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Ann Arbor SPARK Launches New Event Series, ACE, to Provide Small Business Education, Networking

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In response to feedback from business owners seeking opportunities to broaden their knowledge and deepen their expertise on specific skills, Ann Arbor SPARK is launching a new, free educational series, Accelerating Company Excellence (ACE). ACE is designed to help small business owners learn new skills and reinforce best business practices by learning from subject matter experts in finance, sales, marketing, and accounting. ACE also offers the opportunity for in-person networking where business owners can share tips, challenges, and opportunities with each other.

ACE kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on August 17 with a small business funding roundtable featuring Alex Dishman of Michigan Women Forward, Sean Gray from the Small Business Administration, Rita Hillman from the Small Business Development Corp, and LaShonda Golden from Fifth Third Bank. ACE events will be offered weekly; each ACE session is distinct and business owners do not need to attend all sessions to benefit from the curriculum. 

“Ann Arbor SPARK’s response to COVID-19 was to step up and help as many businesses in our region as possible, expanding our work beyond the driving industry companies that have been the focus of our work since our founding,” said Jenn Cornell Queen, Ann Arbor SPARK senior vice president, marketing, communications, and events. “Throughout that experience and regular dialogue with business owners in our community, we heard the need for more programming around shoring up business basics and a desire for new networking opportunities specifically for business owners. ACE achieves both of those objectives by delivering timely, relevant expertise and experiences specifically tailored for a range of businesses.”

Each ACE event will feature a deep dive on specific skills necessary for businesses to accelerate their growth. Topics include best financial practices, do-it-yourself marketing, online sales, and team building and leadership. ACE is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, UHY, and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) and is presented in partnership with the Michigan Small Business Development Center and Washtenaw Community College. 

For more information or to register for the kick off event on August 17, visit To stay up to date on other ACE events as well as business events in the region, sign up for SPARK’s monthly events newsletter:

About Ann Arbor SPARKAnn Arbor SPARK, a non-profit organization, is advancing the region by encouraging and supporting business acceleration, attraction and retention. The organization identifies and meets the needs of business at every stage, from start-ups to large organizations. Ann Arbor SPARK collaborates with business, academic, government, and community investor partners to achieve its mission. For more information, please call (734) 761-9317 or visit