Reasons to celebrate small businesses


Across industries and geographies, every entrepreneur’s journey is full of challenges. Chances are, at some point between turning an idea into a plan and that plan into a thriving business, you might have second-guessed your choice to become an entrepreneur.

However, successful small business owners have a common spirit of grit and determination that drives them to pursue success on both the good days and the bad. There are more than 866,000 small businesses in Michigan that collectively employ more than 1.8 million people. Each time a small business owner opens their doors, they create a ripple effect impacting the lives of others. A business provides more than just a product or a service, it provides jobs, a sense of security and a unique identity that makes Michigan a great place to call home.

During National Small Business Week, April 30-May 6, small business owners and supporters gather to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and the impact it has on our communities, country and the world.

Michigan entrepreneurs have many reasons to celebrate. During National Small Business Week, I’ve asked West Michigan business leaders to take a moment to reflect on one question:

What in Michigan's business community gives you a reason to celebrate?

The insights below prove that Michigan small business owners are driving progress and innovation in our state, and impacting the lives of many.

Rick Baker, president and CEO, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

“The contributions small businesses make to our West Michigan community is cause for a celebration. The region is blessed with visionary business leaders who are successfully growing their businesses, providing quality career opportunities to our residents, and contributing back to our communities with their time, talent and treasures. These business leaders are why Grand Rapids continues to rank at the top of many lists year over year and is one of the fastest growing metro regions in the country.”

Keith Brophy, state director, Michigan Small Business Development Center

“I am very excited to see the high caliber of startup businesses springing forth in Michigan. At the Michigan Small Business Development Center, we assisted 447 new businesses to launch in 2016, which is nearly a 20 percent increase over the prior year. These new startups spanned a range of industries, each with a well-thought-out plan and passion for moving their business forward. Collectively, these new businesses represent an important part of Michigan’s future.”

Sue Tellier, JetCo Solutions

“I’m excited — maybe even giddy or elated — about the uniquely supportive network small business owners have in Michigan. We provide each other with genuine, authentic cooperation and guidance. As a result of this community, I have a built-in network of growth company owners who will gladly share wisdom, failures and ideas. This is so critical — small business owners face interesting ups and downs and we need each other. With the meaningful input of these true (and honest) friends, I can avoid pitfalls and get objective counsel on strategies. I’ll admit I have a shameless home-team bias, but I believe our community here in Michigan is unique.”

Kris Ridings, Women’s Entrepreneurial Initiative manager, Michigan Women’s Foundation

“I am excited by the momentum toward improved access to capital for women opening their own business, especially the increase in non-traditional opportunities such as (pitch) competitions, crowdfunding and added micro-lending options.”

Diana Lawson, dean, Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University

“Michigan’s business community is growing! Much of this growth is coming from small businesses expanding both in breadth and depth, as well as geographically. The vitality of Michigan’s economy is fueling this local growth while at the same time serving to attract outside investment to the region and state.”

Bob Thomas, senior director of operations and executive director, Michigan Chamber Foundation at Michigan Chamber of Commerce

“I am excited about the innovative and creative ways Michigan is inspiring and encouraging entrepreneurs, including programs like the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) for high school students and Project Tourism, a pitch competition for tourism-based projects from Michigan business owners. The investment in these programs is energizing for Michigan communities!”

Kevin Dean, CEO, ManoByte

"I am optimistic that Grand Rapids will emerge as the technology leader in Michigan. As Grand Rapids embraces diversity, education and technology, businesses are positioning themselves for future success. Businesses are investing in digital, video and software that will position them for growth for years to come."

Hanna Burmeister, marketing manager, Michigan Small Business Development Center

“The growing popularity of social entrepreneurship in Michigan excites me. Entrepreneurs are recognizing that business can be used as a force for good, and are implementing sustainable business practices that are both socially and environmentally responsible. Business leaders are holding themselves to higher standards of taking care of their people and planet while making a profit!”

Sara Knoester, president, Mixed Staffing

“According to, women own 10.6 million businesses in the United States, meaning they employ about 19 million workers. I am honored to be one of those women. I truly believe West Michigan is a progressive, innovative city that is open to change and Grand Rapids has a perfect business climate for young entrepreneurs like myself. As of late, we have been expanding our reach beyond the greater Grand Rapids area and have been connecting with businesses in Muskegon and Holland. We can’t wait to keep growing and connecting!”

Hanna Schulze, Local First of West Michigan

“The support for entrepreneurs is growing, and access to capital is becoming more equitable. The community of practice among locally owned businesses is strong, and owners are helping each other over the hurdles that once would have stopped a startup in its tracks. Businesses are adopting responsible practices right out of the gate — from environmental efficiencies to inclusive social practices, local businesses are addressing the ills of their communities and making a big impact. With the help of entrepreneurial support organizations, the tools are provided for local businesses to continue this growth into a prosperous local economy in Michigan.”

Shorouq Almallah, director of Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Grand Valley State University

“I am excited to see a strong entrepreneurial culture being developed at an early stage from K-12 to the collegiate level to build a strong pipeline of entrepreneurial talent. Many educators and institutions are realizing the importance of equipping students and budding entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and competencies. Exposure to entrepreneurship education, especially starting early in K-12, can have a lasting impact on a budding entrepreneur’s lifelong learning, career paths, as well as aspirations to pursue new ventures and opportunities.”

Steven Molewyk, founder and COO, Towel Tracker

“Most of the employees at Towel Tracker grew up in the Grand Rapids and Detroit metropolitan areas, so we've all seen Michigan go through some very tough economic times in the past, with many people and jobs leaving the state. Thus, we’re very excited to be among hundreds of entrepreneurs and small businesses involved in creating new jobs that positively impact Michigan's employment and economic growth trends, while simultaneously contributing toward what Gov. Rick Snyder calls “the reinvention of Michigan.”

The reasons to celebrate entrepreneurs’ dedication and hard work are endless. Happy National Small Business Week!

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