Business applicants sought for Innovation Fund

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published March 11, 2015


METRO DETROIT — Entrepreneurs involved in high-growth, technology-focused businesses are encouraged to apply for funding from the new “Innovation Fund Macomb Community College, Powered by JPMorgan Chase & Co.” Applications for the first round of funding are open and will be accepted online through April 30 at

Advanced manufacturing, information technology, alternative energy, health care, and logistics and supply chain businesses are eligible to apply. The companies must be located within a nine-county region consisting of Genesee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw or Wayne counties.

The grants are for high-tech, high-growth businesses, according to school officials. There are two funding options available. The first is a grant of up to $25,000 to support early-stage businesses taking the initial steps in market introduction.

The second is an award of up to $100,000, which must be matched dollar for dollar, to advance the progress of emerging companies toward larger-scale funding.

To apply for the $25,000 grant, officials are seeking early starting businesses owners that already have a well-formed idea.

“They have to come to us with a milestone plan, which is realistic and measurable. They have to have some kind of road map of where they’re going,” said Derrin Leppek, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at MCC. “It’s got to be thought through. They also need to put some money in the business or money from friends or family.”

As for the $100,000 grant, it is basically an interest-free loan that must be matched dollar for dollar. Entrepreneurs who receive this grant also must have a presence on campus, such as speaking to students about their professions or bringing an intern on board.

“The $100,000 requires their own funding of $100,000,” Leppek said. “They have to have (the money) up front or a letter up front” if they want to be eligible.

There is a good chance that several grants will be issued each cycle.

“It depends on the applicant and the opportunity,” Leppek said. “More than likely, there will be several each cycle. There will be a lot of competition.”

Applicant finalists will pitch their business idea to a panel of business leaders and entrepreneurs representing a variety of relevant backgrounds to ensure the best-conceived ideas are selected for funding.

“We help them apply and help them polish their position for the deciding board,” Leppek said. “Every applicant is going to get some level of mentoring. We stay with them. We help mentor them and we keep in touch.”

Grant recipients must spend the money on what they had promised it would be used for.

The first round of funding from the Innovation Fund will be issued in early summer. Leppek said there has been “a lot of buzz and excitement” on campus about the Innovation Fund.

“We’re looking for a lot of job creation,” Leppek said, adding that it will prompt a “ripple effect” on the economy.

According to college officials, the Innovation Fund is modeled after a similar program at Lorain County Community College in northeastern Ohio. The goal is to keep MCC’s Innovation Fund going for as long as possible.

Macomb’s Innovation Fund was established with a $1 million commitment by JPMorgan Chase, matched by $1 million from MCC’s Strategic Fund. It is designed to stimulate economic development and job growth, providing valuable capital to entrepreneurs at a pivotal time in business development between “family and friends” funding and the ability to attract mainstream financial investor funding. 

JPMorgan Chase’s support is part of its five-year, $100 million commitment to Detroit’s economic recovery. The Innovation Fund is part of Macomb’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a one-stop resource for students and community members for entrepreneurship education and training, mentorship for startups and existing small business, and access to capital.

For more information, visit or call (586) 226-4833.