Vol.1 Fall 2010
The Essential Elements of Entrepreneurship
GVSU CEIâ€™s strategic focus on Culture, Talent, Advising & Capital
GVSU Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Seidman College of Business
Colleagues of CEI, Welcome to the first edition of NEU, Entrepreneuring the Future™, the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s (CEI) biannual magazine. We’re very excited to launch NEU (pronounced “new”) as a key means to highlight the many stories and great work of our clients and partner organizations, as well as to update you on CEI progress. Ultimately, we hope this effort will be about stimulating entrepreneurial conversation and communication, and a means to keep us all connected and accountable. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about half of all new businesses survive the five year mark. To help aspiring entrepreneurs get started and beat the odds, CEI was launched as a regional catalyst for entrepreneurship. This edition describes our strategic view of how we can best impact the “essential elements of entrepreneurship” for our area, through fostering culture, developing talent, helping to build a continuum of capital, as well providing connections, mentoring, information, and other new enterprise resources. We’re convinced tying these elements to a broader platform of effective policy, public-private partnerships, access to markets, and building regional brand will build a sustainable and robust entrepreneurial ecosystem for years to come. CEI’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Roger Jansen, PhD, is helping us make significant headway in achieving CEI objectives. His success as an entrepreneur provides a valuable perspective as he mentors others on creating value in their business. Also in this issue, NEU raises the question: Is there such a thing as a start-up gene? Are entrepreneurs genetically inclined to be risk takers and evaluate opportunities differently than others? What is the role of environment and education? We will explore both arguments in this issue, and we invite you to join the debate. Our favorite pages are filled with inspiring stories of innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship. Behind the words, these stories are filled with resilience, fortitude, serial problem-solving, self-discipline, and passion to make the world a little nicer place. We hope you enjoy this issue of NEU, and engage with us as we work to lead with a strong vision, innovative mindset, and collaborative heart for the future of entrepreneurship in the region. As always, please feel free to contact us for your new venture needs! Cheers, The CEI Team Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Seidman College of Business Grand Valley State University
Contents CEI Updates
Letter from the CEI Team CEI Accountability Report
Featured Articles 5 The Essential Elements of Entrepreneurship 9
Designing the Future: the Keller Future Center
10 Entrepreneur-in-Residence Q&A with Roger Jansen 11 Entrepre-Nature vs. Entrepre-Nurture Advisory Resources 12 The Family Business Alliance 13 MI-SBTDCTM Entrepreneurial Purusits 14 15 16 17
Inventors K-12/Collegiate Venture/Lifestyle Social/Family
18 neu Events
Credits Executive Director Writer Linda Chamberlain, PhD Ryan Vaughn
Art Director Mike Schulz
Operations Manager Shorouq Almallah
Writer Allison Bogle
Photographer David Chandler
Editor StĂŠlios Alvarez
Underwritten by Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business
CEI Accountability Report ENTREprnr.net Acts as Resource for Entrepreneurs
Grand Valley State University Business Resource Portal
West Michigan’s Momentum Program is a Success
Many support resources are available to entrepreneurs in West Michigan. The tough part is working the maze: figuring out where to go, and when. ENTREprnr.net was constructed as a free and comprehensive resource guide to help entrepreneurs find and connect with regional resources appropriate for their new venture.
Grand Valley State University is home to a variety of intellectual and technical resources that may be helpful to businesses. New business owners, entrepreneurs and others can find helpful resources through one easy access, the Business Resource Portal.
Looking at the funding landscape for IT entrepreneurs around West Michigan, Momentum founder Rick DeVos noticed a gap. While there was some funding available from angel groups and venture capitalists, and even some later stage funding available for young companies looking to grow, there was little support for technology companies just getting started.
ENTREprnr.net compiles relevant information, resources, and inspiration designed to assist all types of entrepreneurs at any stage of business development. The resources are organized into four sections: capital, incubation, advisory support, and education. The guide will aid entrepreneurs who need to make the right connections, as well as find advisory resources to increase their skills, determine angles to lower their costs, and address the need to find the right capital for their stage and type of enterprise. Under each section, users will find contact information, key resources such as video clips, book reviews, articles, and other learning opportunities. Sub-categories simplify the process of finding the right assistance at the right time. The website also serves as a regional calendar for events specifically designed for entrepreneurs. Whether in the pre-launch, launch, growth, or exit stage, entrepreneurs will find the appropriate support to fit their exact need on ENTREprnr.net. www.entreprnr.net
The GVSU Business Resource Portal identifies 17 different organizations within Grand Valley State University which provide community outreach services, offering both organizational and topical links to a wide range of consulting, training, market research and other services. The site showcases a one-stop calendar of events which syncs information from all the entities in the portal. The project was spearheaded by Carol Lopucki, State Director of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center, headquartered at GVSU. “Grand Valley has increased its outreach programs and truly has a tremendous variety of services to offer to the business community,” Lopucki said. The site’s target audiences include the business community and economic development professionals. “Grand Valley has one of the most comprehensive business support networks in Michigan, and this new portal will help the university share its knowledge, expertise, and opportunities regionally and beyond,” said Seidman College of Business Dean H. James Williams. www.gvsu.edu/businessresource
Enter Momentum, a seed investment and incubation challenge engineered to help IT entrepreneurs prove the value of their concept, and bridge the gap in funding between the “Three F’s” (Friends - Family - Financiers) and next level investment.
