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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Latesha Lipscomb: August 5×5 Night Winner

For Latesha Lipscomb, winning 5×5 Night last month was a long time coming.

“I wasn’t going to do it,” Lipscomb said. “I had done 5×5 twice in the past, and I had come really close to being able to present, but each time I was devastated because I wasn’t selected. I was really discouraged.”

Lipscomb launched her beauty business, I Got Face, in 2010 out of her live work/space on Division Ave. She entered 5×5 Night at the last minute after receiving encouragement from the community.

“I got several emails from several people from all different walks of life in the community telling me that I should do 5×5,” Lipscomb said. “I am a firm believer that if you hear something three times, then it must be meant to be.”

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.

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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 “Starting a business…while working 9-5.”

Starting a business…while working 9-5.

Believe it or not, most people don’t start off as entrepreneurs. Starting a venture often co-occurs with working and/or going to school. Although it is possible to save enough money to live off of while starting your own business, few people will find themselves in the circumstances to do so. So, if you have the itch to get a brilliant idea for a product or service off the ground, you will likely find yourself in a balancing act between work or school (or both) and your new venture.

There are only so many hours in the day, so how exactly does one do it? What can you expect? What are the challenges and benefits?

Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Larson has plenty of experience with the juggling act of entrepreneurship and working full time.

“At one point, I was working full time teaching at a community college, and I owned a vending company and a book keeping company all at the same time,” Larson said. “I got through it. You set goals… Just know that it is going be a roller coaster ride. Understand that going into it.”

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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.

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TESA ’16 Recap

The GVSU Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) is a week-long summer program for high school students. The program focuses on cultivating awareness of and interest in the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem of Grand Rapids, while also providing students the knowledge and tools for starting their own businesses. It is an exceptional opportunity for high school students to interact and learn on a college campus. 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 a cash prize. To aid the students in this presentation GVSU faculty, current entrepreneurial college students, and local entrepreneurs provided training and mentorship.

The 2016 TESA program saw 36 students from 23 different high schools across the state of Michigan. Sponsors included Amway, KENT ISD, Ernst & Young, the Seidman College of Business, and the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Together they provided cash and prizes for the student entrepreneurs that totaled over $5,000.

Each year, TESA features a theme for the students to focus their ideas toward. This year’s theme was healthcare. To assist students in understanding the challenges associated with healthcare, we kicked off the week with an intensive poverty simulation conducted by Access West Michigan. The hour and half long exercise grouped students into fictitious families experiencing poverty and challenged them to meet their basic needs within a certain time frame. We followed this exercise with a trip to Spectrum Health Innovations to listen to a dynamic panel of health care professionals as they highlighted issues rampant in the current system. Later in the week, Kangaroo Kitchen hosted a healthy cooking workshop, Fulton Street Farmers Market gave a presentation on the value of local food markets, Start Garden introduced the students to what an entrepreneurial ecosystem looks like, and the David D. Hunting YMCA hosted us for rock climbing, volleyball, hula hooping, and basketball. Students were also given the opportunity to work with improvisation expert Amy Gascon from Dog Story Theater to improve their stage presence and team building skills. Throughout the week students were under the instruction of Peg Shoenborn and Dr. Tim Syfert. Shoenborn and Dr. Syfert guided them through ideation, prototyping, planning and market research, and management and operations.

At the end of the week, the student teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges made up of Tina Bain, Director of Global Special Events at Amway; Alaina Clarke, Conference Program Manager at Society of North American Goldsmiths; Michael Czechowskyj, Clinical Innovations Specialist at Spectrum Health; Paul Moore, Chief Marketing Officer at Start Garden; and Kevin Schnell, Executive Director at Ernst and Young.

Ravel Bowman, George Ebeling, Abigail Johandes, Alicia Mendez and Jennifer Puente took home first prize and $2,500 for Time to Get Fresh, a business that would utilize the school bus system to provide children qualifying for free or reduced lunch with fresh produce and recipes. Sofia Alfaro, Genevieve Doyle, Benjamin Janes, Miranda Pablo and Jaspreet Singh were awarded second place and $1,500 for Crane Care, a business that would equip elementary schools with health care clinics. Nicholas Baran, Michaela Gheorghiu, Joey Paliwoda, Alex Plouff and Allison Smart received third place and $1,000 for A New Page, a company that would utilize medical social work students to address mental health care in prisons.

2016 Students’ Testimonials:

“I was wavering with what to do after high school, but I really think I may have found my path.”

“I had a great experience at TESA. I look forward to what this camp has given me to use in the real world.”

“This camp is my favorite camp of the summer. I did it last year and decided to come back because I learned so much. I would like to thank the whole TESA staff for making this camp 10 times better than it already was. The experiences and lessons I’ve learned I will keep forever. I can’t wait until next year.”

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TESA ’16

Things have been a little quiet here at  NEU as of late, and for good reason; We have been dedicating our resources to preparing for the Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA).

TESA takes place from June 27-July 1, and is a unique program designed to give high school students an immersive educational experience in entrepreneurship. At the the begining of the week, students are divided into teams and presented with a theme to create a business around. At the end of the week, each team will pitch their final idea to a panel of judges for a chance to win cash prizes totaling $5,000. Past TESA themes include arts, agriculture, and urban sustainability. This year’s theme is health and wellness.


We have an exciting schedule lined up for our TESA students this year. We are kicking things off on Monday with a poverty simulation designed to give them a full understanding of what it is like to have limited access to medical care, followed by a carefully curated panel of industry experts that will take them further into exploring barriers in healthcare systems. The rest of the week includes ideation exercises, improv activities, finance overviews, marketing research, prototyping, lunch in downtown Grand Rapids, field trips to the David D. Hunting YMCA, Start Garden, The Fulton Street Farmers Market and a cooking demonstration with Kangaroo Kitchen.

This is the 10th year that TESA has been giving high school students the skills to explore their passions while forging their own paths. We are pleased to be taking our programing to Detroit from August 1-5 to expand the impact of TESA.

NEU will resume posting after July 4. Stay tuned!



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.”