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Spotlight: A Q&A with Calvin’s Lawn Care

By Kayla Sosa

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Calvin’s Lawn Care logo. Courtesy Calvin Pimpleton.

Calvin Pimpleton is a 16-year-old student at Innovation Central High School with a passion for business. Last winter, he saw a need in his neighborhood for shoveling services and he wanted a little extra cash in his pocket, so he decided to offer that service and more under the name Calvin’s Lawn Care. This past October, he entered the Start Garden 5×5 Night pitch competition and went home with $5,000 to expand his business.

CEI: How did you get the idea to start your business?

Pimpleton: One day during the winter of my sophomore year I had just gotten home from football training. I didn’t have a job at the time so I really wanted some money, so I got the idea of shoveling driveways and sidewalks in my neighborhood. I wanted to be my own boss, set my own hours, and make my own money. I didn’t want to have a boss.

From there I continued to grow, but not seriously. With the help of my business teachers Mrs. Henderson and Mrs. Cook a few months later, they presented a pitch competition to our class for start up businesses. So, I applied with my idea of Lawn Care and Snow Removal and I won my first pitch event which was the 100 ideas event by Start Garden, which was for $1,000. From then I continued to grow and got more in contact with Start Garden. Program Director Mrs. Laurie, whom is my mentor, told me about the 5×5 Night. I didn’t think my company was beneficial enough to win that much money, but apparently it was.

CEI: What kind of obstacles did you face in the business process and how did you overcome them?

P: There were plenty of obstacles I faced such as not being able to drive, not being able to register my company, not being able to fix equipment at times, low amount of customers. There’s been plenty of obstacles, but as time has gone by I’ve learned more and more about how to get over them. One of the biggest lessons I learned is patience. When I first started I believed I would be the biggest and best company in Grand Rapids. Now I know that you have to be patient and grow into your greatness. Everything isn’t going to come in one day, just trust God and everything will fall in place.

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Pimpleton was awarded $5,000 for winning the 5×5 Night pitch competition on October 30. Courtesy Calvin Pimpleton.

CEI: How do you plan to use your newly won prize money?

P: I have been putting the money back into the company, I’ve got a better truck, larger trailer, and a better riding mower. Equipment was a huge problem for me, because it took me a lot longer to take care of my customers’ needs with unprofessional equipment.

CEI: So, you’re a high schooler. What else do you do with your free time?

P:  I play three sports for Ottawa Hills High School: main sport football, but wrestling and track and field. I like to go to church, spend time with my mom and family and work out.

CEI: How do you juggle all of your responsibilities?

P: It’s not as difficult as it may seem. With owning my own company I can make my own hours, so I make sure to always schedule my customers around football and school, but time management is key. I’m starting to get better and better at time management.

CEI: How do you plan to expand and build your business in the future?

P: One of the main ways I’ve been expanding is by applying marketing techniques that I learn in my marketing class and applying it to my company. It’s been bringing plenty of new customers and more revenue. Also, I’ve been using networking skills. It’s not always about what you know, most of the time it’s about who you know.

In five years, I see my company well set up and really flourishing throughout the Grand Rapids area, maybe even being one of the top in Grand Rapids. In ten years, I plan on expanding by either having another Calvin’s Lawn Care in another city, or placing a Calvin’s Lawn Care down in Florida. In 20 years, I plan on not working anymore, but really managing the company to continue to spread amongst the lawn care company community and being one of the top lawn care companies in the U.S.

CEI: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs like yourself?

P: My advice is to take your shot, because if you’re already at the bottom there’s only one place to go, which is the top. Starting a company may be a bad outcome, but it also can be great. Just because we’re young doesn’t mean anything.

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Spotlight: Bremer Produce

By Kayla Sosa

In 2015, Ross Bremer and his brothers started a family business selling unwanted produce from local commercial farms that’s still good but not qualified to go to a grocery store – because it’s too small or a funny shape.

“I guess we started out of just seeing food waste, specifically at farms,” Bremer said. “We just saw this large amount of waste and were like, ‘This is too good to throw away.’”