The twelve-week Momentum program is designed to challenge selected participants through three critical milestones: developing the value proposition of the concept through writing a business plan, validating the plan through building a product, and securing the first customer. Each participant receives a $20,000 investment to accomplish these milestones, and is guided by mentors as they advance and refine their value proposition. The program culminates with a Demo Day, where companies pitch to potential funders for their next round of capital. CEI was a proud sponsor of the 2010 Momentum Program. www.momentum-mi.com
New Investment Capital: Michigan Accelerator Fund 1 In April 2010, the State of Michigan issued a grant challenge to create two, $6M, first generation venture funds. Grand Valley, through CEI, supported the development of the fund proposal and helped raise the required grant match in collaboration with The Charter Group. The Charter Group is a Grand Rapids based merger and acquisition organization diversifying into venture investment. The approach of the fund was based on regional collaboration. In August 2010, the Charter Group was awarded one of the grants, and the Michigan Accelerator Fund I, L.P., (MAF1), was established. MAF1 is the first venture capital fund founded in West Michigan. The Charter Group has committed to building a $10M fund, with the goal to reach $25M in three years. MAF1’s initial “cornerstone” investors are Grand Valley, the Van Andel Institute, and the fund management team. Michigan State University has also invested. Headed by two investment professionals from the Charter Group, MAF1 has support from an Investment Review Board, a Technical Advisory Board, and Fund Management Advisory Board, for both deal flow and due diligence. MAF1 has the intention of achieving significant, long-term capital appreciation through investments in early stage companies predominantly in the life sciences. Based on a $10M fund, MAF1 targets to make 12-15 investments (minimum investment: $250K) over the lifetime of the fund. The impact of the Michigan Accelerator Fund 1 will be measured not only in returns to investors, but
also in potential job creation and vibrant economic development. MAF1 is poised to optimize value and wealth creation to build a foundation of available capital for entrepreneurs for years to come. . www.charter-group.com
New GVSU Class (MGT 380): Starting Student Enterprises
and we’re awaiting the presentation of the business models with anticipation. We know they will be exciting!” Course instruction will be managed by CEI, and will include guest speakers on specific disciplines of business planning. Volunteer entrepreneur mentors play an important role in keeping the teams on track in meeting the presentation deliverables.
What do you get when you put ambitious entrepreneurial students with the Seidman College of Business and the Grand Valley Research Corporation (GVRC)? The opportunity to design, develop and provide seed capital to businesses owned and operated by students. In the Fall of 2010, MGT 380 will walk teams of students through the fundamentals of business planning for a new Grand Valley student venture. Each team, which includes an entrepreneur mentor, will have an opportunity to pitch their final business plan to the GVRC investment committee. The goal is to have one investable business ready for launch by first quarter 2011.
Grand Valley Research Corporation Board Chair Jim Bachmeier, Vice President of Finance & Administration at Grand Valley, says GRVC is “highly interested in providing seed capital to the right student business opportunity. Longer term we can see several viable student businesses operating at Grand Valley, providing products, services, and jobs to enhance students’ learning experience.
As a basis for their business concepts, the students will be tasked with researching current student enterprises for operational context, distribution of profits, and innovative approaches to start-up. “It’s important to understand what’s already been done to apply to the Grand Valley model,” said H. James Williams, Dean of the Seidman College of Business. “We appreciate the involvement of students to get this course started,
The Essential Elements of Entrepreneurship GVSU CEIâ€™s Strategic focus on Culture, Talent, Advising & Capital
Vibrant, attractive communities benefit from a steady current of entrepreneurial efforts. West Michigan has a long-standing, deep and distinctive entrepreneurial heritage, built upon boot-strap building of Fortune 500 global enterprises, multi-generational familyowned companies, and lifestyle businesses which serve as the backbone of community living. Grand Valley’s Seidman College of Business, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation is focused on building on this legacy, while preparing for new economies. Through dialogue with stakeholders, the CEI vision, mission and strategic plan has been communally designed around identified factors, which will drive entrepreneurial success.
It’s our belief that a healthy entrepreneurial milieu relies on the presence of four key elements, which are the basis of the CEI strategic plan:
The vision of CEI is to have our region be a “barrier-free” zone for entrepreneurial work. The mission of CEI is to champion, catalyze, and impact entrepreneurial culture and community through quality research and programming, innovative collaborations, and informational resourcing.
