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COFFEEBOXX: rough and tough and darn good-looking

Jim Doan has a dream to build a great company and it starts with is first product: the COFFEEBOXX by OXX, "the world's toughest coffee maker."

It's rough, tough, good-looking -- and it makes a mighty fine cup of coffee.

Doan, a veteran product designer, says his Grand Rapids-based team of seven has designed and engineered the world's first coffee maker made for those who work and play outdoors.   The COFFEEBOXX uses the popular single serve technology and is marketed as "crush-proof, dust-proof, spill-proof, rust-proof, water resistant, impact resistant." The company features a "Beyond Rugged" guarantee that furthers its positioning as a product that is built to be used in conditions and situations where no traditional coffee maker ventures.

To launch the business Doan created a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign that will be ending on December 28. The proceeds will be used to finalize manufacturing details and build a retail distribution channel. Doan says his coffee maker is designed and engineered in Grand Rapids and will be manufactured overseas.  

To learn more about the coffee maker and the the Kickstarter campaign you can click the links here and here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Family Tree Therapies triples space, doubles staff with move to new location

After more than three years in the Eastown business district, Family Tree Therapies has announced a new home at 2251 East Paris.

Family Tree Therapies was founded over ten years ago, when co-owners Terri Cooper and Stacy Pulley identified an opportunity in West Michigan for early intervention techniques based on the needs of West Michigan children with diagnoses such as Down Syndrome, autism, sensory processing disorders, ADD and ADHD. The private clinic specializes in occupational and speech therapy for children ranging in age from premature babies through teens and offers specialized developmental and educational therapies.

The new location features 9,000 square feet of space that will allow families more parking availability, waiting room comfort and overall flexibility. The space will also allow the clinic to double their staff size. Pulley say they are planning to add 10 new therapists in 2015. "We were running out of room," she says, of their previous location.

Pulley says most of their clients come from West Michigan but they also draw from wider geographic area for their unique team and group approach to therapy. No referral is necessary and Family Tree Therapies accepts a variety of insurances, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Priority Healthy, and Aetna.

To celebrate the move, the organization will be hosting a "New Year, New Location" Open House Celebration on Thursday, January 8, 2015, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

To learn more about Family Tree Therapies, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Montello Meat Market: a local recipe for success

Montello Meat Market is located in Grand Rapid's Downtown Market. It specializes in dry-aged beef, sourced from Michigan farms. It also carries a wide variety of other meats that are raised close to market without the use of antibiotics or hormones. Tony Larson keeps a fresh meat case and a freezer case stocked seven days a week and is continually introducing new and interesting products and services for his customers. 

"Michigan apples, Michigan cider and Michigan pork" is Larson's description of his new cider sausage featuring Virtue Cider, a product that was born during BRATober, a Montello Meat Market October tradition where the butcher shop creates a new specialty sausage every weekend using Michigan products. The cider sausage proved to be so popular, it is now a fixture in their butcher case. Another new product developed specifically for the holidays was a "Turducken Jr.," a unique take on the Cajun classic. It's "a turkey thigh and duck breast stuffed inside of a chicken," says Larson.

The rhythm continues after Thanksgiving. For the more adventuresome, Larson suggests you try goat, which he sources from a small farm in Dorr, Michigan. "It's a sweeter, leaner red meat," he says. "More like beef than lamb."  For the more traditional palate, Larson advises you to get your orders in early for their standing rib roasts, which he says will probably be sold out two weeks before the holidays.

After the new year, Larson will be introducing a series of classes, all being taught at the Downtown Market, beginning in January. These will range from learning about various cuts of beef to making great burgers to mastering the grill.

With the addition of two new staff, the family-owned and operated Montello's now employs 11. The butcher shop is open seven days a week during regular market hours.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Hurray for ice cream! Entrepreneurial couple brings back Frosty Boy on Plainfield

There is nothing old school about Kyle and Alyssa Naumann, but their dream to reopen and rejuvenate the iconic Frosty Boy on the corner of Ann St. and Plainfield certainly has an old school feel to it.