“Grade 1” produce is “what’s fit to go to your retailers,” Bremer said. At their local roadside stands, you’ll see mostly “Grade 2” produce, which might be too big, too small or have a small scratch on it. Farms would otherwise throw this food away, until the Bremers came in to make a profit off of it.

“Nutritional value is still the exact same, but it might have a blemish in the appearance of that product,” Bremer said.

Squash – summer and winter – is the main vegetable they sell in West Michigan and others that have a relatively long shelf life, like pumpkins, potatoes, gourds and zucchini.

Bremer’s brother is a manager at a farm, so they really got an inside look at the process of separating produce. Now, they are partnered with a few farms in the area and know where to go to find the rejected veggies.

Not just any random person can go to a farm and ask for their rejected produce. Because Bremer and his brothers have an established business and take truckloads of produce, they end up doing a favor for the farms rather than making more work.

“There’s this disconnect between perfect product going out and then there’s also some stuff that’s clearly not fit and it should not be sold and should not be eaten,” he said. “But there’s this middle ground where it’s like, this is still good.”

“When we walk into, say, Meijer or Walmart, we want to be impressed. We see all these colorful vegetables and it’s like, it’s great but it’s not super practical.”

Right now, the main stand for Bremer Produce can be found on the corner of 48th Street and Baldwin Avenue in Hudsonville. What’s unique about farming in Michigan, though, are the seasons, so the peak months for selling produce are July through November.

“Early July, there’d be fresh cut flowers, maybe zucchini, tomatoes,” Bremer said. “And then we transition into your typical fall produce to pumpkins, squash, your Indian corn, your gourds.”

Bremer’s grandpa used to own a farm, so the knowledge runs in the family.

“My dad grew up on a farm,” he said. “Since me and my siblings were really little we grew pumpkins, like five acres just for fun. It started with a couple plants, and then it ramped up and now we’re growing consistently five acres. We’re familiar with squash, pumpkins and everything and had roadside stands since I was a baby. But then it took it next level once we started partnering with farms … that grow hundreds of acres of these things, that realistically we could never grow on our own.”

“It’s a unique partnership, for sure, of us being familiar with the farming industry but us not necessarily farming it all ourselves.”

Bremer is a student at Grand Valley State University majoring in Finance and International Business and minoring in Spanish. Recently, he won first place in the GVSU Idea Pitch Competition hosted by CEO, an entrepreneurial student club. As the produce season comes to a close, Bremer said he doesn’t want to spend his newly won prize money on just anything, yet.

“I don’t want to just spend it to spend it,” he said. “I can talk to my brother and we’re thinking of just a practical, cool way to be thankful to Grand Valley and the CEO club and use it in a cool way.”

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Five entrepreneurs win prize money at first MVE Pitch Competition

By Kayla Sosa

 

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Five entrepreneurs with military background or connection took home prize money at the first showcase and final pitch competition for the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur Lab.

Produced through the Grand Valley State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, this free, community cohort program began in August. For nine weeks, the group met once a week to learn about how to start a business and all the aspects that go into it. They each had an idea or had already started a small business and work with the final pitch in sight.

On November 26, thirteen business ideas and plans were presented to a panel of judges at the DeVos Center on GVSU’s downtown campus. From a bakery to meditation therapy, the ideas ranged across the board. Each presenter also had a showcase table outside the auditorium explaining more in depth their idea. Each attendee got five tokens when they arrived and could use those to vote towards any of the ideas. At the end, winners were chosen by both audience vote and judge vote.

The first place award for $5,000 went to Andrew Weiss of Battle Brothers Shaving Co.

“I am extremely humbled to have won,” Weiss said, following the event. “There are so many excellent businesses that were presented. To be chosen, is very humbling. It’s also validating for me as an entrepreneur, because we’ve been working really hard for three years, but this helps me gain confidence that I’m heading in the right direction.”

With the money, Weiss plans to start manufacturing his razors locally in Jenison, starting with a few prototypes. Additionally, he wants to get some photography and videography done for marketing the product.

“It will be this product that I think is going to be the catalyst that brings me to my end goal of a subscription razor, of soaps, shampoos, combs; anything a guy needs in the bathroom that wants to be associated with our brand,” Weiss said. “I want to hopefully provide that some day.”