1. Continuous cultivation of a regional culture of entrepreneurship 2. Development of entrepreneurial talent 3. Providing relevant and appropriate support resources 4. Facilitating access to capital CEI’s strategic plan addresses all four of these elements, while advocating for the entrepreneur through innovatively influencing regional policies and regulations, creating opportunities for access to markets, bridging public and private sectors to accelerate start-up business development opportunities, and effectively marketing the region as the place to practice the vocation of entrepreneurship.
Cultivating Culture The foundational essential element to a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem is a culture that is positive, accepting of risk and failure, and which pioneers and rewards the spirit of entrepreneurial thinking. West Michigan was recently described as having entrepreneurial “strut,” and insuring that this can-do culture continues to grow and thrive is dominant in the CEI strategic plan. West Michigan entrepreneurs, as well as those who benefit from the value they create, must have an enriching, enriching, and embracing culture enabling the formation, building, and adaptation of ideas into viable business opportunities. Entrepreneurs, at heart, are business people. They have a drive and a knack for creatively solving problems to bring them closer to their goals. CEI is committed to working with business and community leaders, regional organizations providing resources, and academic entities, to ensure that entrepreneurs can continue to do business easily, without added political, economical or social barriers. The result is an improved climate in which businesses can be built and deals can be made efficiently and effectively, keeping entrepreneurs resolute on adding value for the community at large. Encouraging Talent We often think of careers in terms of skill-based professions: firefighter, engineer, or teacher. Traditionally, entrepreneurship is not viewed as a realistic career option. CEI is committed to empowering learners who are seeking to understand entrepreneurship as an exciting and feasible career option. It all starts with a mindset. Ideas in today’s knowledge economy are open sourced. It’s the ability to execute on the ideas that provides the competitive advantage. Learning how to execute—and continually adapting to new information— happens best through applied education. CEI engages actively in the exploration and development of entrepreneurial talent at any age or stage of understanding. We refer to this as “Kindergarten to Entrepreneur” (K to E). CEI provides nascent through serial entrepreneurs with learning platforms such as courses and workshops, competitive business planning events, coaching, and mentoring. CEI also works to educate the community at large about entrepreneurship, and perhaps most importantly, encourages entrepreneurs to “know thyself.” Tying back to culture, CEI also wants to make sure strong entrepreneurial talent is recognized and appreciated, as there is no better role model or teacher than shared experience.
One who undertakes economic risk to create a new enterprise that will bring new products, services, & technologies to a market to generate value.
Providing Advisory Resources West Michigan has no shortage of great, innovative ideas. People from every walk of life are creating concepts for the new products and services that solve a market need. The trick is turning these into business opportunities, and finding the right entrepreneurial resources to help avoid the stalls and overcome the pitfalls that inevitably occur at various points in the process. As the paths to market and the experience of the entrepreneur vary widely from venture to venture, a one-size-fits-all approach to providing advisory support resources is not possible. The third essential element of the CEI strategic plan is focused on making sure entrepreneurs have the right resource at the right time to continually hone their skills, lower the cost business, and make the all important right connection. CEI is committed to acting as an agile hub for a collaborative, coordinated, progressive and efficient “regional business acceleration” network. Even leveraging the advisory resources of the West Michigan community, many entrepreneurs will still face significant barriers to market due to their size and “start-up” status. CEI is further committed to collaborating with public and private business to create a regional network of influencers designed to help entrepreneurs access their markets. Accessing Capital Most would say that capital is the beginning and end of the entrepreneurial story. The fourth key element in the ecosystem of entrepreneurship is the availability of and access to capital. The availability of capital allows entrepreneurs to think big and work hard to deliver on their vision. CEI is aggressively pursuing regional interests by developing and maintaining a robust and accessible continuum of capital -- from grants to early stage seed to angel funding to venture capital to small business loans. Further, CEI works closely with capital-seeking entrepreneurs in preparation of their business plan and pitch. Lastly, CEI facilitates connections with investors that are right for the entrepreneur’s type of business and stage of development.
The CEI Essential Elements of Entrepreneurship: Through distillation of research of best practices and many discussions with business and community leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors, CEI has defined a strategic plan to lead and enable development of the Essential Elements of Entrepreneurship.
Going Forward: CEI is Fueling Entrepreneurship West Michigan has a legacy of entrepreneurship. All of our regional dimensions and complexities, coupled with our collaborative smartness and generous nature, lend to our entrepreneurial uniqueness. CEI will champion our legacy and uniqueness, and through solid vision, mission, and strategic plan accelerate regional entrepreneurship. The CEI plan is focused on four elements of entrepreneurship: culture, talent, advisory resources, and capital, while simultaneously working to influence entrepreneur-friendly policy and regulations, public-private partnerships enabling
access to markets, and the branding of our region as the place to be an entrepreneur. We want to be sure business men and women are offered the support and encouragement they need to achieve their business aspirations, within a network that provides much needed access to capital. Focusing on the present and future, while being cognitive of the pastâ€™s successes and failures, is a platform on which CEI will drive entrepreneurship and innovation in the region; building a true ecosystem that turns ambition into action.