Kyle says the decision to bring back the Frosty Boy was one part business planning and one part serendipity. He says his wife, Alyssa, who has almost 10 years of ice cream service experience, having worked her way through high school and college making milk shakes and scooping cones, has been looking for the right opportunity to get back in the business. "Owning her own shop had always been a dream," he says. "About five years ago we started to put into action turning that dream into a goal."

Naumann says they began looking for locations to open a shop when friends recommended they consider the old Frosty Boy location on the corner of Plainfield and Ann St., where a series of other ventures never took hold in the neighborhood. "We had not heard of Frosty Boy until we started mentioning that we were looking to open an ice cream shop in our neighborhood," says Kyle. "The community spoke highly of the corner of Plainfield and Ann and the memories of walking their kids, grandkids and themselves down for a wonderful frozen treat. We loved the name, we loved the concept of bringing back a mainstay to the neighborhood and there is a resemblance between "Jacob" (the boy in the Frosty Boy logo) and myself. It all seemed to fit into place."

Naumann says they plan to reopen the location in March 2015, depending on the weather, and they anticipate hiring between 5-10 part time staff. In meantime, they will be working on  a complete makeover. "Our main goal is to be consistent with the ice cream shop you remember from childhood: simple, clean and let the ice cream and customer service be what you remember most. Our plans are to snap the place together in a neat and clean fashion. We will be painting the exterior walls, which are currently sunburst yellow, a subtle tan to blend with the wonderful brick facade on the other two walls. The underside of the seating area will also be seeing a color change from the same sunburst yellow. We will be updating the signage with a simple Frosty Boy logo and utilizing back lights. All of the parking structures and other accent pieces will be receiving a wonderful coat of Frosty Boy red."

He says the most exciting update will be on the mural wall. "We hope to partner with City High/Middle on a hands-on project for their classes to paint the space on an annual basis."

There is plenty of room on the Frosty Boy bandwagon. Just "like" their Facebook page here to stay updated.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News editor

AGC of America calls for government action on skilled trade jobs shortages during GR visit

On the heels of a recently released national survey showing a shortage of skilled workers available for hire in the construction industry, Chief Economist for the Associated General Contractors of America Ken Simonson spoke to industry professionals and media members at Rockford Construction Co. in Grand Rapids about the organization's new workforce development plan. 

The AGC's workforce development plan is essentially a call to action outlining measures federal, state and local officials can take to make it easier for schools, construction firms and local construction chapters to establish construction training programs. 

Simonson cited recent federal figures that show a loss of more than 900,000 construction industry workers to retirement, school or jobs in other sectors over the last four years. In tandem with the rebound of construction projects and employment – which, in Michigan specifically translates to an increase of about 15,000 jobs since 2009 – Simonson says 83 percent of construction firms that responded to ACG's survey reported having trouble finding enough skilled workers for hire, with 70 percent expecting worker shortages to remain steady or get worse over the next year. 

"Unless the nation is prepared to go from a market where firms don't have enough work to one where they don't have enough workers, it is essential to take steps now to prepare the next generation of workers," Simonson told audience members at Rockford Construction Co. earlier this week. 

"While the AGC of Michigan and the local construction community are doing their part to prepare and train new employees, the sad fact is that the country has spent the last three decades dismantling what were once robust vocational education programs across the country," he continued. 

His workforce development plan includes a call for more federal resources dedicated to career and technical training, specifically a reform of the Perkins Career & Technical Education Act, which funds vocational education programs, to give states increased flexibility and autonomy.

Simonson also hit on establishing new charter schools with programs that focus on key skills like construction and manufacturing, saying it should also be easier for school leaders to "establish career academies and other skill-based programs," and states should enact legislation allowing high school students to enroll tuition-free in public community college career and technical programs.