Second place, for $3,000, went to Trey Sumner of ACES, who also won one of the community choice picks, winning another $1,000.

Olympia Nelson, of Mobile Curbside Cuts & Styles took third place, winning $2,000. Also in third place, Zaneta Adams and Henrietta Hadley with WINC also took home $2,000. The other community choice award of $1,000 went to Bill Richards, with Helping Veterans Cope Through Arts & Music.

Julie Cowie, program manager, was so proud to see the progress all of the participants made over the nine-week program. She said it was a combination of the course curriculum, guest speakers, mentors and pitch practices that contributed to their development.

“The participants really came a long way with their pitches,” Cowie said. “I was so impressed.”

The next cohort begins in January. Cowie said now, especially after this pitch competition, the community can really see the talent that lies within the veteran community in West Michigan.

“I think the community has had its eyes opened and now they see that this program is happening,” she said. “The camaraderie was strong and the support was strong and there was a low attrition rate, a lot of completers.”

Go to www.gvsu.edu/mve/ to learn more about the program and stay tuned to sign up for the next cohort, beginning in January.

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Spotlight: Immersive Language Learning

By Kayla Sosa

After being immersed into the Portuguese language studying abroad in Brazil, Grand Valley State University student Olivia Seaver was trying to think of ways she could keep up with learning and retaining languages once she came back to the United States.

“When I went there, I didn’t know any Portuguese at all,” Seaver said. “After three months of hearing only Portuguese, I was already somewhat fluent. And also with Spanish. By spending time with my boyfriend, who’s Mexican, and his family, i started hearing Spanish all the time and I started picking it up in that way.”

From personal experience and research, Seaver said that the best and fastest way to learn a language is through total immersion – doing all things in that language so that you eventually are forced to learn and understand.

“Now that I’m not in another country, to keep up on my Spanish and Portuguese, I’ll watch a Disney movie in Spanish or listen to music in Portuguese, so I know that’s another good way to keep up with it.”

Additionally, Seaver found in her research that the best time for someone to learn a language is between the ages of two and 12.

Through those practices – immersion, storytelling, music and a focus on children – Seaver hopes to start an after school program for kids that will help them learn another language.

“It would be kind of like a daycare, but that daycare would be completely in Spanish,” she said. “All the teachers, all the caretakers, everybody’s only speaking Spanish, they play movies in Spanish, they play songs in Spanish, they organize games and activities – like Apples to Apples – in Spanish.”

One challenge looking forward, Seaver said, is that kids that are a little older and closer to 12 years old will have a harder time at first learning the language.

“It can be very difficult and frustrating at first,” she said. “In my experience with language learning, it’s kind of flat in the beginning, but then it’s exponential.”

After initial research, Seaver did a community survey to garner the interest or need for a program like this in Grand Rapids.

“I found that 90 percent of people that I surveyed said that they would put their kids in a program like this if it existed,” Seaver said. “More surprisingly, 94 percent said they wished they would’ve had this experience as a kid.”

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Seaver giving her idea pitch at the CEO competition on October 10. 

Recently, Seaver placed second place in the GVSU Idea Pitch Competition hosted by the GVSU CEO club, an student-run entrepreneur club on campus. With a fresh business idea – she came up with it a week before the pitch competition – and a $750 check, Seaver is ready to test the waters.

“I said in my pitch that I would work on a pilot program with some elementary school Spanish teachers that I know,” she said. “I’d like to look for Spanish teachers here at Grand Valley and work with them. We don’t necessarily need lesson plans, but you need to plan activities.”

Seaver would then use the money to buy the appropriate materials for games and activities to do with the kids, and of course to pay the teachers involved in the pilot program.

Seaver is a senior at GVSU, double majoring in Management and Spanish. You can also find her working as a conversation partner at the GV ELS Center in Allendale.

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Spotlight: WINC advocates for women veterans post-military life

By Kayla Sosa

Two women are heading up a consulting group that will educate employers on not just how to hire veterans, but how to retain them.

Henrietta Hadley said many workplaces say they are “veteran friendly” but once they have a veteran on staff, their specific needs are often overlooked.

