Winter 2016--Launching a Great Year!

Call for Nominations for MBIA Board of Directors

Calling all leaders! It is time to nominate individuals for the MBIA board of directors. If you have a desire to serve and a few hours to spare each month, you could be just the person the board needs. The self-nomination process is easy--just complete the brief form found here: The MBIA nominating committee will select 10 candidates to run in the election in March 2017. The 7 elected board members will be notified in May and they will take office in June. If you want to become one of the 7 members of the MBIA board of directors, email your self-nomination form to by January 31, 2017.


The annual MBIA Member Meeting will take place on Thursday, March 2 in Kalamazoo. The Events & Training Committee is busy putting together interesting sessions, and the Nominating Committee is preparing board of directors election materials. This is the one large MBIA event that is completely focused on the Michigan entrepreneurial support ecosystem. We hope you will set aside March 2 on your calendar for the MBIA Member Meeting. More details will be provided in the next few months.

Former Otterbox CEO visits WMU Starting Gate

Lara Hobson

WMU Starting Gate was very honored to have a distinguished alumnus, Brian Thomas visit our accelerator on November 16, 2016.  Brian was instrumental in growing Otterbox from a $2 million startup into an over $1 billion globally recognized brand.  He was also recently awarded the "Mid-Market CEO of the Year" by CEO Connection.

Brian shared his startup experiences and the roles he plays as owner of nine different companies.  He gave the students insights on their current company ideas and advice on being a successful startup.  One of the current Starting Gate student companies this year will receive the $10,000 Brian Thomas Award to kickstart their business idea.

Brian Thomas at WMU Starting Gate

CoLaunch at the Muskegon Innovation Hub

Kevin Ricco

In June of 2016 the Muskegon Innovation Hub opened an exciting new coworking space called CoLaunch. What is “coworking”, you ask? It can be defined as follows:
Flexible work space providing an innovative and collaborative environment
CoLaunch is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote corporate professionals, and creative thinkers seeking a community-driven work environment. It provides low-cost workspace and amenities, organic networking opportunities, as well as access to on-site business training tools, resources, and programming.
On June 20th the Hub celebrated the grand opening of CoLaunch with a community open house that was attended by more than 180 guests. Attendees were given a tour of the facility while taking advantage of free hors d’oeuvres, beverages, and live entertainment.
Members of CoLaunch have access to the following amenities: high speed wireless internet, high capacity printer/scanner/copier, use of private meeting rooms, a kitchenette, and free snacks and coffee. Members also have access to our locker rooms and showers.
One of the more exciting features available to CoLaunch members is specialized programming. Starting in September, the Hub began offering programs with a very specific focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs. These programs include Creative Conversations, Idea Pitch Perfection, Ideation Night, and several social networking opportunities.
CoLaunch offers several different membership options. For more information, visit CoLaunch on the Web at

Muskegon CoLaunch

NEW MI Good Food Fund

The Michigan Good Food Fund is a new $30 million public-private partnership loan fund that provides financing and business assistance to good food enterprises that benefit underserved communities across Michigan. This includes supermarkets, grocers, community markets, co-ops, food distributors, nonprofits, commercial developers, corner store owners, entrepreneurs, value-added producers, small business operators, and other innovators that grow, distribute, and sell fresh and healthy food that reaches low-income populations. Its goals are to increase access to healthy foods as a means to improve the health of all Michigan residents, and to drive economic development and job creation to grow Michigan's economy.

It provides flexible capital and grants to good food enterprises often overlooked by traditional banks. It also offers business assistance to help entrepreneurs grow their ventures and prepare for financing. Investing in commercial projects will increase access to healthy food, improve the health of children and families across Michigan, and spark economic development and job creation in the communities that need it the most.

Loans of $250,000 and more will be managed by fund manager Capital Impact Partners, a certified Community Development Financial Institution with a 30-year history of lending in underserved communities. The Michigan Good Food Fund is also partnering with select intermediaries including Northern Initiatives to manage loans of less than $250,000.

Limited grant dollars are also available to expand and prepare enterprises for investment capital. Grants made through the fund will be directly tied to loans and can be used for purposes including workforce development and job training in underserved communities, healthy foods consumer education, or expansion of locally grown, healthy food offerings. There will be no "stand alone" grants made or request for proposals (RFPs) issued for grant funding. Michigan Good Food Fund grants are not meant to replace existing grant programs offered through traditional philanthropic sources such as private and community foundations, corporate giving, or government programs.

The goal of the business assistance program is to prepare good food enterprises for investment capital. Business Assistance will be offered throughout the year in a variety of formats including webinars, in-person workshops, one-on-one targeted assistance, or referrals to a network of consultants and local partners around the state based on identified need(s). External consultants will be mutually agreed upon by both business owner(s) and the Michigan Good Food Fund and paid directly for their support.