Designing the Future: the Keller Future Center On a visit to West Michigan last year, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman shared his perspective that the community, state, or country that “wins” in the 21st century knowledge economy is the one that gets back to capturing and executing on the imagination of its people. Welcome the Keller Futures Center, lead through Grand Rapids Community College. Business leader and philanthropist Fred Keller had the vision to develop a learning and development platform based in futures research, design-thinking, and innovation principles, with the intention to explore economic, environmental, social, and technology trends that will have direct impact on our Community over the next 25 years. The core work of the Keller Futures Center will focus on three areas: Learning, Engaging Community, and Vision. Even better, the Futures Center will give everyone who wants to engage a chance to create and collaborate to find solutions to problems affecting all of us, providing the ultimate in 21st Century Apprenticeship!
At the center of this platform is the belief that we can create the capacity within our community for strategic problem solving, and develop the skills within our citizens to ignite the innovation engine in West Michigan. Access to the solutions will allow all emerging and existing organizations- profit or non-profit, the opportunity to focus on implementing the solutions according to the needs of their markets/customers. To test the viability of this model, an initial pilot project was conducted on the topic of Urban Farming in June 2010. Over the course of 7 weeks, an all volunteer
“workforce” representing students from Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley, Aquinas, Kendall, faculty from GVSU and GRCC along with topic experts and community members moved through research, trend analysis, ideation and design to arrive at potential visions for the future of urban farming. This pilot project successfully demonstrated method for quickly coalescing a very diverse group of people, inspiring them to collaborate on a highly ambiguous problem statement, developing new skills, and creating useable ideas. West Michigan has a real opportunity for national leadership in sustainable community development through this unique, forward -thinking approach to shared visioning, opportunity identification and problem solving. Projects are currently being evaluated for 2011. If you are interested in learning more, or engaging in this vital community effort, please contact Liz McCormick at firstname.lastname@example.org
ThinkWise, Inc. CEO Roger Jansen, PhD understands firsthand what it takes to build a successful, value-producing, start-up company. Now he’s working with CEI to assemble a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region, as the inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Q Can you explain what the role of
A The Entrepreneur-in-Residence
is focused on raising awareness of entrepreneurship in the community, creating a language for what entrepreneurs do and are, and making sure entrepreneurs have the support of the existing business community. CEI is quickly becoming the go-to place for entrepreneuship in West Michigan, and a big part of this responsibility is having all the elements of entrepreneurship fully engaged.
Q What do you see as the greatest
concern for entrepreneurs and investors in the region?
A One thing I think is really important
is making sure that there is a strong understanding about where and how to get access to the capital you need as an entrepreneur. If you don’t have access to capital, you don’t have an entrepreneurial community. What you have is a bunch of very frustrated entrepreneurs who will want to do their business elsewhere. On the flip side, we also really need great process to effectively and
thoroughly prepare and vet business ideas. I think a lot of entrepreneurs get frustrated that money doesn’t seem to be out there, but there also needs to be a realization that not every business concept is an investable idea.
Q What would you say is essential to successful entrepreneurship?
A There are two things that every good
entrepreneur needs to do. First, they need to be able to see the future before it happens. This means seeing not where the puck is, but where it’s going. A lot of this is about seeing patterns and rhythms in a market space, and then being able to determine what they mean. Second, they need to be able to adapt, because everything can and does change in an instant.
Q What would be your advice for
entrepreneurs starting a business in West Michigan?
A Let me offer three things to think
about. The first is to believe in yourself. To be a successful entrepreneur you need to have confidence in your ideas and your business. This confidence is really key to letting clients see that your
product or solution has merit and is worth investing in or purchase. Expect to hear and face doubters and naysayers, but keep the faith and passion. Second, be prepared to work harder and without a real break for the foreseeable future. Getting a business up and running is an incredible amount of work and I don’t know any better way to do it than through pure effort and self-discipline. If you are not prepared to give up your evenings, weekends, and holidays, you may not have the energy required to be an entrepreneur. Finally, get really comfortable with ambiguity. While every entrepreneur should do their best to work a plan, things simply won’t follow a desired path. If you are someone who can’t deal with uncertainty or a lot of change, think twice before becoming an entrepreneur because the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. Use this uncertainty to fine tune your business, consider innovative ways of dealing with the unknowns to make your product or service better than you could imagine, rather than letting it wear you down. To read more of Roger’s interview, please visit www.gvsu.edu/cei
Entrepre-Nature vs. Entrepre-Nurture As the global economy continues to struggle, the world is once again depending on its greatest natural resource to lead the recovery: Entrepreneurs. Because of the important role entrepreneurs play in the economic framework, the focus on how we cultivate entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship is at an all time high. This interest begs a question: Are entrepreneurs born or made? In other words, are genetics or the environment / learning more important in determining who becomes an entrepreneur? Entrepreneurial nature versus entrepreneurial nurture is an ancient debate. However, due to advances in technology and the growing field of behavioral genetics and neuroscience, we can approach this discussion with new insights and findings that may help us formulate a more informed answer. Recent research by Scott Shane at Case Western Reserve compared entrepreneurial activity of 870 pairs of identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, and 857 pairs of same-sex fraternal twins, who share 50% of their genes, to isolate the contributions genetics play upon entrepreneurship. In determining the likelihood of being an entrepreneur, Shane’s research concluded that 40% of the time, genetics is an accurate predictor. A similar line of
