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GROWING Community and Business
Last week the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program hosted an unprecedented number of participants at its training session in Detroit. Over one hundred investment-ready inner city entrepreneurs gathered to learn about equity and other sources of capital to help them grow their businesses. Detroit was well represented by its entrepreneurs, with 24 small business CEOs participating and one alumna CEO providing baked goods for all the participants. Avalon International Breads participated in ICCC in 2010 and has since grown its business in Detroit.
Avalon International Breads has always been more than just a bakery. The two founders, Jackie Victor and Ann Perrault, wanted to build a business that would, in their words, “rebuild, respirit and revitalize” Detroit.
That’s a tall order for any business. Yet by 2010, Perrault could remark that Detroiters didn’t refer to the company as “Avalon”—it was known simply as “the bakery.” When Perrault would deliver loaves to the suburbs, buyers would thank her for the work her company was doing in inner city Detroit: hiring a local and diverse workforce, providing healthy affordable food and building a sense of community with a Midtown retail store. “My whole motivation is to create jobs,” says Perrault. “We’ve lost a lot of jobs in Detroit, and I want secure retirements for people who put 14 years into the business.”
But there’s only so much even the savviest entrepreneur can accomplish without access to capital. Avalon hit a wall in 2010 when it realized that its future was in retail, not wholesale, and that it didn’t have the money to open the storefronts and hire the staff it needed.
Perrault attended ICCC hoping to identify appropriate sources of capital for this new
stage of her business. “Being a $2 million business is very different than being an entrepreneur,” Perrault says. Perrault returned to Detroit “inspired to connect locally. ” She’s now a member of a CEO support group, and her company recently raised $2.3 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
That money will put Avalon on track to open five new storefronts in the next few years and to double its staff of approximately 45 employees. “There are so many neighborhoods in Detroit that need a place for residents to gather,” Perrault says. Avalon’s initial success bears her out: The current retail location is in an inner city neighborhood, and many residents stop in every day, knowing they can get good food and a sense of community. The bakery also hopes to do a retail business out of its new, larger space, which is in an industrial area. “There are 16 manufacturing facilities nearby,” Perrault says, “but nowhere to buy lunch.”
BY Mary Duggan on October 28th, 2011
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