"I think educating everybody that there's an issue, just like with everything else, and getting people involved and in West Michigan, we're obviously involved at a number of different levels from Grand Rapids Public Schools, all of our partner organizations to get people involved and educated and show them that construction can be a lot of careers in the future," says Rockford Construction Co.'s Chief Innovation Officer Pete Mitchell.

Later on Tuesday, the Michigan Workforce Development Agency made an unrelated announcement on the Michigan Strategic Fund approval of nearly $8.6 million in Skilled Trades Training Fund program grants to 23 Michigan Works! agencies around the state to implement skilled trades training to better match talent with employer needs. 

Click here for the full list of Michigan companies selected to receive MWDA funding, or visit AGC of America and AGC Michigan online to learn more about the organizations and the ACG Workforce Development Plan. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of Rockford Construction/ACG of America

AES changes name to GreenHome Institute to better reflect services, partnerships

Last week, the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit Alliance for Environmental Sustainability announced it has changed its name to GreenHome Institute to more accurately represent its mission and services. 

Brett Little is executive director of GreenHome Institute and said the name change is also part of an added focus on connecting with existing homeowners and small-time remodelers directly versus just the larger development companies, architectural firms and design firms typically represented in the new construction market they've worked primarily with in the past few years. 

"Often times most of our constituents were architects, developers and designers, which was a great, but we decided, maybe three years ago, to make an impact on the millions of existing homes – which, quite honestly, are doing the most damage in terms of wasting energy, carbon emissions, poor indoor air quality, etc.," Little says. 

Another piece of the transformation into GreenHome Institute is for plain old clarity's sake. AES, though more technical than GreenHome Institute, doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well. 

"Part of it is that nobody can even say our (old) name," Little says. "They couldn't repeat it back to us. So, we wanted to something that, again, focused on the existing homes and shows that we have the programs to help them." 

Along with the name change, GreenHome Institute has announced a new partnership with Blue House Energy, a Canadian online training program, to provide detailed, animated training for home performance contractors on weatherization strategies for existing and new homes. 

"What we have is a major issue on our hands with subcontractors or even remodelers that know or even understand the house as a system, if you will, and how all the components of the home work together to make that home more energy efficient and healthy," he says, adding that the animation-based learning program takes students into the house, pulls it apart piece by piece, and goes into detailed modules for explanation. 

Some of the courses can even be used as continued education credits at organizations like the Building Institute, American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council. Little says in states like Michigan, where maintaining a builder's license requires continuing education, this could be particularly useful. 

Visit GreenHome Institute online for more information about the organization, their partnerships and its new Green Affordable Housing Training Program they will to launch next fall thanks to a $20,000 Wege Foundation grant. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GreenHome Institute 

The weather outside is frightful, but grilling remains delightful

For Marc Morin, the light dusting of snow over West Michigan only adds a little ambiance for his favorite pastime: grilling.

Morin is a co-founder of Roney Brands, a family-owned and operated business that believes life doesn't get any better than when you are surrounded by friends, family and a hot grill.   

The business was officially started on January 3, 2014 and its first product was Roney Rub, an all-purpose dry rub that Morin says is based on a recipe that has been in the Roney family for over 30 years.   

Morin describes the rub as an "all-purpose" blend of 14 herbs, spices and a tenderizer.  It is the first of what Morin says will be an entire line of products for grilling and cooking. "Products in the pipeline include a salt-free rub, (which we've heard loud and clear from customers) and we're also planning on a Roney Rub 'with a kick!'" he says.

Their current focus is building relationships with "mom and pop" butcher shops, local restaurants and farmers' markets -- and increasing distribution: "It's important to us that we work with our retailers so that we don't get lost on the shelf. We continue to get our name out there by word of mouth and leveraging social media, family, friends, retail partners and restaurants."

