope will be yet another piece in the city’s revitalization. At stake is $50,000 in seed money, as well as an estimated $25,000 worth of in-kind services from contest sponsors and a marketing campaign hammered out by Team Detroit.

The contest began in July, when organizers Ted Balowski, an account executive at Troy, MI-based CareTech Solutions, and Nick Gorga, an attorney at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn in Detroit, began receiving more than 200 business-idea submissions. The 200 were then narrowed down by the public to 10 semi-finalists through online voting.

“You always hear about crowdfunding,” Balowski says, “and we wanted to give the community the opportunity to participate. The response and the amount of positive feedback has been overwhelming. People got behind it very quickly.”

Though the crowd isn’t funding it per se—Balowski and Gorga put up a chunk of the prize money, with individual and corporate sponsors contributing the rest—they have chosen the winners at every step of the way. On October 21, the four finalists gathered for a “Hatch Off,” where they went before judges Torya Blanchard of Good Girls Go to Paris; Paul Saginaw, founder of Zingerman’s Deli; and Dave Blaszkiewicz of the Downtown Detroit Partnership and made their pitches one last time. The Hatch Off, which was part of Model D’s Next Big Thing event, was recorded so those who missed the event can watch online and consider the merits of each project before casting a final vote. (The public vote is weighted 75 percent and the judges’ vote is weighted 25 percent.)

Without further ado, the finalists are:

Alley Wine: The bar, located on Second Street in Midtown, will specialize in offering an affordable and rotating selection of wines from around the world, as well as a sampling of meat and cheese pairings. Customer service would emphasize educating customers about all things related to wine culture.

HUGH: Inspired by men’s fashion magazines of the ’50s and ’60s, HUGH offers furniture and housewares with “a contemporary take on classic bachelor pad style.” The shop has already proven itself with two successful pop-up installations in 2009 and 2010; now it seeks to open a permanent location.

Woodbridge Gypsy Den & Tea Room: A local cafe with an eye on organic, local, vegan fare and community involvement, the Woodbridge Gypsy Den will offer sweets, smoothies, beer, wine, coffee, and, of course, tea. One of the founders is graphic designer who fell in love with “tea culture” after a trip to China and now makes her own blends from herbs grown in a local community garden.

Workroom: The goal of Workroom is not just to establish a retail space and manufacturing facility for local fashion designers, but also to be the anchor store in a reimagined garment district in Detroit’s long-vacant Capital Park section of downtown. Principal creative director Fotoula Lambros is already well-known for her work on the now defunct local independent women’s clothing line Femilia.

Balowski says the winner will be introduced on November 15 at Wayne State University as part of the Get Launched event hosted by Blackstone LaunchPad, a student entrepreneurship program.

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