Ellis Island Tea, Healthy Roots Among QL Detroit Demo Day Winners

Quicken Loans Detroit Demo Day, held Friday evening at the Fillmore downtown, was quite a production. The event involved a number of entrepreneurs pitching their companies from the stage to a panel of judges as well as the crowd, which was voting on people’s choice awards via mobile app. At stake were cash and prizes worth $1.2 million in total.

It was very refreshing to see the crowd mirroring Detroit’s demographics far better than most regional startup events do, and the pre-show chat onstage between Bedrock entrepreneur-in-residence James Chapman and Che Pope, president and COO of Kanye West-founded G.O.O.D. Music, was enlightening.

Unexpected was the love that demo day co-host Angela Yee of the Breakfast Club gave Detroit. If I heard her correctly from the audience, she said she recently purchased property in the city’s Boston-Edison neighborhood. She said her Breakfast Club colleague DJ Envy owns “homes” in the Motor City as well. It was a high-energy event that even included a surprise performance by rapper T.I. at the end.

Without further ado, here is more about the winners:

Start category

Healthy Roots ($100,000): Healthy Roots is a toy company creating dolls and storybooks that reinforce positive self-perceptions of the varying shades of complexion and natural hair textures among girls of color.

—EnBiologics’ Honey Cure ($75,000): Dedicated to veterinary and wound care, the company’s flagship product is an all-natural hydrogel wound treatment.

Gus & Grey ($50,000): Gus & Grey sells an extensive line of small-batch jams and preserves.

—People’s choice grant ($25,000): Healthy Roots

Grow Category

Louisiana Creole Gumbo ($250,000). This longtime restaurant just east of downtown serves a variety of Cajun dishes. At demo day, the company handed out delicious samples, including the cutest little cornbread muffins I’ve ever seen.

Detroit Dough ($200,000): Sometimes, you want to skip the cookies and go straight to the dough, and this company can accommodate. It sells safe-to-eat handcrafted dough in flavors like Hold My Chips and Brownie.

Eastern Market Brewing Co. ($150,000): Founded by three friends who called a number on an Eastern Market “for sale” sign on a whim and ended up building a brewery, the company serves about a dozen different beers.

—People’s Choice Grant ($25,000): Detroit Dough

Scale Category

Ellis Island Tea ($300,000): A decade ago, my local gas station was one of the few places to find Ellis Island Tea, whose recipes are based on those of its Detroit founder’s Jamaican grandfather. Today, it can be found at Sam’s Club, Whole Foods, and many more stores and restaurants around the city.

—People’s Choice Grant ($25,000): Functional Fluidics, which has an office at TechTown Detroit, says its goal is to set the standard for blood function diagnostics in sickle cell disease and a wide range of bleeding and clotting disorders.

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