NBA Owner Announces Plans for Entrepreneurship 'Boot Camp'

In an effort to boost Detroit's local economy and foster start-up skills among the city's younger residents, Dan Gilbert, a veteran entrepreneur and NBA team owner, has announced plans to open an entrepreneurship academy.

Bizdom U will be an intensive two-year, full-time program focused on encouraging entrepreneurship in and around Detroit. It will welcome its inaugural class of 10 to 20 students this coming January.

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Currently the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gilbert is the founder of Rock Financial, an independent mortgage firm that he expanded to become Quicken Loans. A Detroit native, he still serves as chairman of Quicken.

Ross Sanders, executive director at Bizdom U, accompanied Gilbert in studying other urban entrepreneurship programs in Los Angeles, New York, Cleveland, and Denver. The result of their research is "an entrepreneurship boot camp," as Sanders put it.

"We're looking for applicants with a dream to open a business, and the drive and passion to see it through," said Sanders, who has been working with community leaders, entrepreneurship clubs, and area schools to find possible candidates.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Their tuition, room, and board will be covered by the academy. Each day, students will attend five hours of classes and training, with coursework focusing primarily on practical knowledge.

"We're using adjunct professors who are active members of the business world," Sanders said. Classes on accounting, for example, will be taught by a professional CPA, as opposed to a career academic.

As a final project, each student will prepare a business plan for a Detroit-based company. Depending on the feasibility of the plan, students will receive start-up capital from the academy, ranging from $25,000 to $500,000, as well as an ownership stake in the company. Bizdom, which has applied for non-profit status, will also retain partial ownership of the company and channel its share of the profits back into the academy.

"The idea is to have a self-sustaining system gives back to the Detroit economy," Sanders said.

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