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Greater Kalamazoo Business Resources Network Awarded $50,000 Grant for “Scale Kalamazoo”

Greater Kalamazoo Business Resources Network (GKBRN) has been awarded a Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds grant from the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, in partnership with the City of Kalamazoo.

The $50,000 award will allow GKBRN to launch and implement the Scale Kalamazoo program—developed in cooperation with the Michigan Small Business Development Center—to help fill a void among small business owners for critical training and coaching activities that many need, but most don’t gain from day-to-day business operations. 

Grow your business to the next level

Scale Kalamazoo’s goal is to help small business owners grow their business to the next level (scale) by working ON the business instead of IN the business. Tamara Davis of the Michigan SBDC will lead the program which is slated to be held at the WMed Innovation Center with support from Director Sandra Cochrane and other community experts. 

According to Davis, the 13-week series will focus on important business topics like small business financial literacy, marketing, pricing, operations, leadership, and human resources, among other topics. “We will be accessing educational materials developed by the Michigan SBDC in addition to connecting participants with additional resources from throughout the community such as coaches and other support resources that will help guide business owners through the steps necessary for scalable growth,” says Davis. “Our working target is to help 40 percent of the participating businesses achieve a 20 percent increase in either revenue or employment, or both.”

‘Small neighborhood businesses are the heartbeat’

Chair of the Greater Kalamazoo Business Resources Network, Debi Howe, hopes participants will have the opportunity to “take a step back to look at the big picture” with Scale Kalamazoo.

“Our resources, added to their business successes will help these small business owners grab the opportunity to scale their business to meet the current demand for their products or services.

“Small neighborhood businesses are the heartbeat of our local economy and communities,” Howe adds. “As mainstays of neighborhood identity, small businesses strengthen community pride and connections among residents. That’s just one reason it’s so important to nurture and grow these small businesses: It takes a community to raise an entrepreneur.”

One-on-one Support

The WMed Innovation Center’s participation is crucial for this nurturing according to Director Sandra Cochrane. “The Scale Kalamazoo program focuses on helping businesses grow by providing one-on-one consulting, webinars, workshops, and other tools and templates. By making these resources readily available, as well as providing valuable networking opportunities and one-on-one interactions with community leaders, our area businesses can catapult their growth.”

Small businesses also serve as a significant employment and social connection platform throughout the community. By providing technical and financial support through the Scale Kalamazoo program, small neighborhood businesses may create more jobs, businesses may flourish, and neighborhoods may reconnect with each other and the businesses around them. 

Davis feels the value of the Scale Kalamazoo program is relevant right now for participants, “especially those organizations that have been hard hit by the COVID pandemic, but have survived and now are ready to grow. We want to be in the right place at the right time for them,” Davis says.

Build your wealth

During the Scale Kalamazoo series, participants will have opportunities to network and learn from peers as well as from facilitators and business mentors. The primary objectives of Scale Kalamazoo are to enable business owners to effectively determine and evaluate their: 

  • Overall business strategy and vision for the future. 
  • Ability to maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • Readiness for growth and profitability potential. 
  • Focus and alignment of all aspects of the business. 

A focus on small business development with programs like Scale Kalamazoo can help to build individual, household, and community wealth. Small businesses provide pathways to asset ownership, income generation, local employment, and greater reinvestment into the neighborhoods.

The projects funded will provide support across the following federally defined expenditure categories:  

  • Small Business Economic Assistance 
  • Household Assistance (Rent, Mortgage and Utility Aid, Eviction Prevention) 
  • Youth Education Assistance (Academic Services/Social, Emotional and Mental Health Services/Early Learning/Aid to High Poverty Districts) 
  • Social Determinants of Health (Community Health Workers or Benefits Navigators)

Applicants to the program are required to have been in business one year or more, have at least one full-time employee, and have annual revenues of $100,000 or more.

Direct questions to Tamara Davis at tamara.j.davis@wmich.edu. Program Sponsors: City of Kalamazoo

Congratulations to Gregory Shelton of Grand Unique Laundry for receiving his first loan through Northern Initiatives. With help from his SCORE mentor, Cheri Bales, Gregory did a fantastic job on developing his business plan and showing real entrepreneurial spirit. We wish you much success, and look forward to your upward movement. You are a wonderful role model.

—Gregory Shelton of Grand Unique Laundry

I appreciate your ears for listening, your eyes that see my vision and your heart that makes you who you are.  I thank you for your time. You are making a difference.

—Shawntel Lindsey, Director, The Artbor Community Connections Center

The WMed Innovation Center is a perfect environment for innovation to grow and become a successful commercial enterprise.

—Client

WMU Business Connection logo

Whether you are seeking a research partner or want to enlist the help of student groups in developing business plans, or just looking for ways to engage with WMU, the Business Connection office can find the resource to help move your business forward.

—Mentor

A loan (from Local Initiatives Support Corporation) helped expand our cafe to triple our seating, add a kids space, increase much needed staff work areas, and make other improvements to the space.

—Krystal

MEL logo

The Michigan eLibrary (MeL) is the State of Michigan’s digital library. It has excellent resources available to Michigan residents at no cost.

—Owner

Western Michigan University’s Starting Gate helped me take an idea and transform it into a much more attainable reality. Whether providing talks with investors and business owners or accountability, the ultimate goal is helping your business succeed.

—Peter Shutt

Kalamazoo County Land Bank logo

The Kalamazoo Land Bank did robust community engagement around the vision and gave us something to work with that was solidly desired by people in the neighborhood. Having a vision meant we had to protect it. That’s something I thank the Land Bank for. It was difficult. It didn’t make anything faster or easier, but we got a better project in the end as a result of it.

—Matt Hollander

Buy Local logo

Buy Local Greater Kalamazoo is a hard working grassroots group focused on the greater Kalamazoo community and its small businesses. Their events and networking opportunities are the best!

—Cheri Bales

SBDC logo

Michigan SBDC is a great company providing top notch service to local businesses all over Michigan. The consultants are professional and the student workers contribute with excellent work!

—Martin Herman Sorensen

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