inquiry by neuropsychologist Barbara Sahakian from Cambridge suggested that neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, influence behaviors that drive entrepreneurship. Numerous studies and other rapidly evolving research seem to strongly support the conclusion that biological or “nature” based traits drive observed entrepreneurial behaviors. Some of the identified entrepreneurial traits include persistence and determination, self-confidence in the face of adversity, the ability to creatively problem solve, being goals-driven and highly committed to success, risk-taking and being comfortable with failure, and most importantly: independence. On the other hand, many entrepreneurs have developed due to social experiences and economic situations that have pushed them to start their own businesses. Indeed, during this economic downturn, the number of inquiries into franchises and the number of new business filings has skyrocketed. Further, the number of people deciding to start their own businesses has increased more than fourfold since the mid 1970s. It would be erroneous to conclude that we are somehow “producing” more entrepreneurs. Nurture and the larger economic and social ecosystems enable entrepreneurship, which accounts for the increased activity. So, what does it all mean? If we look at almost any human rait, whether eye color, height, weight, intelligence, etc., it presents itself on a continuum. And without a doubt, environmental conditions directly interact with genetic predispositions to determine where someone falls on the entrepreneurial spectrum. This is likely the case with entrepreneurship as well; it’s not just genetics or environment, but conditions combining both. Taking this line of thinking one step further, we would suppose that as we become more sophisticated in understanding what drives entrepreneurship, a natural continuum will evolve with different types of entrepreneurs having different levels of influence from genetics and social and environmental factors. These entrepreneurial types may help us once and for all answer the question: Are entrepreneurs born or made? The more important question may be: How can we increase the odds to craft entrepreneurs, and prepare them for success?
The Family Business Alliance
Above (Left to Right): Lorissa MacAllister, Janet Wyllie, and Ellie Frey. Below (Left to Right): The 3rd Annual Family Business Forum, featuring a break out session with Matt Schad, Dini Pickering, and Joe Schmieder.
The Family Business Alliance (FBA) is a unique model of partnership between GVSU’s Family Owned Business Institute and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. The FBA is a focal point for delivering family business education and training, research, expertise, practice, and peers to help West Michigan’s family businesses succeed generation to generation. Grand Valley’s role is to be the educational arm of this partnership, while the Grand Rapids Chamber brings their strong community presence. The FBA provides the framework for the partnership, and is designed to be inclusive to all interested community partners. Particular emphasis is placed on engaging service providers and talented specialists trained and experienced in the unique set of challenges that family businesses face. In addition to pooling resources and making connections, the FBA offers quarterly educational workshops, forums, peer groups, internships, and mentorship/advising relationships.
Still, family businesses face a unique set of challenges that can limit their impact and even threaten their survival. Statistically, two thirds of all family owned businesses will not survive to the 2nd generation, and only 12% will still be viable into the 3rd generation. There is a clear need to address the challenges family businesses face. There is also a need to ensure that family businesses have easy access to valuable information and advice from experts, peers, and The FBA was created out of the recognition that researchers. Finally, there is a necessity for more education, family businesses are crucial to a community’s prosperity. research and communication regarding the importance of Studies show that the greatest part of America’s wealth lies family businesses, and their impact on the US economy. with family owned businesses, which comprise 80-90% of all North America business enterprises, contribute 64% of The FBA focuses on addressing these challenges, and the GDP, and employ 62% of the U.S. workforce. It is in helping family owned businesses beat the odds. The our best collective interest to foster the creation, growth, FBA is helping create a culture of success for its growing and continuation of family owned businesses since they membership base of family businesses in West Michigan. are leaders in job creation, innovation, and providing stable employment opportunities for workers in our community. Ellie Frey, Director of the Family Business Alliance, Such businesses think strategically and act over the long can be reached at (616) 331-6827. www.fbagr.org term with a greater willingness to sacrifice short term profitability—all to the benefit of the community.
The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC™) enhances Michigan’s economic well-being by providing counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures, existing small businesses, and innovative technology companies. With offices statewide, the MI-SBTDC™ positively impacts the economy by strengthening existing companies, creating new jobs, retaining existing jobs, and assisting companies in defining their path to success. The State Headquarters, located at Grand Valley State University, supports 12 regional offices and over 30 satellite offices, each providing counseling and training to small business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the 83 counties in Michigan through a cooperative agreement with the
U.S. Small Business Administration. In addition to the state headquarters, one of the twelve regional centers (Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon) is also located at Grand Valley. Moreover, Seidman College of Business graduate students provide market research for the entire state of Michigan. The center provides valuable resources, including a Manufacturing Assistance Team (MAT) which helps manufacturers diversify and grow, as well as the Growth Group (G2) whose goal is to help companies focus their efforts on growth. Along with a full range of consulting services, the MI-SBTDC™ helps give Michigan’s companies a competitive edge. The qualified MI-SBTDC™ team works diligently to aid those with a penchant for entrepreneurship.
