Heath Verstraete, owner and president of Walker-based Conveyability Inc., took an entrepreneurial leap by purchasing the local manufacturing facility just before the pandemic. Tune in to hear how Verstraete financed the purchase of the company, the improvements he has made during ownership and the explosion of new business made possible by adopting Industry 4.0 technologies.

Jen VanEe started strategic communications firm Wright Touch Marketing LLC as a moonlighting project, but took the venture full time after one too many experiences with a toxic work culture. In the latest episode of the MiBiz Podcast, VanEe discusses taking her own advice as well as landing new contracts and opportunities by leaning into her core values, such as supporting women. 

Because Jarred Biggs’s family owned small businesses in Middleville for decades, his hometown was his first choice when it came time for the longtime marijuana caregiver and grower to open the Botanical Co. dispensary.

As the son of entrepreneurs, Corey Hart caught the small business building bug at age 8 while washing dishes. Hart’s career spans a wide array of locations and industries, which makes him a unique addition as the chapter director for StartUp Grind GR, a global community of entrepreneurs.

Julian Newman is a storyteller and the founder and CEO of Culture Creative, an award-winning firm specializing in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) consulting. He chats with MiBiz Associate Publisher Justine Burdette and Staff Writer Kate Carlson about why businesses need to treat DEIB work like all other operational cadences, how to build a future based on hope, and where West Michigan needs to put effort to move from “cosmetic inclusion” to “catalytic inclusion.”

Maurice (Mo) Townsend appeared on “American Idol,” has directed worship choirs since he was a teenager, and serves as the real estate developer for MoTown Square, an affordable, senior housing project. To say that this is a passion project would be an understatement. Members of his family have resided in the neighborhood for decades, and Townsend started the project with some of his own parcels. Townsend caught up with the MiBiz Podcast to share his incredible journey and what advice he has for other young, aspiring developers.

Rob Dwortz left a successful career in finance to become a founding partner of Become Unmistakable LLC, a Grand Rapids-based tech platform taking a right-brained approach to leadership development and performance management. Dwortz gets granular with the MiBiz Podcast to discuss why knowing when and how your people want to grow, what experiences will drive engagement, and which managers are creating a positive employee experience are important steps in solving the talent crisis and how this affects the bottom line.

Before Jack Black’s heartwarming, screwball comedy “School of Rock” even launched in theaters, the real School of Rock was turning boring piano lessons into rock sessions. Today, the School of Rock operates on a franchise model and includes a new location in Grand Rapids. Local owner Gwen Vryhof Bultema and music director Joshua Dreyer spoke to the MiBiz Podcast about what drew them to the opportunity, why they think it works, and what West Michigan gains from the company’s presence.

Aaron Sorrels had an “grown-up job” in marketing, but found himself unemployed and struggling with sobriety. Turning to his love for connecting with people, Sorrels became a professional comedian, going by the stage name of the Unemployed Alcoholic. Instead of waiting years to hone his voice and then spend even more time trying to get recognized in the industry, Sorrels created his own entrepreneurial venture for people in the funny business. Today, he runs several financially successful ventures, including Soapstone Comedy Club in Facebook’s MetaVerse.


PodcastBusiness partners David Snow and Alvin Richardson II are on a mission to bring a personal chef to “everyman” — or at least to every household — in West Michigan. Between the two of them, Snow and Richardson have decades of experience creating menus and preparing mouth-watering food in a variety of settings, including the likes of full-service restaurants, catering, hotels, and elder care homes.

Dana Lowell and his co-founders at Lilypad Labs Inc. have set out to change the way we think about accessing water — an abundant resource in West Michigan that at times can be out of reach for some.

For Arick Davis, co-founder of Last Mile Café who developed his love of coffee at a young age, environmental sustainability and the ethical treatment of people is at the core of his business. After working in unsatisfying nonprofit and technology roles, Davis and his co-founders decided to build a company that they wanted to work for and that represented who they were. After forming The Last Mile cafe as a coffee roaster and an online retailer, Davis is now preparing to open a brick-and-mortar coffee shop in Southeast Grand Rapids near Davis’ childhood home. Davis and his head of coffee, MacKenzie Tollas, joined The MiBiz Podcast to discuss the mission behind the sustainable-first business and why cutting corners simply is not an option.

“Leverage the cake.” That’s one of the bits of business wisdom Scott Vogel dropped on us during a recent appearance on The MiBiz Podcast. A former corporate executive — the line about leveraging cake might have been a tip off — Vogel made the transition from managing multi-million product lines for Keurig Green Mountain Inc. and Bissell Inc., to baking Bundt cakes with old-school frosting that’s made from scratch.

Talking with Angela Hill can be a little unsettling. The Navy vet and government intelligence expert is founder and owner of Navajar LLC, a LatinX-, veteran- and woman-led consulting firm focused on building virtual workspaces. During this episode, Hill told us how individuals and businesses — big or small — become potential targets for spies, hackers, foreign intelligence agencies and rogue nation-states. Suffice to say: It happens much more often than you would think.


With its recent launch, Grand Rapids-based Biked Inc. seeks to make it easier and more convenient for local cyclists to service their bikes.

Grand Rapids native Jeremy Evans-Smith has long been on a mission to get more people into the tech industry. In doing so, he traced the barriers confronting developers to find that the professional recruiting process was a major hurdle. That’s why the Calvin University graduate founded Full Cycle Recruiter Co., a learning community app that targets people who are changing careers and looking to break into the tech space.

Brandi Allaway harnessed her D.I.Y. spirit to create Grand Rapids-based B.Creativ Confections, a one-woman business that provides decorative treat and dessert tables for celebrations and corporate events. Allaway, who still operates the business out of her home, joined The MiBiz Podcast recently to discuss her entrepreneurial journey and her plans for the future. Here are some highlights from the conversation.

The inaugural edition of The MiBiz Podcast features the sister-brother duo of Gabriela and Mario Rodriguez, founders of Grand Rapids-based Soldadera Coffee LLC. Soldadera produces cold brew coffee infused with tea.