Ninety small businesses to receive $ 5,000 in second Kalamazoo Micro-Enterprise Grants program

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Editor’s Note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave’s Field Kalamazoo series.

Five thousand dollars in working capital is very useful when you own a small business.

It can be a lifeline when you’re struggling to turn a part-time business into a full-time livelihood that can support a family of five.

This was the case when DeMargeo White received a Kalamazoo grant for microenterprises last year.

“It came at the right time,” said the Kalamazoo resident, 30, of the grant program, launched last year to provide crucial financial assistance to micro-businesses. These are businesses with less than 10 employees and less than a million dollars in annual revenues.

The grant was awarded after the COVID-19 pandemic struck and White found himself laid off from his full-time job. It was also at a time when his wife Sherita – with whom he has three young children – quit her job at a local bank to go back to school.

“It was very beneficial,” said White, who was working as a chef at Kalamazoo College in March 2020 when dozens of businesses and institutions in the region were closed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Huey D’s Goodies is named after White’s son Houston (called Huey), 4, right. The other children are Roman, 1 year old on the left, and Serena, 8 years old, center.White is the owner of Huey D’s Goodies, a gourmet cheesecake and cupcake maker that he launched in April 2019 on a part-time basis. The company, which uses the kitchen at First Baptist Church in downtown Kalamazoo and delivers on-demand orders, is named after White’s son, Houston DeAndre White, now 4. He is nicknamed Huey.

“I ended up using the money to buy more equipment,” says the 11-year food industry veteran. “I ended up having my license taken care of. The money went to the materials, the ingredients, and the stuff, and then the promotion and the marketing – the business cards and flyers and things of that nature. So it was very beneficial. And it happened at the right time. “

He says the grant helped him ramp up faster. From Huey’s D’s Goodies, he says, “I was doing it part time because I was working full time. But when I was fired from K-College, I hit the ground full speed. I’ve had My website go and my mobile application.

White was one of 100 local business owners to receive a grant under last year’s Kalamazoo Micro-Enterprise Grant. It is the result of a partnership between the city of Kalamazoo and United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, with the support of the Foundation for Excellence of Kalamazoo. It was launched last year with total funding of $ 500,000. This has benefited 100 companies. This year’s program, with funding of $ 450,000, hopes to benefit 90 microenterprises, although more than 100 have applied for help before the July 5 filing deadline.

These will all be companies that did not receive funding last year, said Natalie Saucedo, senior director of strategy and innovation at United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo area. To be eligible, they must be located in Kalamazoo Town and have been in business for at least one year.

“We received over 100 applicants,” Saucedo said of this year’s program. “We are still doing our initial review to determine the eligibility of these companies, validating the size of the company, for example.”

Allocation decisions are to be made during the third week of July by a small business firm, a volunteer group of business people and entrepreneurs as well as others involved in lending, development economics, law and other fields. Grant awards are to be announced by the end of the month. Funds must be received by business owners in early August. And the program hopes that recipients will use the grants to leverage funds from other sources.

The cheesecake slices produced by Huey D’s Goodies are sold at eight locations in the Kalamazoo area. “In general, grant funds will always be a need for small business owners and entrepreneurs,” Saucedo said. “So last year when we developed the fund it was obviously in response to COVID-19 and the crisis and just to get some cash flow into our community as quickly as possible. But during this process, we saw an overwhelming need.

She said the program got a huge response and companies continued to apply for grant funds.

“In our community, we are quite resource rich,” she says. “But there aren’t a ton of small business owner grant opportunities that are offered every year.”

She says the grant program is an opportunity for the United Way, the city and their partners to provide a financial resource to business owners who do not have access to traditional capital, such as a flexible line of credit from a bank, a investment partner or a well-heeled family member.

This year’s awards will also focus on supporting microenterprises owned by Black, Indigenous or Other Colored People (BIPOCs), as well as women-owned businesses and businesses that help support local people. who live below the ALICE. (Limited Asset Forced Income and Employee) threshold. According to information provided by Centraide, BIPOC and women-owned businesses have struggled to access financing compared to other businesses, and they have been particularly hard hit by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. .