Roney Brands is one of the many food-based ventures that use the Downtown Market's kitchen incubator as a home base to develop, make and distribute their products. It's a fast-growing ecosystem that is shouldering into Grand Rapids' vibrant startup scene. Morin, who has extensive, senior level corporate experience in strategy, sales, marketing and branding, says that the local food startups should be focused on customers first. "Food entrepreneurs need to learn how to "connect" with potential customers," he says. "We spend a lot of time with potential customers at farmers' markets talking about our rub. It's fun to talk about how others cook and grill out. We get many of our ideas from our customers. We take the time and listen to them!"

To learn more about the Roney Brands story you can visit their website here or their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Netvantage Marketing expands to Chicago

Netvantage Marketing is a Michigan-based marketing firm with a laser-like focus on search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search management.

Started as a two-person operation in 2008, the company currently has nine employees across four states with offices in East Lansing and Grand Rapids. This November the firm expanded to its third location in Chicago, IL.

Adam Henige, managing partner of Netvantage Marketing, attributes their growth to the firm's specialization in the increasingly complex marketing art and science of search engine management. "The big thing has been our ability to to specialize in what we do," he says.

Henige says Google and other search engines have become more rigid in their ranking algorithms and that firms used to be able to easily outsource search engine optimization but not anymore. "Working with Google is very complicated and it changes fast," he says.  "Specialization is our key element."

Henige says Google is working very hard to keep people on Google, by feeding you the answer during the search process. Not bad for the consumer but frustrating for the organization who has invested in developing a well-designed web experience and wants to engage the customer with their products and services. Henige says the challenge boils down to keeping up-to-date and focusing on the next steps: "How do we get people into our client's environment when Google is trying to keep you on their site? It's an interesting battle."

Henige is very optimistic for the firm's continued growth and anticipates adding staff to the Grand Rapids office in 2015.

To learn more about Netvantage Marketing you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Holland is soon to be energized by the Georgetown University Energy Prize

Holland has been selected to compete for a $5,000,000 Georgetown University Energy Prize which incentivizes communities to creatively and significantly decrease their energy consumption over the course of two years. The prize will help to identify innovative, replicable, scalable solutions that can be implemented by cities and counties across the country, helping America re-think the way energy is used.

Holland joins 53 communities (three of them in Michigan) to participate in the quarter-finals round of the competition. All competing communities have outlined a plan and secured signed commitments of collaboration from local governments, utilities and community-based organizations.   

Holland City Manager Ryan Cotton says the community and dozen of public and private stakeholders are fired up and ready to get busy. "People are energized to think that what goes on in a home can make a difference and drastically improve energy efficiency," says Cotton (he acknowledges the pun). He says the plan to reduce energy consumption includes a series of "mini-competitions" including furnace tune-ups and elimination of extra refrigerators that Cotton says will not only be good for the environment (decreasing energy consumption) but good for the pocketbook of homeowners and businesses through substantial energy savings.

For more information about the city of Holland's involvement in the competition visit  www.hollandenergyprize.com. For more information about the Georgetown University Energy Prize visit: http://www.guep.org/.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New Grand Rapids nonprofit advocates palliative care options for those facing serious illness

With a mission to help both medical professionals and families to "live well, die well and grieve well," a new nonprofit organization called Trillium Institute hopes to raise awareness about palliative care options in the treatment of patients who are terminally ill, or have serious or chronic illness.  

"We're just focusing on helping people understand how to express their values and their preferences as they face serious illness," says Ken Hekman, Trillium Institute's executive director. "We're also focusing on helping the medical community honor those values and those preferences as they provide supportive care." 

By approaching the issue from both sides, Hekman and Trillium institute Medical Director John Mulder hope to create a new level of understanding that lets both medical professionals and their patients look at end-of-life care in a different way. 

Affiliated with senior care center Holland Home, Trillium institute began development in January 2014 and is currently operating with funds from a three-year grant awarded to the pair by a former patient of Mulder's who was deeply affected by his care.

"As we cared for their family through the end of life, they really appreciated the way Dr. Mulder was respectful and responding to their desire to not pursue treatment in a cancer case where there was no therapeutic benefit to aggressive care," Hekman says, adding that the donor wishes to remain anonymous to the public. "They just wanted to have palliative care, and Dr. Mulder provided that at a very high level." 

