Sleeping Giant Capital closes $10M funding round

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Doug Lepisto, left, and Derrick McIver. Courtesy Liz Haskin, Western Michigan University

A West Michigan investment firm has closed a $10 million funding round as it seeks to expand services to women professionals looking to acquire and grow businesses.

Kalamazoo-based Sleeping Giant Capital said Monday, May 16, it raised the fund with participating partner Greenleaf Capital, a private equity firm in Kalamazoo.

Sleeping Giant also is adding two executives-in-residence and developing a Women Leadership Advisory Committee.

Launched in 2020, Sleeping Giant Capital was founded by Derrick McIver and Doug Lepisto, who serve as managing directors. The firm seeks to take majority positions in established companies with $1.5 million to $4 million in annual cash flow.

“As historic numbers of baby boomers retire, the West Michigan community faces a once-in-a-generation question,” Lepisto said. “What is the future of small business ownership? Will ownership and capital flee to the coasts? Who will lead and grow these companies? Will they operate with a bias to the short term or consider long-run prosperity? What kind of community member will they be in West Michigan?”

Sleeping Giant Capital’s mission is to empower a new era of leaders to acquire and grow West Michigan businesses. The firm employs professionals to become owner-operators out of a 25-year fund, and it grows investments through a platform architecture.

The platform connects West Michigan stakeholders including investors, current and future business owners, undergraduate business students and advisers. It offers mentorship, technology, growth strategy consulting and office space.

“We have created a model that offers a locally based and integrated solution to a foundational challenge in American communities — the generational shift in small business ownership,” McIver said. “Learning is central to our model. We grow businesses by growing people, and we grow people by growing businesses.”

The $10 million in funding will enable Sleeping Giant Capital to scale operations by adding:

  • A residency program that covers salary and costs for up to four concurrent professionals engaged in a two-year full-time search
  • Two full-time executive employees
  • Technology to facilitate search, learning and post-acquisition growth
  • Office space in downtown Kalamazoo for executives-in-residence, advisers and undergraduates
  • Paid internships for undergraduates
  • Executives-in-residence, starting with Tom Garrett and Justin Murray. Garrett joins the firm with 25 years of corporate management experience. Previously, he was president of Total Plastics, where he grew operations from two facilities generating $8 million in revenue to 18 facilities producing over $125 million in annual revenue with 325 employees across 10 states. Murray joins Sleeping Giant Capital with 14 years of management experience for Fortune 500 companies. Previously, he worked at Stryker, where he most recently managed M&A activities for its largest business unit.

Sleeping Giant Capital also created the Women Leadership Advisory Committee to help empower women professionals on the path to business ownership. It includes 11 founders, CEOs and C-suite executives:

  • Kris Bahner — senior vice president, global corporate affairs, Kellogg Company
  • Lynn Chen-Zhang — CEO and chief compliance officer, Zhang Financial; chair, Western Michigan University Board of Trustees
  • Sandi Doctor — President, Northwood Group
  • Michelle Eldridge — Co-founder, Clear Ridge Wealth Management
  • Sara Fetke-Sweers — Assurance director, BDO
  • Jennifer Lentner — Senior director of marketing communications, Stryker
  • Jen Randall — Co-founder and CEO, Maestro
  • Leigh Ann Sayen — President, The Peterson Company
  • Nancy Turtle — Kalamazoo community bank president, Mercantile Bank
  • Tracy Thurkow — Expert partner, global head of behavioral science, Bain & Co.
  • Elizabeth Weindruch — Managing director of private investments, Barings

The advisory committee will look to create relationships, awareness and mentorship to increase the number of women on the path to entrepreneurship.

“Sleeping Giant Capital’s focus on established West Michigan businesses and empowering women to become owner-operators complements the focus of the New Community Transformation Fund,” said Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place. “Both contribute to our vision of sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity here in West Michigan.”

More information on Sleeping Giant Capital is at sleepinggiantcapital.com and in previous Business Journal reports.

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