Community 'votes with their dollars' in rallying to support downtown Farmington businesses

There are more than 80 Michigan small businesses enrolled in the MI Local Biz initiative, a crowdfunding-and-matching-grant program from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Businesses across the state, located as far northwest as Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to cities as far south as Sturgis, have enrolled in the program.

The program was developed to help small businesses stay open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses create crowdfunding campaigns and, should they reach their goals, the MEDC then contributes a matching grant.

The deadline for each campaign is different, with some businesses already nearing the end of their campaigns while others still have weeks to go.

Remarkably, one of the businesses enrolled, downtown Farmington’s The Vines Flower & Garden Shop, reached their goal of $5,000 less than two days into their 30 day campaign. While the crowdfunding remains open for another two weeks, the matching grant is capped at $5,000.

"They have a strong customer following and hit their goal almost instantly," says Kate Knight, executive director of Farmington’s Downtown Development Authority.

"Crowdfunding was not something the owner, Michele Hinds, would have elected to do on her own. She's hardworking, humble, great at what she does, and she's not about to ask for money.

"Her team persuaded her to apply for the opportunity, and her customers turned out in droves to lift her business through a bleak period."

For a business like The Vines, a company that outfits flowers for weddings and other large gatherings put on hold by the coronavirus, the current emphasis on social distancing can be especially hard. But the community lifted them up, and almost immediately.

"Like other event specialists, their bookings evaporated with COVID-19," Knight says.

"She'll come out strong on the other side of all of this, and those who have supported her business with crowdfunding are showing their appreciation by voting with their dollars."

It's not just The Vines that's receiving a much need lift from the community.

Downtown Farmington itself is currently taking part in a crowdfunding campaign of its own. The Farmington DDA has enrolled in the COVID 19 Mom and Pop Business Relief Crowdfunding program, an initiative organized by Main Street Oakland County.

At the time of publication, the Farmington DDA has raised $3,740 of it’s $5,000 goal. The campaign has until Friday, July 17, to reach its objective. Main Street Oakland County is offering a $4,000 matching grant should they prove successful.

Money raised through the campaign will be used to purchase PPE and supplies, as well as covering other costs that businesses will need to stay open while abiding by any coronavirus-related public health and safety guidelines. The DDA will then distribute the supplies to businesses within their district.

"We've had an outpouring of support from people who want to help their favorite businesses through this unplanned pandemic," Knight says.

"We are almost to our fundraising finish line, and we have a real-time sense of where merchants' needs are as we re-open together."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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