Ann Arbor SPARK Awarded $250,000 by U.S. Economic Development Administration to Develop Business Accelerator Model

Yesterday, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration announced a $250,000 grant award to Ann Arbor SPARK.  The funding will support development of a business accelerator model that can be used by communities throughout the U.S. Initially, the model will be deployed in Washtenaw and Wayne counties, providing a full range of business development services to tech-based start-up companies.

“Ann Arbor SPARK is emerging as a national leader in economic development through the creation and implementation of innovative business acceleration programs,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO, Ann Arbor SPARK.  “This program will enable Ann Arbor SPARK to build on our solid track record of success in helping businesses, and the economy, grow.  Our efforts will create opportunities for success throughout the state, and serve as a model for other communities throughout the country.”

Ann Arbor SPARK’s model will focus on helping emerging businesses with marketing and business development strategies, collaborative partnerships, business development and investor plans, IP strategies and commercialization strategies.  Local experts will be recruited to provide assistance and services to start-up companies.

Once developed and implemented throughout the region, the project will serve as a model for other communities wishing to start their own business accelerator programs.

“Continuous innovation and a flow of new technologies to the marketplace are vital to our job creation and competitiveness,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez. “This EDA grant will spur and accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in southeastern Michigan to help diversify the economy and create new job opportunities.”


RealKidz CEO receives Pioneer Spirit Award

Anyone who knows Merrill Guerra is not surprised that she is the recipient of the 2009 Pioneering Spirit Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners Greater Detroit Chapter.  She will be recognized and given the award at NAWBOs annual meeting in Troy on June 11.

This award is presented to a woman business owner who is doing something innovative in her business or who has started an innovative business.  Merrill’s mission as CEO and Founder of RealKidz is to enhance children’s self-esteem by providing them with age-appropriate clothing they look good in and are excited to wear. The idea for RealKidz came to founder, Merrill Guerra, after experiencing the frustration of trying to find clothing for her plus-size daughter. After researching the market, she formulated the business plan and secured initial funding from friends and family. She was able to close her first round of funding in November of 2008 and recently received matching funds from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund.

We congratulate this most deserving woman.