WHIMDetroit business specializing in technology solutions utilizes the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to expand and diversify its talents.

Four years ago, WHIM Founder and CEO Lori McColl had a vision to expand the future of her small business and other local companies by combining two very different industries: technology and fashion.

So, she made that vision a reality. WHIM looks to redefine how technology and business work together and enhance the customer experience by combining new technology solutions with traditional technology. The company improves website and customer engagement through artificial intelligence, new-age cloud platforms, data analytics and more to augment business performance. Additionally, WHIM works in a model that is designed to help companies be future ready today, a vision aligned with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) mission to grow Michigan businesses and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In an effort to further bring together the fashion and technology industries, Lori launched the Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon in 2017, a 36-hour innovation challenge with the goal of sparking new technology solutions by bringing together a diverse group of experts. The hackathon calls upon local Detroit brands to submit challenges, while teams compete to ideate the best solutions. Detroit Denim—a custom jean shop in Motor City—served as the hackathon’s first case study. As a result of the event, Detroit Denim partnered with WHIM to revamp their online ordering system and automate their buying process to enhance customer experience.

With support from the MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC), WHIM has successfully hosted Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon for four consecutive years now. Due to the event’s positive impact on businesses, the event has tripled in size each year since 2017. When the event switched to a virtual platform during the pandemic, it gained participants from 11 countries and 11 states, making it the most successful year yet.

“MEDC was the first to step up and support the event,” says Lori. “They loved what we were doing, and the PMBC team offered to help co-host and provide resources to make it a success. Since then, they continue to be a huge supporter.”

PMBC works to connect small- to medium-sized businesses with local, national and global suppliers and resources to strengthen economic opportunity. Their team of experts helps businesses identify fruitful prospects through trade services, access to capital, taxes and investment assistance, community development and over 100 economic development partners.

“The MEDC is a phenomenal resource,” says Lori. “They look toward what the future of Michigan can and should look like, and they do so by empowering existing Michigan business to grow while attracting potential partners within the ecosystem.”

A start-up project like WHIM’s Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon requires financial support and guidance, as well as connections within Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Today, PMBC continues to provide resources for the tech company’s hackathon and assists in identifying future opportunities to expand the small businesses to an international market.

Every day Pure Michigan Business Connect is working to link Michigan suppliers and buyers. To learn more, please visit www.michiganbusiness.org/pmbc.