Currently, Trillium Institute is comprised of just Hekman and Mulder, but the team expects to announce the addition of a patient navigator director in the coming weeks. Over the next year, Hekman says they also expect to hire more nurses for palliative care navigation positions, but is happy to operate alongside Mulder as a duo from Holland Home's corporate offices in Kentwood.  

"I expect it’s going to remain a pretty small team for the first couple of years," he says. "We just have to see how it unfolds." 

On Dec. 10, Trillium Institute will hold its first-ever public forum at Grand Valley State University with Christian Sinclair, a physician who most recently authored an Institute of Medicine report called "Dying in America" that will focus on how American physicians and families can provide better palliative care. 

"A good deal of resources are consumed in the end of life, but it does not necessarily improve the quantity or the quality of life. It actually diminishes it," Hekman says. "We're going to take a closer look at what this report says and hopefully open some dialogue within the community about how we can approach end of life care and serious illness care in a better way."

For more information on Trillium Institute, its first-ever public forum event on Dec. 10, or palliative care practices, visit www.trilliuminstitute.org.  
 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Trillium Institute 

Mother Reverence opens Sacred Pregnancy Classes, Doula services

At Mother Reverence Sacred Pregnancy, women sit in circles and connect with each other. Some are first-time mothers and some have been mothers for much longer, but regardless of race, religion or experience in motherhood, they gather in the same place every week and they talk about nutrition and body image, sisterhood, fear and forgiveness. 

"I believe that I want to support women where they're at on their journey," says Kristin Revere, founder of Mother Reverence and certified Sacred Doula. "So, I don't have any other intentions other than being a support."

Revere has been teaching Sacred Pregnancy classes in the Grand Rapids area since April 2013, but became an officially certified Sacred Doula this summer after a few months of prior training. She also holds a Contemporary Doula International certification and has apprenticed with Crowning Lotus Doula Services at Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness in Grand Rapids, among a handful of other training program certifications. 

Revere's eight-week classes include maternity portraits, henna, belly dance instruction, art supplies and a "swag bag" for reach participant, with intimate class sizes that never exceed 10 women, Revere says, so everyone has a chance to contribute to discussions and be heard. 

"We have a class called 'Honoring' where it's like mini a Blessing Way," Revere says, including a foot bath and henna. "We do a lot of art projects in the classes as a way for them to connect with each other and process everything. I bring in a belly dance instructor during the body image portion and so they bare their bellies together and get used to that body image thing. There are a lot of things that it's nice to have an intimate class for." 
 
Revere says Sacred Doula has a stronger emphasis on the spiritual journey of acceptance and connectivity, a different approach to the more widely practiced DONA Doula training, which she says has a particularly strong following in Michigan and is what you'll typically find at many other Grand Rapids doula services. 

"When I go into a birth, I leave all of my own baggage behind on the other side of the door and I'm there just being present and trying to read the room and find out how I can best support the woman in labor and her husband and really work as a team, but at the same time knowing when to step back," she says.

The Sacred Pregnancy Classes are based on the book Sacred Pregnancy by Anni Daulter, which, shortly after publishing, became a larger national movement with training sessions in pregnancy journey classes as well as birth journey classes.

Pregnancy journey classes are held from 3-5 p.m. on Sundays from Jan. 11 to March 8 at Centre Pointe, located at 1440 Wealthy Street SE and cost $300 per person, with a $50 discount for registering at least 30 days in advance. The four-week birth journey class will begin in March, and costs $200 per couple, with a weekend retreat at $225 per person. 

"For me, it's about giving women encouragement and support, about not being divisive but uniting women, because we are all connected and there is a sisterhood that is missing," says Revere. "I feel like if we bring that (sisterhood) back, families are stronger and women have the support they need because sometimes you just can't talk about the things you go through in pregnancy with men in the same way." 