Pictured (Left to Right): Dave Sayers, Joanne Fowler, Dante Villarreal, Jeanne Ferro, Yvette Iyiguhaye, and Chelsea Bengal. Not Pictured: Stan Pruski, Jessica Herron, Laura Pecherski, Michelle Thomas, and Maricela Lara.
Who Does What Dante Villarreal Regional Director
Jeanne Ferro Business Consultant
Stan Pruski Growth Group Specialist
Dante will go out of his way to help entrepreneurs. His dedication to the cause of small businesses in West Michigan drives him to set up mutually beneficial relationships within his network of connections. Small business owners can greatly benefit from his attention to detail and experience.
Jeanne dedicates much of her time developing business plans with clients. Her wide knowledge of marketing concepts and her ability to focus on the entrepreneur’s needs set her apart as a counselor. She is a focused professional whose expertise will leave the entrepreneur with a better understanding of marketing.
Stand provides no cost business consulting to second-stage small businesses. The goal is to help existing small businesses achieve sustainable growth in sales and profits and maximize business valuation. Included are the development of growth strategies and initiatives, along with measurement and accountability.
Joanne Fowler Business Intake Consultant
Dave Sayers Senior Business Counselor
Jessica, Yvette, and Laura Market Researchers
Joanne is often the first contact with the MISBTDC. From coordinating events to scheduling your first meeting, she identifies your needs as an entrepreneur and directs you to the most helpful resource. Her in-depth understanding of the business creation process is of definite value to the would-be entrepreneur.
Dave delivers financial metrics and forecasting to clients, and takes the time to explain the importance of cash flow. Spending time with him is of invaluable help to those who have a basic to intermediate knowledge of accounting or finance. He makes the information not only readily accessible, but clearly understandable.
The researchers focus their analytical skills on finding, dissecting and delivering market research to the entrepreneur. The research is client-specific and highly relevant. From demographic to industry to psychographic reports, this qualified teams is your onestop-shop for research…at no cost!
Entrepreneurial Pursuits Inventors The Bag Daddy
Some people just have the innovative bug. For Mike Kolarik, it’s a profession. As a former Journeyman toolmaker and Steelcase engineer, Mike is a proven problem-solver. His latest product is no exception: The Bag Daddy is a device that makes it easy to dump leaves into yard-waste bags…finally! According to Mike, coming up with the idea for The Bag Daddy was quite simple. Getting the product to market was much more complicated. For one, it took nearly two years to get The Bag Daddy patented. Next, he channeled his energy in founding his business: product development, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and sales were challenges he faced
with determination. Mike found the ideal support system with the Grand Rapids Inventors Network (GRIN). “Connecting with GRIN founding board member Bonnie Knopf and her company, Intrepid Plastics, was a huge step forward in the design and manufacturing of The Bag Daddy,” said Mike. Intrepid Plastics was able to manufacture The Bag Daddy using workers hired through a Goodwill Industries grant focused on developing skill sets for impoverished workers. The initial distribution channel for the The Bag Daddy was through regional hardware stores. Most recently, The Bag Daddy caught the attention of Meijer and will become available
through their network of retail stores starting mid-September. The availability of The Bag Daddy at Meijer is essential as “it will give the product broad exposure, significantly lowering costs.” People no longer have to struggle to get leaves into narrow yard-waste bags, they have a clear solution: The Bag Daddy. It also feels great to have the “reassurance that your hard work has paid off, and to create local jobs.” When asked what advice he would give other inventors, Mike says, “look for people to work with that have good reputations, and keep pushing on any lead!”
Moving Inventions Forward Now in its second year, the Grand Rapids Inventors Network (GRIN) has enjoyed tremendous growth and achievement. Their monthly meetings draw over 75 inventors and inventor advisors, discussing topics ranging from patenting to product development to marketing and sales.
GRIN received a People’s Choice Award at Business Review’s Innovation Michigan 2010.
inventors in West Michigan, as well as for manufacturers and service providers looking for new opportunities.”
