Small Business

SPONSORED BY SMALL BUSINESS ASSOCIATION OF MICHIGAN

While flooding and erosion are wreaking havoc for waterfront businesses and property owners, the changes are creating business opportunities for local marine construction and dock companies, who say they’ve been busy with scheduled projects and inundated with calls in recent weeks.

A new sentiment survey finds business owners still feel good about present conditions, despite outlooks for slower economic growth and ongoing worries about talent and health care costs.

GRAND RAPIDS — Start Garden Inc. says it’s gaining traction on an effort launched two years ago that put more emphasis on diversity.

GRAND RAPIDS — Five Michigan breweries are suing the Michigan Liquor Control Commission over the regulatory agency’s quashing of free bingo promotions at their taprooms.

Shoppers often visit Great Northern Trading Co. to look around and ask about products. Many visitors to the Rockford-based home decor and gift store also pull out their smartphones to compare prices with online retailers. 

GRAND RAPIDS — Carl Erickson began thinking 12 years ago about how Atomic Object LLC would eventually carry on without him.

GRAND RAPIDS — Springstead Bartish Borgula & Lynch PLLC plans to move its Grand Rapids headquarters after purchasing space downtown in the First Community Bank building.

majority of retailers across Michigan report higher sales this spring and expect to sustain growth well into the summer.

DOUGLAS — Laundry Tyme, a laundry service company based in Douglas, sold recently to investor Brian Gowen.

Business law firm Kotz Sangster Wysocki PC acquired Rockford-based Van Eck Law PC.

The recent announcement that Grand Rapids Drive founder and President Steve Jbara joined forces with Royal Oak-based startup WaitTime LLC had been five years in the making. WaitTime CEO Zachary Klima said he had leaned on Jbara for guidance since 2004 when he launched the company, which uses a proprietary system to measure crowd density around restrooms and concession stands inside arenas and venues.

GRAND RAPIDS — If Steve Jbara needed a sign that he made the right decision in turning down a recent request to relocate his Grand Rapids-based NBA Gatorade League basketball team to Detroit, he got one rather quickly.

GRAND RAPIDS — More than seven years, $2 million and 500 companies later, Varnum LLP signed on for a third round of providing free legal services to help new companies get off the ground. The Grand Rapids-based law firm will give away another $1 million in legal services through the MiSpringboard program that launched in 2011 under a push by then-Gov. Rick Snyder to support entrepreneurism as Michigan’s economy began recovering from the Great Recession.

GRAND RAPIDS — The $2.05 million in funding Sportsman Tracker Inc. raised this spring will go to further develop a social media platform and mobile app for hunters. As some social media platforms begin to give lower value to hunting content, Sportsman Tracker CEO Jeff Courter saw an opportunity to further build his HuntWise app that has been downloaded by 2 million users.

GRAND RAPIDS — At 15 years old, Elevator Up LLC had come to what founder Aaron Schaap called a “big milestone.” The Grand Rapids digital design consultancy for products and services had grown nicely from the early days. Schaap began considering what the next 15 years would look like, putting together goals, and weighing what leadership and talent Elevator Up would need.

Legislation that state lawmakers in Lansing are considering would raise requirements for how businesses must handle a data breach. The bills would define the sensitive personal information covered and who is responsible for reporting a data breach, and establish processes and timelines for investigating, responding to and publicly reporting an incident. The law would cover entities with 50 or more employees.

LANSING — A partnership between the state and an economic development organization for the Lansing area is providing an incubator and investment for high-tech, innovative insurance startups.

GRAND RAPIDS — Many companies offer employees an anonymous way to report to management various problems, impropriety or other violations, often via a telephone hotline or a dedicated email account. But a new startup company is offering workers a better way to blow the whistle, and in doing so, could allow businesses to get a better handle on potential issues before they spin out of control.

A West Michigan marine transportation firm is significantly increasing its freight capacity in response to higher demand from a key customer. Port City Barge Inc. of Muskegon last month took delivery of the Commander, a 495-foot by 72-foot freight barge that it plans to use to haul cement for St. Marys Cement US LLC.

Matt Emery felt ready to move on from the automotive industry after 15 years, so last fall he began looking around for a business to buy. After considering a contract manufacturer, machine shops, an HVAC business and others, Emery found the “perfect fit” in Think Chromatic LLC, a Comstock Park-based small company that does 3-D rendering and animation.

MARNE — McCann Industries Inc. will expand to Michigan with a new facility currently under construction in Marne. The equipment and construction supply sales company hopes to open the new location in September, said James Maioho, Michigan branch manager for McCann.