Hadley and her business partner Zaneta Adams’ consulting firm WINC – Women Injured in Combat – will help veterans with “being able to translate what (they) did in the military to what (they) can offer in the civilian world.”

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Hadley and Adams.

“So helping companies understand what that means, helping anywhere from middle to senior level managers and supervisors understanding how to manage a veteran, and how to deal with the barriers,” she said. “Because that is our disconnect right now. You’d think it would be a no brainer, but it is a huge disconnect. And because a lot of our veterans, both men and women, are returning home with a lot of mental illnesses, we as civilians don’t understand how to communicate.”

The firm will be made up of various professionals who specialize in a specific discipline, like marketing or finance.

“The other part is we train and are resource providers for businesses and individuals around inclusion and diversity,” Hadley said.

Hadley has experience working with women veterans, who often have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life.

“Our females are struggling the most in transitioning into work and education settings when they come home,” she explained. “Military sexual trauma resulting in post-traumatic stress has become the big, underlining reason why a lot of our female veterans are not able to retain because they have not been treated for PTSD … and unfortunately we’re not going to go into a job interview and share that we got all that.”

Hadley said employers can take notice of different signs that a veteran is not performing at an average level, and may be dealing with something below the surface.

“The barriers show up in poor performance, poor attendance, poor productivity and it goes on and on and on,” Hadley said. “And then what we start to find is our female veterans, and even our male veterans, is they tend to start to self-medicate, they start to experience a high level of depression, and then they either commit suicide or they begin to isolate, and now they can’t do anything.”

Hadley said the rates of suicide for female veterans are much higher than their male counterparts.

Hadley is not a veteran herself, but grew up in a military family and is a military spouse, so she’s seen the effects serving can have on the solder. WINC has existed for five years, and has had a physical space for one. Hadley started as a volunteer at WINC before she became more involved as a teacher.

When Hadley met Julie Cowie, coordinator of the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab, she saw this as an opportunity to learn how to take the next step in expanding the non-profit. Cowie also presented to some WINC members, and four women decided to join the lab as well.

“We started looking at how we could start to tweak the service that we’re providing to our female veterans to other communities, which involved corporate America and other companies and businesses as well,” Hadley said.

The lab is exactly what Hadley is hoping to see more of in the community – focused programs and initiatives designed for veterans, who are often overlooked in the workplace.

“Someone found it important to give Grand Valley the funding to do an entrepreneurship program for veterans… because someone gets it that they need a special area, a special course, a special level of attention different from just being matriculated into a regular entrepreneurship class,” she said. “It’s not that easy.”

Hadley said now that she and other women in the WINC program have been involved in the entrepreneur lab, she can “wave the flag” to other women so they can take this opportunity as well.

For more information on WINC, visit wincforall.com.

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Spotlight: Local veteran hopes to redefine masculinity for a younger generation of men

By Kayla Sosa

ACES blue jpgA local man is hoping to change society’s view of masculinity through a new non-profit he’s calling ACES.

Awareness, Compassion, Equity, Strength. That’s what ACES stands for, and what Trey Sumner is looking to for the foundation of his new non-profit. Sumner is a veteran and Grand Valley State University alumni, and is developing his business through the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab, a program out of GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He said he got the idea for ACES after seeing “toxic masculinity” within the military.

“On my last deployment I did, it was my fourth one, it was the first time I’d worked with

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Sumner in Petra, Jordan.

women to that degree,” Sumner said. “I realized for the first time in medevac just what a boy’s club the military really was. Seeing that inequity, seeing that disparity, was shocking.”

Around the same time, soldiers were being interviewed about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Sumner found himself in an activist role, as an ally towards the gay soldiers he served with.

“It was a big time of social justice and I felt myself drawn to be an ally,” Sumner said. “I painted my toenails hot pink the whole deployment supporting gay soldiers, but then I realized (me) being an ally, was me trying to save the day.”

Sumner wanted to advocate for people, but he wanted to find the root of the problem in toxic masculinity, where men feel like they always have to be the strong, emotionless figure and where homophobia and sexism can come from.

“I started to evaluate myself and my own life and I realized what a mess I was, how much pain I put myself through, and the world around me, trying to be this example of what a man is that is provided by our society,” he said.