According to Founding Board Member Bonnie Knopf, “GRIN, a spin-off of the Muskegon Inventor’s Network (MIN), is proving to be a big resource for
K-12 Teen Entrepreneurship Summer Academy
High school students from West Michigan gathered in June 2010 to learn about entrepreneurship and compete for cash prizes at the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy. “So often students fail to think of entrepreneurship as an available career choice,” said Shorouq Almallah, Operations Manager at CEI. “This Academy targets to change that.” At the 4th Annual Academy, 25 students from 14 different high schools worked hands-on with local entrepreneurs
and educators, learning experientially about the exciting process of innovation and the prospects of building their own business. During the three-day academy, teams of three to four students developed their own business idea to provide value within the system of urban farming. Ideas involved everything from patio farming of heirloom crops, to ondemand delivery of organic produce, to inventive supply chain management solutions, and even the re-purposing of industrial run-off water to supply urban
Collegiate Beanilla Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron. Making it affordable for the home consumer can be complicated; providing premium vanilla at a competitive price point is even more challenging. While attending Grand Valley, Rob Conley and Brent Reame founded Beanilla. From Organic cane sugar infused with Tahitian Vanilla to Vanilla Fleur de Sel, Beanilla provides a vast array of luxury products. The premium vanilla beans are the staple of the business: Eight types of Grade -A beans from six different countries are in high demand. As labor-intensive as is the actual process of making vanilla, the work that went into building and growing Beanilla has a sweet aftertaste. From 150 customers in 2006 to over 2,000
farms at minimal cost. Teams went through an intense training process to help them build the foundation for the success of their enterprising concept. The students participated in lectures, hands-on learning sessions, and visited the Goei Center for motivation. On the final day, all seven teams had five minutes to pitch their business concept to a panel of judges for a chance to win cash prizes. The top cash prize this year went to Homegrown Crops, who creatively used technology to make home gardening possible for anyone living anywhere.
www.beanilla.com today, the company has received attention from consumers, cooks, and brewers. Even while growing the company, Brent and Rob kept their knack for innovation. “We took a hard look at the spice marketplace and found a need for premium ingredients,” said Brent, “we’re looking to expand our scope to other spices in the not-toodistant future.” Fueled by curiosity and motivated by a growing clientbase, the Beanilla team powers on. Now in their fifth year, Beanilla has expanded its product offering and is in the process of re-designing their
website. The wildly popular vanilla paste is a recent sensation; users love the versatility of the product combined with its vanilla punch. Brent comments that Rob and he are always on the lookout for new ideas to sell premium vanilla. It’s a great feeling to focus on expanding your business, instead of counting [vanilla] beans!
Venture mHealth: Asthma. Compliance Made Easy. with asthma. Maximizing a virtual company model, Justin tightly managed both software and product development teams, regulatory consultants, and marketing experts to move mHealth from idea to a working prototype in just two years. Seed funding for the venture was invested by Spectrum Health. The business is now ready, willing and able to approach investors for second round capital!
Justin Adams is President of mHealth, a venture-backed start-up with a vision to improve the quality of life of children
mHealth is focused on developing a strong technology platform which enables user compliance in taking medications. First to market is a device targeting pediatric asthma: Abriiz. The device is web-integrated (think Webkinz™ meets inhaler), and tracks a child’s use of both maintenance and rescue inhalers, all the while being playful and rewarding for the child to use.
Lifestyle Black Dog & Green Dog For 17-years, Kelly Boos worked for someone else. She did what she loved to do, working on tradeshows, constructing showrooms and managing special events. She might have continued along that path, but in January of 2008 she was laid off. Offered a position with the same company but compensated entirely by commission, Kelly decided to go her own way. “I thought, nah, I can do this myself,” she said. “I was able to land a couple big clients, which laid the foundation for Black Dog Productions. My first year was absolutely great!” After spending years as an employee, Kelly explains that it was tough leaving the “semi-security” of a steady paycheck. “I had a choice,” Kelly explained. “I could have stayed and made money for someone else, but instead I chose to work for myself. My brother and my dad have both been self-employed, so even though it was scary, I knew I could do it.”
Tracked information can be made available to parents, doctors, insurers, and hospital systems in a concerted effort to effectively manage this chronic disease. Promoting responsible behavior and offering a method to track inhaler use will give parents peace of mind, doctors the power to do long-term, accurate trend analysis, and kids the reward of staying healthy and active versus spending time in the ER. Even with an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a Masters in Electrical Engineering, Justin credits much of his accomplishments to strong teamwork and great advice. Justin fully appreciates the importance of making things happen fast, “there is a chance for failure every step of the way, but surrounding yourself with the right people and trusting yourself to make good decisions is key to success.”
www.blackdogproductions.com Three years later, Black Dog Productions, which specializes in trade show, showroom, and special events management is thriving as a lifestyle company. Kelly keeps Black Dog lean in operations, contracting out to specialists when she has a project that requires particular expertise. She enjoys working with different people on a regular basis, and places value on those relationships. As her newest business venture, Kelly has launched Green Dog, a product-based company delivering eco-friendly pet accessories. “It’s not about getting rich. It’s about being happy,” Kelly says. “I’m happy working with great people, and I’m happy being able to structure my own day. I work probably twice as hard for myself as I did for someone else, but at the end of the day it is so much more fulfilling to do it for yourself.”
Since 2007, MedRunners has delivered much needed medical supplies to Nicaragua. To do so, MedRunners works with a number of US organizations to transport supplies to a network of 25 partner clinics in Nicaragua. MedRunners then connects with local volunteers to orchestrate the transport of supplies in country. In the next eight months, the organization will make three trips to Nicaragua to deliver on their mission to improve the health of communities.