For more information on Mother Reverence, visit www.motherreverence.com. To find a doula in Grand Rapids, or learn more about what services are available locally, check out the Grand Rapids Area Doula Network online.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Mother Reverence 

Walter Mitty inspires local entrepreneur to make a wallet to weather life's journeys

By day, Bob Orchard is immersed in high tech, as the president and interaction/user experience designer at Tinypint, a web agency in Grand Rapids.

By night, Orchard is immersed in no tech, as a leather worker and craftsman behind his line of wallets being sold through his new venture, Grand Rapids Wallet Co.

Orchard was inspired to make wallets when he and his wife were planning a trip to South America this winter. "She had long been telling me to 'find a hobby' and I started considering what I'd do. Models and painting for board games, maybe I'd do woodworking or woodturning or even possibly miniature scene building."  

But his muse ended up coming from an iconic dreamer. "After watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and seeing the wallet the main character received in the movie with 'Life's Motto' stamped in it, I decided I wanted to make a wallet that would weather the most of life and be with me as I start traveling more and more."

His design was based personal experience, one where he frequently gives and receives business card and primarily uses plastic instead of dollars. "I needed a wallet that was flexible enough to manage cash but get out of the way if you didn't have any," he says.

Orchard's first-batch wallets were handmade at his office in the GR Makers space, where the collaborative ethos of the maker spirit provided a catalyst for a lengthy process of creating his wallets. "Harbinger Leathers on the 4th floor of our building has been a huge help in providing unused materials and encouraging me to try making my first wallet.   Each wallet, when producing one at a time, which is all I've done so far, takes roughly 3 hours end-to-end to produce."

While The Grand Rapids Wallet Co. remains a side project, Orchard has been able to apply his tech skills to create a marketing site and laser-cutting template that will allow him to scale the business if the demand is there. "The leatherwork got me more and more excited and people started asking if they could order them for Christmas gifts. After putting together a brand and business plan, I decided I could do it and opened up sales for orders," Orchard says. "If there's enough demand I can translate my laser-cutting template to dies to expand my production process and increase quantity while ensuring they're nothing but the highest quality."

To learn more more about the Grand Rapids Wallet Co., you can visit the Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

Couple explores Grand Rapids through new blog, Unlocking GR

West Michigan natives Spencer and Melissa Blanchard did what many young professionals dream of doing after they are done with college: work and travel around the world.

Spencer Blanchard estimates that, between the two of them, through work and personal adventures, they visited around 17 different countries throughout Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

At this point, conventional wisdom would be "once you have seen Paris" it can be a bit tricky to settle back into the Midwest. But not so fast, as Spencer Blanchard explains:  "We have seen some of the most beautiful places in the world but at the end of the day we have found that Grand Rapids has as much to offer as anywhere we've been. We love the culture, the people, the food, the art, the music, and of course the beer. And that's just the tip of the iceberg."

Fueled by civic pride and curiosity, the couple came up with an idea to explore Grand Rapids with a fresh set of eyes and share what they learned about the city and region through their blog, Unlocking GR. "I built the site and Melissa writes," says Blanchard. "We started with 60 ideas that we could cover."

The concept is similar to many "lists" Grand Rapids is fond of -- but it is different at the same time. The Blanchards do not focus on just one category, such as food or entertainment, but instead they plan to cut a wide swath through business, culture, people, art, neighborhoods and more. "We want to highlight the good in Grand Rapids; we aren't here to be cynics or critical. We offer a unique angle and insight into local businesses and activities that we believe add life to our city," Blanchard says.

Blanchard describes Unlocking GR as a "passion project," and the couple updates the site in their spare time. He also admits that he has been a little surprised by the reaction.  "So far the response has blown us away," he says. "We have received a ton of positive feedback and thousands of visitors to the site within a very short period of time." In four weeks, Blanchard estimates to have had around 8,000 unique visitors and 1500 page views: "People are engaging with our content."