After retiring out of the military, Sumner saw the same type of “boy’s club” mentality in civilian life and realized he wanted to do something about it. Sumner got enrolled at GVSU as a “40-year-old freshman,” now graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies: Masculinity Studies and Gender Equity. He then came up with the idea to start a nonprofit that would do the work of this mission.

“My goal is to give young men and boys the tools, the permission and the freedom to demonstrate a healthy masculinity without fear or shame,” Sumner said.

The way Sumner plans to do this is to create an education program, with a final trip at the end. For the last four years, he has taught a course at various junior high schools through the Men’s Resource Center. For ACES, he plans to have an 8-week session with young men teaching “emotional intelligence, nonviolent alternatives, conflict resolution, how to develop your masculinity in a healthy way.”

“We spend that eight weeks teaching these classes and we prepare for a trip,” Sumner said. “And then I take them on a two and a half week backpacking trip through the Middle East.”

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Sumner, Tyler Sumner, and Hanson. 

Sumner was deployed four times in the Middle East, lived in Egypt for a year and has traveled there for fun, so he knows his way around geographically and culturally.

For Sumner’s thesis project at GVSU, he did a test run of this trip with his son and nephew. For three months, he prepped them for the three-week trip. He said, “it changed them.”

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From left to right: Sumner’s nephew, Keagon Hansen, who was 16 at the time and is now a GVSU senior, Sumner, and his son, Tyler, who was 12 years old, in Jerash, Jordan.

Sumner plans to continue weekly sessions with the group of boys after they get back from the trip.

“I want to continue to have them meet with me, we’ll meet once a week,” he said. “I want to take these boys and teach them how to facilitate that same 8-week class I do, and then when I go to the junior highs take one of those boys with me as a co-facilitator, and have them now contribute back.”

Sumner will be pitching his business idea along with other veterans in the entrepreneur lab at the MVE Showcase and Final Pitch on November 26.

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Spotlight: Veteran, wife hope to open community dental clinic

By Kayla Sosa

As a dental hygienist, Blanca Elizabeth Duque-Rico knows the dentist office inside and out, including the advantages and disadvantages certain people face when trying to access dental care, and just health care in general. After seeing this, she and her husband Jorge Ivan Duque decided to take their shot at opening their own clinic, with Duque-Rico’s goal to be a dentist in sight.

“I was working for a community clinic for five years and then I switched up to a private practice,” she said. “I liked working for the community. The only thing I did not like about it was the fact that you treated these patients like cattle; bring ‘em in, take ‘em out, bring ‘em in, take ‘em out.”

“There was no relationship between you and the patient.”

On the contrary, private practices are focused on money. In her heart, Duque-Rico wanted a different relationship with her patients, that was more personal and ultimately, more helpful.

“I like what I do, but I want a little bit more,” she said. So, she asked her husband what he thought and he said, “Why not?”

The couple are now on the road to opening their own clinic, with a building and a dental supplier already set. Through the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab through the Grand Valley State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, they have been able to brainstorm and come up with new ideas for what they want to do and what they need to get started.

Duque-Rico wants to help those that may be underserved, or can’t make it to the dentist office for some reason.

“There’s always a high anxiety group of people that hate coming to the dentist,” she said. “It’s not a good thing that you don’t want to come to the dentist. People disregard their mouth a lot, and they forget that their mouth is part of a whole system.

Duque-Rico said she started to look into veterans in the health community and found that they’re “almost forgotten.”

Some VA benefits may cover dental insurance, but a lot of times veterans find themselves on a waiting list, or having to drive long distances to get to the clinic that’s covered by their benefits. And not every dental practice accepts VA benefits.

Duque-Rico said there would still be general practice, but what sets her clinic apart from the rest is the unique way she wants to reach her patients. One of the ideas she and her husband have is to run a mobile dental clinic, or facilitate house calls for those with anxiety or physical ailments that prevent them from making it to the clinic. And she wants to focus on patients that are in the “weird limbo” of not being able to get government assistance, but can’t afford standard health or dental insurance.

“We wanted to focus a little bit more on those types of people, obviously veterans and disabled people.”

