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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.

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 “Lessons from a local coffee company”

Lessons from a local coffee company

Doomed to Fail

Even those who are unfamiliar with business may know the old adage that coffee shops are “doomed to fail.”

Trevor Corlett, owner of Madcap of Coffee Company in downtown Grand Rapids, suggests that many people who open coffee shops do so under the false perception that there is nothing to it.

“They spend a lot of time hanging out in coffee shops and it’s super chill and it’s fun and they drink coffee and hang out with friends, and they perceive that is what it will be like to own one,” Corlett said. “You get people that have no background in managing retail, without being  able to manage a staff that tends to be younger and all of the things that come with it. So that failure rate that you see from 10,000 feet up includes that.”

The coffee industry is incredibly diverse. Forbes ranks Starbucks among the world’s 50 most valuable brands. Biggby, an East Lansing born coffee chain, has 182 locations across Michigan, making up 48% of coffee shops across the state. For those who like to keep their spending local, Grand Rapids alone has more than a dozen independently owned coffee shops.

Grand Valley State University professor Dr. Timothy Syfert teaches entrepreneurship at the Seidman College of Business, and explains how these different types of coffee entities serve different functions.

“People go to Starbucks or Biggby for the coffee,” Syfert said. “People go to coffee shops to meet other people–for the community,” 

What can entrepreneurs approaching different product markets learn from this? Well, coffee shops are a great example of what every entrepreneur should bear in mind.

“That it is not always about the product or service– it’s about what is around it,” Syfert said.  “It’s the thing beyond the product or service that keeps people coming back.”

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5×5 at LINC Gallery

Voting closed on Wednesday for the top five  5×5 ideas, and those that emerged on top will be presenting at the return of the monthly pitch competition on August 24 at 5:00 p.m. at the LINC Gallery, located at 1167 Madison Ave SE. Presenting will be Tova Jones on behalf of Pop Up Shop-GR, Shawn Melton of Straight and Narrow Workshop, Latesha Lipscomb of I Got Face-At Your Service, Kelsey Purdue on behalf of Show and Tell Youth Marketplace and Korey Cook for Non-Invasive River Turbine.

There were well over a dozen submissions for the public to vote on in this months 5×5 pool.

For more information on next week’s 5×5 Night, please visit http://5x5night.com/next

0 comments on “Socks and Social Enterprise”

Socks and Social Enterprise

This is the first in an ongoing series highlighting the stories of Grand Rapids’ growing small business community. Bold Socks is a recent addition to the Avenue for the Arts retail sector.

The Bold Socks store at 17 Division Ave S in downtown Grand Rapids is set up to look and feel like art gallery; colorful socks line the black and white walls, hung three at a time so as not to crowd the displays. The space is small but open, with minimal floor displays to allow to customers to move freely and view the merchandise.

“I had a belief that if we opened the store, Grand Rapids would get behind it,” said Ryan Roff, co-owner of Bold Socks. “What I didn’t realize was to what effect they would get behind it.”

0 comments on “Introducing Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Larson”

Introducing Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Larson

Matt Larson has always been a self-starter. One afternoon when he was 3 years old, he told his mother he was going to play in the front yard. Instead, he walked eight blocks to downtown Ludington to go to work.

“I walked to a store where her friends used to work,” Larson said. “They would pay me to pick up price tags and different things off the floor while my mom was shopping there.”

He didn’t stop there. When Larson was in third grade, he charged his fellow students one snack a month to hold their lunch money in a lockbox. Students who kept their money with him were even assigned an account number, foreshadowing the bookkeeping business he would start after college.

“Early on, I knew that I didn’t want to work for someone,” Larson said.

0 comments on “Social Enterprise: New City Urban Farm”

Social Enterprise: New City Urban Farm

16-year-old Brennan Persenaire Hogeter is more than familiar with the effects of farming; he spent 11 years traveling around Africa with his family teaching new farming techniques to agricultural communities.

“I have seen the impact of farms and the impact of not having farms and what a poor harvest can do,” Persenaire Hogeter said. “I have always wanted to be a farmer, or at least be involved in where my food comes from.”

He is well on his way; Persenaire Hogeter is one of a group of teens employed by New City Urban Farm on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. The farm is a program of non-profit New City Neighbors and is impacting the community through social enterprise by employing at risk teenagers from the surrounding Creston and Belknap neighborhoods, teaching them valuable entrepreneurial skills and helping them to find careers paths.

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Design Briefs: Diversity in Tech

On Thursday evening, designers, entrepreneurs and community members will gather at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) to connect, share ideas and explore what it means for industries to be diverse for Design Breifs: Diversity in Tech. Kimberly Wolting heads the American Institute of Graphics Arts West Michigan Design for Good initiative and collaborated in part with the GRAM’s Director of Learning and Audience engagement John Carfagno to coordinate the event.

“We have always been trying to do good for the community, but we were maybe not reaching out to the community in as many places as we could have, ” Wolting said. “We are really making an effort this year to make a wider reach … to make sure that we are including everyone in these conversations.”

0 comments on “Social Enterprise: Ambrose at WMCAT”

Social Enterprise: Ambrose at WMCAT

This is the first in an ongoing series about community leaders in West Michigan implementing entrepreneurial skills in youth education.

Like any business, commercial screen printer Ambrose strives to provide their customers with a quality product at competitive pricing in a timely fashion. But something sets Ambrose apart–the company is run by five teen apprentices as part of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) Social Enterprise Initiative.

Adam Weiler started Ambrose eight years ago as a means to fund an after school art and design program at the Holland Area Arts Council. Weiler graduated from Central College in Pela, Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and mathematics. He was inspired by the experience of having a difficult time applying his skill set after college and sought to create a program that would better equip high school students to make beneficial decisions early on.

0 comments on “5×5 Night Follow Up: Melanie Koops of Werth Rack”

5×5 Night Follow Up: Melanie Koops of Werth Rack

The Werth Rack was the winner of 5×5 Night in November 2015.

“The worst thing is that you could look back and say, ‘oh, I wish I had tried, at least I could know if it would have been successful or not.’” Melanie Koops said.

Koops is a third year physical therapy student at GVSU and the co-founder of Werth Wrack, an innovative walker storage system that reduces rehab storage space by 50% and cuts cost to both hospitals and patients.