Family Nuts About Koeze
MedRunners also ensures that Nicaraguan clinics have the supplies they need through their Adopt-a-Clinic program, in which donors sponsor a clinic for $600 to $1,000 per year, and receive real-time updates of how their
As you enter the Koeze’s (coo-zee) storefront sales office, founded in 1910, you get a booster shot of nostalgia. The décor could best be described as a real-life Willy Wonka’s; the kind of place that makes you smile instantly. When Jeff Koeze took over the company in September 1996, after a successful career as Associate Professor of Public Law and Government at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s School of Government, he had his mind set on a 2-year succession plan. This plan was significantly interrupted when Jeff was unexpectedly catapulted into the third generation leadership role after his dad chose to take an early retirement. As Jeff stepped in, he recognized and respected the 86 years of solid foundation the nut company was built on. However, there were some operational areas that had potential for improvement. As a result of Jeff’s leadership, Koeze opened a new facility in 2001, 17
Two businesses already under his belt, Joe Pohlen has added his true passion to his entrepreneurial portfolio: social entrepreneurship. His passion for people has motivated him to make five personal trips to Nicaragua over the past year. Joe has discovered that working with the clinic directors is gratifying and empowering. MedRunners delivers sorely needed supplies to patients who otherwise would go without, and come with no strings attached. “We don’t have an agenda,” notes Joe. “We are simply bringing basic medical supplies such as bandages, disposable gloves and basic medication to where they are needed.”
donation has impacted local patients. The non-profit is able to gather donated materials as well as purchase from partnering organizations at 5% of cost, so they can offer clinics exactly what they need. Nicaragua is only the first step. Once the system is proven, Joe is dedicated to using MedRunners to improve communities throughout Central America. Currently, the organization is expecting to receive its 501(c)(3) classification and finalize the website by the end of third quarter, 2010. MedRunners is actively looking for interested parties to help out during trips to Nicaragua on Sept 29 and Oct 2, 2010.
www.koeze.com which promises to better serve the company’s needs for the next century. As the head of a family-owned business, Jeff has had to strike a difficult balance between paternalism and professionalism, and has worked hard to make himself an approachable leader. He stresses the virtues of continuous improvement and takes pride in how his employees go aboveand-beyond industry standards to
push Koeze into its second century. From the best-selling 30oz gift box overflowing with Colossal Cashews to the home-run Organic Peanut Butter, Koeze capitalizes on craftsmanship and how products should be made. The Koeze process is proven and highly focused on quality, through the selection of choice ingredients, minimal processing, and a high regard for taste. When asked about new product development, Jeff laughs and remarks, “new is boring, old products are what get us excited.” When in need of a dose of sugarcoated goodness or if you’re just nuts about nuts, browse Koeze online or stop by the store!
September 2010 April 2011 Savvy Entrepreneur Series The Savvy Entrepreneurs Seminar Series provides early and mid -stage high tech entrepreneurs with opportunities to learn best practices from a panel of experts including entrepreneurs and investors.
October 12, 2010 GVSU Idea Pitch Competition The GVSU-CEO “Elevator” Idea Pitch Competition presents students with a great opportunity to pitch their business idea in 90 seconds to a panel of judges, to win cash prizes.
October 26, 2010 TEDxGrandValley Grand Valley State University’s Sustainable Community Development Initiative is hosting TEDxGrandValley, an independently-organized TED event, titled Sustainability: A Grand Tradition. Using TED’s unique format, a series of speakers will share short talks, followed by periodic breaks to facilitate participant conversation.
November 18, 2010 Regional Idea Pitch Competition
January 31, 2011 11th Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship The Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship is the place where Great Lakes entrepreneurs gather to network, learn, and connect. Each year at ACE, you’ll join an exciting, forwardthinking community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders - people like you who have the vision and drive to build new ventures for a new future.
February 28March 4, 2011 TED 2011
March 22, 2011 GVSU Business Plan Competition
April 11, 2011 Regional Business Plan Competition
November 15-21, 2010
April 28, 2011
Global Entrepreneurship Week Global Entrepreneurship Week connects people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators. Students, educators, business leaders, and many others participate in a range of activities, from online to face-to-face interactions (or “networking”), and from large-scale competitions and events to intimate networking gatherings.
MEDC/MI-SBTDC Small Business Awards Event Nominations open October 1, 2010. www.michigancelebrates.biz
May 2011 World Trade Week
May 2011 Empowering Entrepreneurship
May 6-8, 2011 Family Enterprise Research Conference
June 20-24, 2011 Teen Entrepreneurship Summer Academy
Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation 401 Fulton Street West, Suite 272 C Grand Rapids, MI 49504 www.gvsu.edu/cei
Published on Sep 26, 2010
Published on Sep 26, 2010
First edition of NEU, Entrepreneuring the Future™, the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s (CEI) biannual magazine. We’re very excite...