As it's a side project, Blanchard says he has no immediate plan to expand the concept outside the region. He says just focusing on the city has enough to keep him and his wife busy. "The more we discover about this great city, the more there is to discover. Grand Rapids is growing and evolving rapidly every day, and so we must grow and evolve with it."

You can visit Unlocking GR here.  You can view their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Geronimo!: New community gear rental site looks to help downtown dwellers get back to nature

Grand Rapids may be building up its urban core, but that doesn't mean its great outdoors are shrinking. 

As city leaders put the 2013 park millage to work and organization and community-led initiatives like Grand Rapid White Water look to bring life back to the Grand River, Grand Rapidians are going to need their outdoor gear -- and a new online start-up called Borrows & Lends hopes to make gear sharing in Grand Rapids the new standard. 

"There is less of a focus on having a giant house with a giant garage filled with all of your gear and all of your stuff," says Borrows & Lends' Kendall Gilbert. "People don't want that anymore. They want the conveniences and the services of being able to do the things they love, but maintenance and paying into that as a long-term investment doesn't really make sense." 

Modeled after similar community gear rental sites like GearCommons in Boston, Borrows & Lends is looking to build on an inventory of outdoor equipment that ranges from mountain bikes to kayaks with more affordable price points set by the people, for the people. 

Although it sounds like you could skip the whole community marketplace and just rent equipment for a specific trip or ask a friend to borrow their gear, Gilbert says both alternatives, however viable, are limiting.

"Things like rentals are often geared more toward tourists and in the tourism industry, so you'll pay a little bit more just to rent something once or twice, but as far as an every day or every weekend type of activity that you might want to try out, it's not really in anyone's best interest to be dropping $50 on a two-hour kayak rental," she says. 

Though Borrows & Lends is operating strictly online at the moment, Gilbert says after the brand is more established and inventory bulks up, her ideal future business has a physical location in Grand Rapids with doors open to anyone, regardless of skill level or experience, to walk in, list their interests or preferences, and get paired up with reasonably priced equipment. 

"I think Grand Rapids just has the natural connection because we're in such a cool place," she says. "We're one hour from Lake Michigan, one hour from the Manistee National Forest. We have a really heavy tourism industry and adventure industry throughout our state and I think that's awesome."

Endorse Borrows & Lends on Start Garden, or visit Borrows & Lends on Facebook to learn more about becoming part of its community gear rental shop.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Borrows & Lends 

Welcome home for the holidays. We miss you. Why don't you stay?

ReThink West Michigan has a pretty simple ask. If you're a native Michigander who has moved away to start a career in another state, when you come back to Grand Rapids for Thanksgiving weekend to visit your family and friends, why don't you stay?

In fact, ReThink West Michigan would like to introduce you to other professionals and have you meet representatives from some of the largest and most dynamic companies in Grand Rapids who are looking for talent and are eager to share some cool projects they are working on.

That is the premise behind ReThink West Michigan's recruiting event on November 26. The casual networking event targeting former Michiganders who will be in town for the holidays is being hosted by Hello West Michigan and The Right Place. It will be held at The BOB from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The Right Place's Megan Sall says the organizing team has lined up employers from very diverse industries, including Spectrum Health, Amway, OST, Steelcase, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Ranstad Technologies, Mercy Health, Crowe Horwath, and Northwestern Mutual, who will have representatives attending and be available to informally talk about job and career opportunities.

To get the word out, Sall says they have partnered with local college and university alumni groups so that individuals who have left the state after graduation for jobs elsewhere can see the career opportunities here with a fresh set of eyes. "The event is for everybody because the job story of West Michgan is not just manufacturing and not just health care," she says. Sall points to Grand Rapid Public Schools as an employer who will be attending and has openings for teachers.

Sall hope that anyone reading this story will share information about the event: "If you have friends and family coming back for Thanksgiving weekend and want them to move back, have them attend."

Additional information can be found at www.rethinkwm.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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