0 comments on “Malamiah Juice Bar, Royal Jelly Foods take home funds in Business Bootcamp Pitch Competition”

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.

0 comments on “Spotlight: Liberate GR”

Spotlight: Liberate GR

By Kayla Sosa

A community survey in Grand Rapids showed that residents feel there is a need for a free, non-judgmental space for the LGBTQ community. After learning this, Audrey Hutchinson created Liberate GR – a community center for those who don’t feel they have a place to truly express themselves. With creative expression classes, a counseling center, peer-led discussion groups and many opportunities to network and share, Hutchinson wants to encourage growth and exploration.

“The LGBTQ community can feel ostracized, stared at and judged when out just doing normal things that any person does,” Hutchinson said. “Here they don’t have to worry about feeling different because they’re not.”

Liberate is also open to those in non-traditional relationships, like open or polyamorous.

“A lot of people in these relationships are socially monogamous, meaning even their closest family and friends don’t know,” Hutchinson explained. “People in non-traditional relationships face the possibility of judgement if people knew. At Liberate, they can discuss their relationships freely and openly with other people who are experiencing the same things.”

Hutchinson’s goal is to have the center be a place for people to connect, but also to network and take on leadership opportunities.

“It will include leadership opportunities for members and networking events as well as guest speakers and workshops,” she said. “We envision a place for members of all ages, genders and orientations. A place to be yourself and find connection as well as ways to better your life and always continue to grow.”

Hutchinson is a student at GVSU, going for her master’s degree in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. One of the things that has challenged her in this process is figuring out how to open up a non-profit, and all the special details involved.

“I am trying to get definitive answers about how to have a counseling center attached to the drop in center, which will accept payments and accept insurance while offering a sliding scale fee to people who are low income,” Hutchinson said. “It’s important because we need to have a clear picture of how much money we need to raise before we really get started. I like to have clear goals and a realistic strategy for fundraising.”

Starting a non-profit means you may have a business, but not always a building to work in right away.

“It means you have the paperwork and the people to get started, but it could still be a little while before actually opening your doors,” Hutchinson said. “That’s hard, but if you really believe in the mission then every step is exciting, no matter how small.”

The mission at Liberate is clear: create a space where people can be themselves and connect with others.

“Whether you’re involved with the LGBTQ community or not, Liberate matters because it will help other people to feel more connected,” Hutchinson said. “A more connected community is happier and safer. If you have a loved one, or if you yourself are LGBTQ, this place is important because it’s somewhere to go to receive services or build relationships.”

Hutchinson is currently looking for more people to fill roles on the board as well as volunteer positions. To learn more and get involved, visit http://www.liberategr.org.

0 comments on “Entrepreneur Zoe Bruyn stirs things up”

Entrepreneur Zoe Bruyn stirs things up

It’s no secret that there are limited employment opportunities for individuals with special needs.

In a 2015 survey conducted by the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), 57 percent of respondents with Down syndrome reported working paid jobs in some capacity, and only 3 percent of those reported working full time. Among the reasons cited for unemployment included lack of job-skill teaching programs and lack of job coaching.

Zoe Bruyn is doing something to change that.

“People with special needs have always been pretty close to my heart,” Bruyn said.

Bruyn, a senior at Grand Valley State University, is the owner of Stir It Up, a bakery that employs individuals with special needs and seeks to provide them with an environment where they can develop valuable job skills while gaining a sense of accomplishment.

0 comments on “TESA Detroit Wrap Up”

TESA Detroit Wrap Up

For ten years the Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) has given high school students the tools and knowledge to start their own business through a weeklong crash course in entrepreneurship. During the five-day program, students work with college faculty and current GVSU students to solve a real-world problem through entrepreneurship. The program provides students with fundamental business concepts and essential entrepreneurship skills through hands-on, creative workshops. On the last day, the teams present their five-minute business idea pitch to a panel of judges from the local community for cash prizes. During the first week of August, GVSU expanded the impact of TESA by taking the program to Detroit for the first time. TESA Detroit was made possible through sponsorship from The Skillman Foundation, Beaumont, Ernst & Young, 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit, Inc., and the Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office.

0 comments on “Million Dollar Dreams”

Million Dollar Dreams

Noël Cuellar – Primera Plastics Inc.

The story of a $20 million business–started by a man who had labored as a migrant worker and been placed in a special education program because of language difficulties–is testimony to the tenacity, vision, and passion of entrepreneur Noël Cuellar, President and CEO of Primera Plastics, a plastic injection-modeling supplier based in Zeeland.

Cuellar’s success is especially notable in a business environment where Hispanic entrepreneurs are in a definite minority. In 2007, the U.S. Census reported that only 1.1 percent of the 817,000 firms in Michigan were Hispanic-owned (about 4.4 percent of Michigan residents are Hispanic, according to the 2010 census).

0 comments on “Breaking Barriers”

Breaking Barriers

Amy Engelsman – Proos Manufacturing

As Amy Engelsman transitioned into the her role as CEO of Proos Manufacturing, she faced significant challenges: securing company financials; obtaining funding for purchase of the business; proving her leadership capacity to the lender; earning the trust and respect of employees despite having worked for Proos for more than 20 years.

As a female entrepreneur and business owner, Engelsman now experiences the challenges of running a business while also dealing with the traditional challenges that women face in the workplace, including those in executive positions. She believes her biggest achievement has been gaining the acceptance and acknowledgement of her peers in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

1 comment on “Jason Mascari: Moasis Global”

Jason Mascari: Moasis Global

“I didn’t really take a traditional educational route in regards to starting a business.”

Like so many successful entrepreneurs before him, Jason Mascari came up with his big idea while brainstorming with a friend. “We were constantly throwing ideas around for years,” says Jason of his friend and co-founder, Ryan Golden. The two young entrepreneurs first thought of Moasis Global in 2008. In three years, the business has developed from idea to fully patented prototype.

Moasis Global is a web-based advertising platform that allows businesses to target specific geographic areas of interest. The company’s technology enables Moasis to outline an entire city with its patented grid technology and distinguish specific markets. Businesses can then choose to target sections of the grid more heavily with their advertising dollars or decrease spending in others. Users see where competing businesses spend their money and where the greatest market opportunity lies. “Businesses currently overspend in markets that they shouldn’t be targeting,” Mascari explains. Moasis is designed to help change that.

0 comments on “Teens: Flooding the Pipeline”

Teens: Flooding the Pipeline

The future of downtown Grand Rapids is bright, just ask the forty-two Michigan high school students who took to the streets this afternoon, looking for ways to contribute to the city’s urban development.  Having spent seven hours with this year’s class of new entrepreneurs, I am excited, and I’ll tell you why.

Today’s teens are grossly overlooked when it comes to forming new enterprises.  We sometimes fail to understand that developing entrepreneurial talent should begin far before they even reach the collegiate level.  West Michigan may be experiencing unprecedented growth in recent years, but the sustainability of this development will come to fall on the region’s talent pipeline.  And regardless of how many business plans that venture capital firms in Michigan review, we can always do better at stirring up the creative juices in our youth.

2 comments on “Ryan Vaughn:Varsity News Network”

Ryan Vaughn:Varsity News Network

“College is the perfect time to start a business. You have access to tons of resources, and it never gets easier to try something new.”

Ryan Vaughn (@RyanHVaughn) is the Co-Founder of Varsity News Network (VNN), an online high school sports media network, empowering high school journalists to gain relevant experience while ensuring that athletes from every sport receive the coverage they deserve. He earned his Master of Communication from Grand Valley State University in 2010.