DETROIT, MI // Business Licensing & Permitting

Innovation Summit + Custom Consulting

The City of Detroit needed to make local business licensing a smoother and more efficient process for entrepreneurs.


Mired in local and state forms and regulations, new business owners found the process challenging to navigate. Beginning with a design thinking workshop, the City of Detroit worked with Cities Reimagined to overhaul the process and create a set of tools designed just for Detroiters. 

After many interviews and observations with local entrepreneurs, the team quickly realized that the local business licensing process was complicated and took many years of experience to navigate quickly. Most entrepreneurs spent between 6-12 months working on obtaining a business license and needed to complete over 70 forms to submit a completed application. 

Cities Reimagined led the Quicken Loans Community Investment Fund and the City of Detroit through a process to create a human centered business licensing and permitting portal. The team established three main goals at the beginning of the project: eliminate duplication, design a user friendly workbook for license and permit applications, and take the process online in a Turbo Tax style wizard. 


Project Process

  1. Observe, listen to users, simulate their experience. 
  2. Stakeholder roundtable, define the problem. 
  3. Design Thinking Workshop and team brainstorming. 
  4. A revised, rough and rapid prototype of a new process. 
  5. Testing with entrepreneurs, in City Hall. 
  6. Create playbook with action steps for implementation.


Cities Reimagined sketched out an implementation plan with measurable goals, timelines, and action plans to give the team the tools necessary to move the project forward. Day to day responsibilities for implementation fell to the City of Detroit and the Quicken Loans Community Investment Fund. At the conclusion of the project, the City of Detroit will roll out a newly designing licensing workbook as well as an online application portal. 


Cities Reimagined created a playbook for our team to guide the overhaul of the City of Detroit’s Business Licensing process. It turned a very complex issue into something our team could wrap our heads around.
— James Chapman, Quicken Loans Community Investment Fund