It is not an easy time to be an entrepreneur. On top of having to convince other people to buy your idea or product, you have to find financing when few are lending.
Ken Kousky, CEO of the MidMichigan Innovation Center, said the lack of investment is hurting job creation.
It’s not all gloomy though.
Some an entrepreneurs, like those at the fourth annual MidMichigan Innovation Center Heading for the Big Leagues event, are not giving up on the dream of success. The event on Thursday at Dow Diamond offered owners of startup businesses the chance to share their products, talk with investors and connect with larger companies that could help make their ideas a reality.
“We’ve got big challenges, but the nice thing is we have the community, the state and the startups to make it work,” Kousky said.
Among those at the event was the Tomich family, showcasing the Kasper T. Co. Wall Mounted Log Chute that provides people a solution for carrying messy logs inside to a fireplace or wood burning stove. The chute can be mounted into any wall and allows people to load wood on the outside of a house, then return inside where the chute is closed, providing access to the wood inside.
The product was invented by the family’s father, Wayne K. Tomich, who died in 2008.
“We want to make his dream come true,” daughter Toni Nitz said.
The Sebewaing company now has a manufacturer and is developing plans to launch sales of the product.
Other firms at the event included an environmental consultant, online fundraising platform, medical device manufacturer, gluten-free food producer, crowdsourced wedding videography service and more.
Kousky, who also works with the BlueWater Angels investment group, said the nation is still facing a crisis because there is little seed money for startups to get off the ground. He said it is hard to sell ideas that are behind many technology startups. Companies need to consider how to grow without a lot of investment capital.
“Each one of these businesses is unique and has the courage to try,” Kousky said. “… I think what drives these entrepreneurs is optimism and the need to be relevant.”
During the event, the innovation center presented several awards.
John Bartos received the Ted Doan Spirit of Innovation Award, which honors the late president and CEO of The Dow Chemical Co., Hebert D. “Ted” Doan.
Bartos, a Midland native, is president and CEO of JSB Associates and previously founded Three Rivers Corp. and Three Rivers Construction. He has been involved with the innovation center, MITech+ and BlueWater Angels, among many other organizations.
Bartos said entrepreneurs need to continue on their path and not take “no” for an answer.
“Don’t get discouraged by failures, just keep going,” he said.
Doan’s wife, Junia Doan, said he loved problems because he saw them as something that could lead to new discoveries. She encouraged everyone at the event to follow in his footsteps by being relentless and teaching others.
Winners of MidMichigan Innovator Awards for contributing to the entrepreneurial environment in Michigan were:
* Charles Crespy, dean of the college of business administration at Central Michigan University.
* Terry O’Brien, entrepreneur and owner of O’Brien Consulting.
* State Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland.
* Scott Walker, CEO of Midland Tomorrow.
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