Fair Food Network and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food System (MSU CRFS) are coordinating business assistance efforts for the Michigan Good Food Fund. Fair Food Network’s focus is with food retail and small-batch processing projects; MSU CRFS’s focus is agricultural production, aggregation and distribution, as well as processing (protein) projects.

If your incubator/commercial kitchen could use some funding, or if you have a food-related client company that could benefit from this program, you can learn more at The program email address is and the telephone number is 734.213.3999 x 212.

The GLIn2 Summit was a Huge Success

Great Lakes International Innovation Summit

Co-hosted by MBIA and the Wisconsin Business Innovation Association, this multi-day event offered educational and networking opportunities for all entrepreneurial support professionals working with incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, maker spaces, economic development agencies, universities, SBDCs, and more. The event attracted approximately 50 participants.

The Summit kicked off with an opening reception on Wednesday evening. Plentiful food and drink abounded as members from the two organizations mingled and got to know each other.  On Thursday morning, key note speaker Tracy Kitts, Chief Administrative Officer with the International Economic Development Council, and former VP, COO and acting CEO of the National Business Incubation Association (now International Business Innovation Association), talked with attendees about measuring the value of innovation.

On Thursday and Friday the Summit featured sessions focusing on three key topics: business coaching, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and serving entrepreneurs.  The coaching track was lead by David Terry, President/CEO of Destination Coaching & Training LLC.  David specializes in strategic business growth, assisting entrepreneurs and professionals in mastery of time and money, developing a market niche, and building a winning team. His sessions were very interactive and provided participants with practical tools that they could take home and use immediately.

The entrepreneurial sessions were led by teams of Michigan and Wisconsin presenters and covered a wide range of topics from crowdfunding to co-working, intellectual property to talent attraction & retention. Check out the many photos from the event at the MBIA website photo album.

The 2017 Great Lakes International Innovation Summit is scheduled to take place here in Michigan in September. Plans are already underway for venues and topics. If you are interested in helping plan the next GLIn2 Summit, cont
act Madelyn Pinder ( or Sandra Darland (, the co-chairs of the Events & Training Committee. 

What's In A Name?

Kevin Ricco

As you read this, you may be asking yourself, “What is the Muskegon Innovation Hub?” Well, let us tell you!
As you may know, our previous name was the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, or MAREC. While this name had significance when we established in 2003, we came to discover that not only was it unmemorable, it also no longer represented where we were headed as an organization and created confusion in the marketplace.   
In the beginning of 2015 we embarked on a strategic planning process under the new leadership of Director Kevin Ricco. Market needs had shifted since 2003 and we needed to rethink our role. An exclusive focus on an alternative and renewable energy sector was not going to meet the needs of an agile technology-driven economy. As strategies expanded to support a broader audience of innovative entrepreneurs it became clear that we needed to redefine our brand. The natural launch point was to rethink our name. We enlisted Kuntzsch Solutions for their marketing and graphic design expertise, and through them we reached out to the community. They confirmed that our message needed to be simple and clear.
Our new name, Muskegon Innovation Hub, conveys that we are positioned within the community we love, doing what we love most – helping people bring new products and services to market in a new way.
Our program has undergone a significant transformation to better serve a broad range of emerging entrepreneurs, businesses, and the Muskegon community. We are all about innovation. We feel like we are starting to build something pretty special and we think our new name represents our mission well:
Serve as a business innovation center that provides coaching, funding, networking, and a synergistic work environment to help businesses and entrepreneurs maximize their growth potential.
So, if you think you have the next “big idea”, come and visit us at the Hub!

Muskegon Innovation Hub

MI Represents at Midwest Ag-Tech Event

Becky Huttenga

On November 15, two staff members and one entrepreneur from the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator headed to Chicago to attend the Midwest Ag-Tech Conference.  This conference is a day long ag-tech focused forum that brought together venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, farmers, and industry experts to discuss the challenges and solutions facing agriculture today.  It was fashioned after a similar highly successful event held in Silicon Valley over the past two years and it was the first time the event had been held in the Midwest.  The event wrapped up with a pitch contest, giving ag-tech startups an opportunity to present their idea and get feedback from an experienced panel. 
Midwest Ag-Tech Conference
This event allowed for some great new resource connections for our organization, but also reinforced to our staff that there is a disconnect between inventor/investor community and the ag community with regard to what the key ag issues are that could be resolved or improved with ag technology.  The Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator has a full schedule this winter dedicated to bridging that gap, with presentations and conversations happening at the Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo, the Michigan Agri-Business Association, the Great Lakes Crop Summit, the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference and Ag and Natural Resources Week at MSU.  For more information, email us at
MBIA Template 1 - Winter 2016--Launching a Great Year!