GRAND RAPIDS — The company that owns and operates the HopCat craft beer bar chain has secured another $6 million in capital it will use to open three to four more locations in 2019 and 2020, MiBiz has learned. In confirming BarFly Ventures LLC’s latest round of fundraising, founder and owner Mark Sellers told MiBiz approximately $5 million of the funding came from one new investor while $1 million came from Sellers himself. The company is still in the process of raising another $1 million from existing investors to reach its $7 million goal.

Novi-based I.T. firm Red Level Group LLC has acquired West Michigan business and technology consultant C/D/H.

J.D. Collins became state director of the Grand Rapids-based Small Business Development Center in mid-December. He spent years at larger organizations — Fifth Third Bank, Amway, Spectrum Health — working as a technologist and innovator “before I really found my niche.” Collins also ran his own consulting firm, Collins Innovations LLC, and was chief innovation officer at a heavy equipment technology startup.

The recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act purported to simplify tax structures, rates and exemptions, but accountants say small businesses face plenty of nuances depending on their size, structure and profits. “One thing I have noticed, people thought they were going to be left with simpler tax laws and to some extent, some have,” said Sally Steffes, CPA and one of the partners at H&S Companies PC. “There are many variables to contend with.” 

The federal tax reform Congress enacted at the end of 2017 comes with significant complexity that tax professionals say they’re still sorting through as the 2019 tax season begins. For the first time, tax advisers are beginning to prepare and file returns for clients under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Given the depth of the changes and the complexity of the new federal tax code, the only certainty for the 2019 tax season is the expectation that business owners will need to spend more time with their CPAs and tax advisers as they dive into the details and work through their returns.

The state chapter of a small business advocacy group is among the supporters of a bipartisan bill package introduced this month to reform the way law enforcement seizes property from people suspected of crimes.

Mandi Brower’s first job with the family business was working in college as a cashier at the Quality Car Wash store on Eighth Street in Holland. 

GRAND RAPIDS — When  realized it needed to add vehicles to its fleet to grow the business, founder Rich Flowers ran into some roadblocks familiar to many African American and minority entrepreneurs. 

The merger of the Michigan Restaurant Association and Check In Michigan, formerly known as the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association, creates one of the largest trade groups advocating for business in Lansing. 

GRAND RAPIDS — EPS Security has made its second acquisition of 2018.

GRAND RAPIDS — A niche law firm plans to relocate its Michigan headquarters to downtown, MiBiz has learned. 

From the cannabis industry to beverage manufacturers to tech-focused firms, West Michigan continues to see an uptick in startups. 

The Michigan Strategic Fund steered additional money into two capital funds that support high-tech startups and growing small businesses in the state.

The Invest Michigan Pre-Seed Fund II received $3 million to invest in startups through loans or equity. Grow Michigan LLC will receive $9.6 million for a second mezzanine-style fund that will provide loans to growing small businesses.

recent kerfuffle between Grand Rapids economic development officials and executives at Start Garden Inc. highlights the challenges cities face when they try to encourage more entrepreneurial investments. 

KALAMAZOO — The Kalamazoo affiliate of Grand Angels easily exceeded expectations after launching more than a year ago.

One West Michigan adviser hopes to channel the cultural shift toward localism into corporate succession planning by helping business owners preserve local ownership of their companies after an exit.

A $150,000 federal grant will enable Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women to expand virtual entrepreneurial training into new areas of Michigan.

Larry Andrus began thinking about his eventual exit from Trivalent Group Inc. almost from the beginning.

Family-owned businesses have a few new items to sort through after the passage last year of the federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Here is a look at some of the key considerations. 

In the middle of an extended construction industry expansion across West Michigan, most contractors are focused on running their businesses, rather than transitioning them to new ownership. 

The federal tax reform law Congress passed and President Trump signed in December has ramifications for family-owned businesses and how they are ultimately transitioned from one generation to the next.

A continued robust economy provides the right timing for business owners to consider selling their companies throughout the remainder of the year.

When Alan Hartline purchased Kingma’s Market four years ago, he pivoted away from a corporate world in which he was at the “mercy of quarterly earnings and Wall Street.”

GRAND RAPIDS –– Partners in West Michigan’s startup ecosystem continue to explore how best to allocate resources to the region’s entrepreneurs.

More than 130 startups sought capital this year from a state-backed fund, far exceeding expectations and serving as another example of the need for funding at the earliest stages of the capital continuum.

Beyond angel funds and venture capital, entrepreneurs behind startup companies today have an assortment of business plan and pitch competitions to test their ideas and win funding.

thriving business climate and renewed interest in communities across West Michigan have sparked increased demand for event space throughout the region.