Today The Right Place, Inc., in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and regional partners, announced that 1,060 small businesses have been awarded over $9M in grant funding. These grants were awarded to eligible West Michigan small businesses who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for the grants was provided by MEDC via the Michigan Small Business Restart Program. These grants are designed to provide eligible small businesses with working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business. In order to quality, businesses and nonprofits must have had less than 50 employees and been able to demonstrate need. Additionally, 30% of the funding was required to be awarded to women, veteran, or minority-owned businesses.

“The Right Place and our regional partners have made over $9 million in grants to critically impacted small businesses in West Michigan,” said Birgit Klohs, President and CEO, The Right Place, Inc. “These funds are offering a financial lifeline to our small companies and we are pleased that over half of these grants were awarded to women, minority, and veteran-owed small businesses.”

Demand for funding far exceeded available funds, with 2,995 applicants requesting over $50M in support throughout the region. A county-specific breakdown of funding requested and awarded is available here. In Kent County, 73% of the funding was awarded to women, veteran, and minority-owned businesses. Throughout the 11-county region, 66% of the funding was awarded to women, veteran, or minority-owned businesses.

The Right Place and its regional partners were responsible for distributing funds to support qualifying small businesses within 11 of the 13 counties of West Michigan's Prosperity Region #4: Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, and Osceola Counties. Grant funds for Ottawa and Allegan Counties were administered separately by Lakeshore Advantage.

Each county assembled a local county review committee for restart applications. The size of the committees varied and were composed of both public and private economic development partners. Collaborative partners included local economic development organizations, municipalities, counties, Downtown Development Authorities, chambers of commerce, minority associations and chambers, local banks and finance professionals, community foundations, and others. The Kent County review committee was co-chaired by Guillermo Cisneros of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Jamiel Robinson of Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses.

Applications from affected businesses were accepted, reviewed, and approved by these local county review committees. A list of scoring criteria can be found here. Funds are being distributed by The Right Place directly to the applicant companies. More information can be found on The Right Place’s website at this link.

Grant Recipient Testimonials

The Vegan Cheesecake Company

Jerica Buchanon, Vegan Cheesecake Company

“Receiving this grant has been such a blessing for The Vegan Cheesecake Company,” said Jerica Buchanan, Founder, The Vegan Cheesecake Company. “Our business growth plans were put on hold due to COVID-19, and I was afraid my hard work in starting this company would all have been in vain. Thanks to this grant I will be able to pay off debt, restructure our website for ecommerce, hire a team, purchase equipment, and get the business up and running again.”

Medical Mile Massage

Rachel Attard, Medical Mile Massage

“This grant ensures a softer landing for us and others to continue to provide natural health and wellness support to our community, “said Rachel Attard, Co-Owner, Medical Mile Massage and Yoga Therapy Center. “It will allow us to rebrand our group fitness studio so we can provide more one to one services. We can hire new staff after losing several. We can pay our two months back rent. Medical Mile Massage and Yoga Therapy Center can continue to be a healthy, selfcare focused outlet that helps people manage the increased stress that has been thrust upon us all. Thanks so much for supporting small business like ours.”

Just Like Home Adult Center

Danielle Camp, Just Like Home Adult Center

“This grant came at the perfect moment for us,” said Danielle Camp of Just Like Home Adult Center. “We are a rather new business, having been opened for only a year and a half. Our business is extremely important to our community, as we are the only adult day center in this county. This grant enabled us the ability to purchase the necessary PPE without concern that we wouldn’t be able to pay our rent because of it. It allowed us to bring back our employees when we opened up full time and with our full client load and have the ability to pay them. Mainly, it gave us a little bit of peace of mind in a stressful, scary, and challenging period of time. And for that, we are truly grateful.”

Wear Your Curls (WYC)

Felisha Rodriguez, Wear Your Curls

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, Wear Your Curls (WYC) lost out on a lot of opportunities for sales and brand awareness this year,” said Felisha Rodriguez, Founder, Wear Your Curls, LLC. “Because of this I had to shift my sales strategy and plan on using a sizeable part of the grant towards marketing and advertising. Social media has become a popular outlet for many during these unforeseen times, therefore, I am focusing my advertising efforts on these platforms. I will need a team to help me better manage this and so I plan to use part of the grant to hire one or two people to become part of the WYC team, whether it’s a part-time employee or a contractor.”