2021 Newsmaker: Ed Garner

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Ed Garner

Regional Director

Michigan Small Business Development Center – West Michigan Region

The Michigan Small Business Development Center got creative in 2021 to help Black-owned businesses and those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ed Garner, regional director of the Michigan SBDC’s West Michigan Region — based at Grand Valley State University’s L. William Seidman Center in downtown Grand Rapids — was part of this effort with the creation of a new pitch competition for businesses of color on the lakeshore.

In October, he announced the creation of a new event called Pitch Black Muskegon, which invited Black-owned businesses in Muskegon County to apply for a chance to pitch for $26,500 in prizes.

“Nationally, Black-owned businesses were hit the hardest by COVID-19 versus other business groups, with 41% closing (their) doors during the first part of the pandemic,” Garner said. “While many may have reopened, there still remains a great deal of uncertainty for their future. We want to save as many as we can.”

The event’s five winners were Deanna Gantt, HairbyDVG Beauty Boutique, $10,000 package; Kaja Thornton Hunter, Kaja’s Flavor, $7,000 package; Jukia and Robert Fisher, JR Décor, $5,000 package; Destinee Keener, Kuntry Cookin’, $3,000 package; and Amanda Price, Amanda’s Frosted Dreams, $1,500 package. The services they won included web development, social media, marketing and branding, and accounting and legal services.

The West Michigan Region in 2021 also was part of the Michigan SBDC’s efforts to expand free services to businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. The organization in February expanded accounting, e-commerce and web development, and human resources support services across all 83 Michigan counties.

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