Duque-Rico said many people put off going to the dentist, and don’t realize that dental care realty is a necessity.

“A lot of people think dental (care) is a privilege, not a necessity,” she said. “Dental should be looked at as just as important as medical. Everything goes through your mouth, it’s your gateway to everything. So why wouldn’t you think, yes, this is a necessity, not a cosmetic treatment.”

Throughout the business development process, Duque said even though there are stumbling blocks along the way, his military experience has pushed him to keep going and solve each problem head-on.

“We are still working the problem so we can find a way that everyone wins without heavy loss to quality of patient care, provider compensation, and loss of profit to the company,” he explained. “I believe there is a solution but people haven’t found it because, once a point of friction is discovered, people turn away from that path. We are still in the beginning stages but we are determined to provide a solution to the veterans and people who are in ‘the gap’ … people who have an income that walks the line, too much income for government assistance and not enough to pay for private dental insurance.”

“I truly believe that my dedication to mission accomplishment is what drives us to keep going even when we doubt ourselves.”

Stay on the lookout for a new community clinic near you, with a goal to help veterans and the underserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vets apply military skills to business development in GVSU community program

By Kayla Sosa

A community program out of Grand Valley State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is helping to open doors for veterans looking to start their own businesses.

“Veteran students did very well with their entrepreneurship ideas as students,” said Julie Cowie, project manager. “Once graduated, they really didn’t have many resources to tap. So we wanted to create a program for the community, for veterans to be able to develop their ideas because we know how entrepreneurial they are. Because they are mission-driven, they are focused, they know how to persevere.”

The free, nine-week program – Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab – is offered to “military-connected people.” This calls for veterans, reservists and their spouses in the West Michigan community. Some of the veterans in the program are GVSU alumni, and many are not. A group of people started in the pilot program this August, with a two-day boot camp. Now, there are about 21 people in the middle of their nine-week curriculum, meeting each Monday night to discuss their plans and go over ways to develop their businesses, from all things financial to marketing and more. There is even a different speaker each week to talk about their experiences as an entrepreneur and any advice they may have for the group.

“There are training webinars and other resources available around entrepreneurship for veterans, but nothing is local and cohort-based,” Cowie said.

Cohort-based means the students all learn together as a group.

“We believe it’s very encouraging for people to start up together and to learn from each other as they’re developing their own idea,” Cowie said. “The curriculum … focuses on starting small, proving your concept, start within your means, that sort of thing.”

Michael Hyacinthe, a Navy veteran and local entrepreneur himself, is a co-facilitator in the program and helps lead discussions in developing your business and all the factors that come into play around that.

“Any organization that has a heart for veterans is an organization I can participate in,” Hyacinthe said, who has two start-ups of his own.

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Hyacinthe leads a discussion during the the MVE-Lab class Monday night, October 1.

Cowie said this program is definitely filling a gap of need in the veteran community and also empowering people with an already existing unique set of entrepreneurial skills.

“If you look at the unemployment rate in Kent County, the unemployment rate of veterans is much higher than the unemployment rate generally,” Cowie said. “We also know that many veterans prefer self-employment.”

Additionally, Cowie has learned more specifically about the issues veterans face as they transition back into civilian life after serving.

“Sometimes there is a disconnect between the intensity of the experiences they’ve had in the military and then what is asked of them on the job,” Cowie said. “Veterans sometimes hit a snag in finding work that really suits them. So, if they are interested in pursuing entrepreneurship, they can take some of the key experiences from military life – the discipline, the hard work, the sacrifice for a goal – and put that into their own startup that’s going to benefit them and their family and their community and the economy.”

Hyacinthe agreed that many veterans have the skills and the leadership ability to start a business, but generally take some time to learn how to apply those skills in a non-military setting.

“While we have the capacity to lead in ventures, there’s certain barriers that we must overcome, and that’s the barrier of finding out what your next purpose is,” Hyacinthe said. “Many of us, however long we spent in the military, we’ve been transformed into specifically following a specific set of orders. You get put into the civilian world where you have to make the orders, you have to be the person to lead yourself and your family. So if we can help veterans transition effectively into society and embrace their capacity to be entrepreneurs, I think we’ll have a successful program, but we’ll have a successful group of veterans who have served and are now entrepreneurs continuing to give back to their community.”

