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.”
When you are first starting out as an entrepreneur, you may have limited room in your budget for marketing. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a multi million dollar marketing department to create recognition for your brand. You just need to know how to tell your story.
Dr. Kevin Lehnert has taught marketing at Grand Valley State University for six years.
“There’s no easy tool to create brand recognition, but the best thing to do is to understand your story,” Lehnert says.
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.
On Saturday, April 9 Zoe Bruyn and Jordan Vanderham of Grand Valley State University received an honorable mention and $2,500 at the Sixth Annual Texas Christian University (TCU) Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition. The invite-only undergraduate business competition is known to be one of the most prestigious in the nation and saw 47 teams present ideas for products or services that would improve the quality of life for a specific population while turning a profit. The competition awards a total of $77, 700 to winning teams.
Bruyn and Vanderham presented on behalf of a U-Col, an external female catheter solution for women that suffer from fistula. They were one of nine teams to make into the final round, including The George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University.
The literary market is flush with books that aim to inspire entrepreneurs, tell the story of successful startups and let readers in on the secrets of those who made it big. From the practical to the absurd, there’s a lot out there. We have compiled a short list of highly regarded startup literature that would do any entrepreneur, from the beginner to the seasoned, well to have on their shelf.
On Friday, April 1, 134 students from colleges and universities across West Michigan gathered at Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center to compete in the third annual MWest Challenge for a chance to win a total of $40,000 in invest capital.
The MWest Challenge was first held in 2014 as a collaboration between the West Michigan Colleges and Universities Group (WMCAG). The competition aims to give students the opportunity to take their business ideas to the next level while receiving feedback from a panel of expert judges.
On April 20, Biotechnology Business Consultants (BBCetc) will be hosting an information panel and networking event at Blue 35 in downtown Grand Rapids that will address recent changes made to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.
The SBIR/STTR program is a competitive program that provides funding for small businesses engaged in research and development (R&D) from the excess funds of federal agencies whose R&D budgets exceed $100 million.
On March 26, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) will host Unstoppable! A Day of Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs & Makers. The event is a collaboration between the GRAM, Local First, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), Avenue for the Arts and Creative Many, and will feature an all women artisan market, along with workshops and panels geared towards the business end of creativity.
“We really wanted the opportunity to showcase innovation in both design and in entrepreneurialism,” GRAM Communications Manager Cia Segerlind said.
There are many factors to consider when starting a venture; feasibility, financing, product to market fit. But what about healthy relationships with your business partners? No matter how earth shattering an idea is, a dysfunctional team can kill a winning start up. If your team is committed to digging their heals in and weathering the difficult times that will inevitably arise, your chances at success are infinitely higher.
Joseph Horak is the Director of the Family Owned Business Institute at the Seidmen College of Business at Grand Valley State University and a licensed psychologist.
“There are a lot of challenges to being an entrepreneur,” Horak says. “There is going to be a whole ecosystem of relationships around you that will also present different challenges.”
Conflict between startup team members can arise from unequal time investment, differing work styles and unmanaged expectations. Whatever the root, it is important to address issues as soon as possible.
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.