Through its application process, the program also hopes to better familiarize entrepreneurs with the processes involved in applying for grants. A lack of this knowledge has hampered many small businesses in the past year as COVID relief assistance has been offered by state and federal sources.

DeMargeo C. White, owner of Huey D’s Goodies, recently baked 576 cupcakes for Portage dentist Dr. Kenneth W. Grabowski.Saucedo says the pandemic put many entrepreneurs in crisis mode last year. Loans and grants were being sought to provide businesses with immediate liquidity to help them pay for things like rent and meet their salary obligations while they were closed for a month or two. This year’s grants are also likely to be used for one-off needs, but will differ depending on the type of business involved.

Saucedo says this year’s nominees include all kinds of businesses. They include restaurants, cosmetologists, professional services such as legal and accounting firms, and catering services that do not have their own full-time location.

“The financial impacts of COVID have not gone away,” she says. “So even though they’re open and doing business right now, they still have had a whole year where they haven’t been able to do business as usual. … But I think what we’ve seen more this year than last year are requests for what we would call regular business expenses.

She says that includes things like the need to cover the cost of replacing a basic piece of equipment that has broken down.

Chris Sargent, President and CEO of United Way BCKR, said: “Our partnership with the City of Kalamazoo on KMEG (Kalamazoo Micro-Enterprise Grant) last year showed how we can make a big difference together on this. vital business line. We are proud to collaborate once again for the benefit of these businesses, the people who operate them and the community they serve.

White’s business grew. He says his cheesecake slices are sold in eight area stores and that he continues to receive orders for gourmet cheesecakes and cupcakes from businesses and individuals. His treats appeal to families, coffee lovers, workers and others, he says. And they are promoted at local events as well as on the Huey D’s Goodies Facebook page.

Although the pandemic caused him to lose a stable job, White says, “COVID-19 motivated me. When I first started running, the business pretty much took off because I was more consistent with everything. … I started working from home. That summer, June 2020, I made 60 cheesecakes in my house. “

That has been compared to selling under 10 a month at other times, he says.

What’s the biggest order he’s had to fill?

Natalie Saucedo is Senior Director of Strategy and Innovation at United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region.“As for the whole cheesecakes, it was new at a time.” He says. “It was in Wayland. It was last year in the summer. A worker, he had ordered some and his friends had ordered. … They distributed them (the cheesecakes) to their friends who wanted them.

He says he filled an order a few weeks ago for 160 cupcakes for a Kalamazoo College event involving his class of 2021. He says he hopes to get more business from his former employer, even if they don’t. called back to work after being fired.

“The biggest cupcake order I have had was 576 cupcakes in April of this year,” White says. “They went to a dentist in Portage (Dr. Kenneth Grabowski). But they just ordered them. And they took them to different offices and just dropped them off with people (clients and clients).

“The grant definitely helped me buy more equipment and set up commercial insurance for the business, get my license through the state, my LLC (limited liability company), all of that,” says -he.

An Oreo Cookies N Cream cheesecake by Huey D’s Goodies.He also hopes he can hire help.

“Right now, the business is booming,” White says. “I’m shifting the business from making slices, where people can come and buy them at church (First Baptist Church at 315 E. Michigan Ave.), to focusing on wholesale and wholesale orders. line.”

Its products can now be purchased at eight outlets in the Kalamazoo region, with one more to be added soon. These locations include: Saugatuck Brewing Kalamazoo; Market on Michigan Ave; Café La Familia; Hilton Garden Inn Kalamazoo Downtown; Ty’s joint; Twine Urban Winery-by The Roche ‘Collection; Burger Bros; and Chocolate Tea.

More information is available on the Huey D’s Goodies Facebook page.

“The business is growing,” White says. “I have wedding venues that contact me to be their supplier. I’m currently making cupcakes for the Black Arts Festival (last weekend). It is definitely gaining notoriety.


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