The ideas that these veterans have come up with range across a broad spectrum, from non-profit to for-profit, and from serving mainly the veteran community to serving anyone and everyone.

Just some of the ideas in the works are a bakery run by a husband/wife team, a consultancy firm to help veterans suffering from PTSD, handmade greeting cards, a dental clinic and a mobile haircutting salon to serve people with mobility issues.

Innovation is nothing new to these veterans who want to inspire change within their own communities.

Trey Sumner, one of the veterans in the program, wants to start a non-profit encouraging healthy masculinity in boys. When recommended by a former military colleague to the program, at first he didn’t think it would benefit him because he is building a non-profit.

“It is really helpful,” he said. “It has given me direction and examples to follow for marketing, for things I need to do to prepare myself, how to reach out and promote my brand, promote my program to the community. It’s given me avenues to do that.”

At the end of the program, the veterans will have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in the final MVE-Lab Pitch Night on November 26.

For more information about the program, visit www.gvsu.edu/mve.

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Malamiah Juice Bar, Royal Jelly Foods take home funds in Business Bootcamp Pitch Competition

By Kayla Sosa

In September, owners of Malamiah Juice Bar and Royal Jelly Foods participated in the Grand Rapids Business Boot Camp Pitch Competition. This endeavor is lead by Michigan Good Food Fund, a “thirty million dollar loan fund created to provide financing and business assistance to good food enterprises that increase healthy food access and spur economic opportunity in underserved communities across the state,” according to Jean Chorazyczewski, program director of Fair Food Network, a business parter of MGFF.

MGFF logoChorazyczewski said both of the winners of the competition – Malamiah Juice Bar, first place, and Royal Jelly Foods, second – support the mission behind Good Food Fund.

“They are increasing access to healthy food, creating opportunities for jobs, and spurring the local food economy,” Chorazyczewski said.

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Malamiah Juice Bar owner Jermale Eddie and manager Rebekah Wicker.

The first place winner – Malamiah Juice Bar – took home $7,500 in prize money. Owner Jermale Eddie said the funds will allow them to continue and expand their business, which has been open for five years now. Originally having joined to learn from the Business Boot camp program, winning the pitch competition was an added bonus.

“Of course all startups are in need of financial capital to grow,” Eddie said. “We also recognize that each of the judges and those in the crowd may have resources that may be beneficial to the growth of our business and mission. The pitch winnings will allow us to take a greater risk in expanding our business, which simply equates to getting our products into the hand and bodies of more people.”

After being introduced to the art and health benefits of juicing, Eddie and his wife ended up starting a business and eventually both quitting their day jobs to run the business. They are proud to serve West Michigan “good” and healthy food.

“We take fresh fruits and vegetables and make them into juices or smoothies,” Eddie said. “Our juices and green smoothies have no added sugar. Some of our other smoothies may have agave or a vanilla yogurt added it to it. Basically our goal is to make you the freshest, best tasting beverage or smoothie bowl with little to no processing. Essentially raw juices and smoothies.”

Eddie said they don’t use the phrase “clean food” because it implies a form of privilege.

“If one is eating ‘clean food,’ then others are eating ‘dirty foods’ and that just is not the case,” Eddie said. “In fact we could all use an element of healthiness when preparing our foods and beverages.”

You can find the juice bar inside the Downtown Market, 435 Ionia SW. Additionally, Eddie said they have taught classes and workshops teaching people how to make these smoothies themselves, as well as peanut butter, almond butter and almond milk.

“We exist to elevate community health through healthy products, local partnerships and youth employment,” Eddie said of their mission. “We simply strive to love people and do good in our community.”

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The women of Royal Jelly Foods. 

Similarly, Royal Jelly Foods is bringing “good food” to the West Michigan community.

In 2017, Alita Kelly and Kiara McClenton started Royal Jelly Foods catering company, and brought on Jenny Bongiorno and Kelsey Hakeem this year.

“Our mission is to celebrate the human connection through food,” Bongiorno said. “We envision a food culture that pays homage to the land it was grown from by taking just what is needed and using ingredients to the fullest extent.  We envision the people that picked, transported and cared for our food will be honored and treated with utmost respect and humility. Lastly, we envision a just food system that feeds all people well.”

Bongiorno and Hakeem specialize in food growing, and hope to help the business eventually expand beyond catering.

“We are farmers and passionate food lovers who started catering because we loved sharing our food with others and suddenly found ourselves running a business,” Bongiorno said.

“Royal Jelly is an socially and environmentally-minded company delivering farm-fresh food through their catering services. Both are sourcing their ingredients locally, which supports local and regional farmers in a positive way.”

Bongiorno said Royal Jelly will use the funds – $2,500 – to pay for some consulting and legal services in order to shape the business the way they want to.

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The Rise of Entrepreneurship Education on Campus

By Kayla Sosa

Studies show that entrepreneurship is an essential part of our economy in the United States. In fact, 85 percent of new jobs are created by startups; companies that are less than five years old, according to a study by the Kaufmann Foundation. According to that same study, 35 percent of new net wealth is created by startups.

Entrepreneurship is “a way of thinking and acting that is opportunity obsessed, holistic in approach, and leadership balanced,” according to a quote by Babson College. This ideal is what Grand Valley State University teaches to its business students around entrepreneurship.

Additionally, an entrepreneur is someone who takes it upon themselves to start a business, and in that process takes a financial risk in hopes of making a profit.  Intrapreneurship is when someone creates a new faction, idea or plan inside of an already existing business.

Entrepreneurship education has come of age and has seen rapid growth since the 1970s where only 100 formal programs existed on college campuses.  Today, entrepreneurship education is one of the fastest growing fields with over 3,000 college programs, 5,000 courses, and over 9,000 faculty members teaching entrepreneurship on college campuses across the U.S. This is due in part by higher education institutions, employers, and economic development organizations realizing the need for such education.  Further, the growth of the millennials generation is playing a big part in shaping the entire field.  According to Shorouq Almallah, Director of the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Grand Valley State University, millennials are well-positioned to leverage technology to pursue new ventures due to the rapid growth and access to advanced technology and the use of social media networks.

“With greater access to entrepreneurship classes, extracurricular programs, and early stage funding, millennials are more inclined towards new venture creation,” said Almallah.

The wave of “startup culture” is not only affecting the general economy, but many colleges and universities are taking it upon themselves to teach the intellectual as well as the moral properties of entrepreneurship to their students. This is according to a study by Daniel David at the University of California, “The Ventured Student: Impacts of University Startup Culture.” Following a heavy wave of manufacturing-based economy, the U.S. is transitioning to a more “financial and serviced-based economy.”

L William Seidman Center
L William Seidman Center – Grand Valley State University

Incubators and accelerators are words to describe the environments on campus that help startups by “delivering technological assistance, expert mentoring, co-working space, and in many instances various forms of material resource investment.” Especially on college campuses, these hubs also promote campus events, bring in guest speakers and connect students to campus-wide and local business plan or pitch competitions.

These colleges, GVSU included, are teaching the skills needed to be an entrepreneur, but are encouraging all students of all disciplines to learn these skills, whether they start a business or not. Just having the entrepreneurial mentality is enough to help someone be successful in whatever career path they choose to follow, or make for themselves.

With critical thinking and problem solving skills, leadership qualities and an innovative mind, you’re already on the right track. According to a report by SHRM, a little over half of employers today believe college graduates are seriously lacking in these skills, and 73 percent said creativity is projected to increase in importance for new employees.

“Problem solving is the number one skill I would suggest,” said GVSU Business Professor Tim Syfert. “Next, empathy to understand the customer and their needs.  And finally, tenacity to keep discovering more about your customer, overcoming obstacles, and ensuring your product or service is a success in the marketplace.”

At GVSU, there are many resources for students to take advantage of if they’re looking to start their own business. Besides taking courses in business in entrepreneurship, students can take advantage of the many resources at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. With peer to peer networking, competitions and mentorship, the center is a place where students can come to work on their ideas and find help in reaching their goals.

To get started on your own business plan, or just to learn more, visit http://www.gvsu.edu/cei.