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Archive | Business

Digital agency and business development firm celebrates one year

In October 2018, Cedar Springs entrepreneur Sarah Smith launched a business development firm and digital agency from a home office. One year later, her business has grown in size where she employs a team of four and has clients across the United States including in Georgia, Texas, Ohio and Florida.  

Sarah’s Consulting, LLC is a full-service business development firm and digital agency with passion and expertise in all areas of business development as well as creative and functional design, public relations, digital marketing, content marketing, social media, and responsive website design covering a broad range of industries. “Most of our clients are looking to improve efficiencies and increase sales within their target market and that’s where we help,” said Sarah Smith, owner. “We are a dynamic team with a diverse skillset.”

The Sarah’s Consulting team includes Chief Operating Officer, Ken Wilson who specializes in business development, budgets, marketing, mergers and acquisitions; Creative Director, Frank Krywicki who is native to Cedar Springs and is the creative mastermind behind all branding, marketing and creative design; and the Special Project Nurse Team includes Sarah Smith, RN, BSN, Miriam Flannigan, RN, BSN and Angie O’Dowd, RN who work directly with the agency’s health care clients. 

Business owner Sarah Smith and her husband live in Cedar Springs and have four children attending Cedar Springs Public Schools.  Sarah and her team are currently looking for the perfect office space in Cedar Springs, with a conducive space for client meetings along with offices for the creative team.  “I am thrilled to be expanding our business here in Cedar Springs and very much look forward to getting more involved with the community and working with more local businesses,” said Smith. “We would love to have you consider us if you are looking for business development and/or a digital agency to help your business grow.” 

You can learn more at www.sarahsconsulting.com and you can find them on Facebook and Instagram.

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New business opens in time for holiday shopping

O’Flynn’s Art Gallery & Craft Shoppe will open their gallery and shop to shoppers on Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 11 a.m. Located at 60 N. Main Street in Cedar Springs, O’Flynn’s can best be described as a small-town marketplace and will be open every Thursday and Friday 3-7 p.m. and every Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. –7 p.m. It will feature numerous unique and different artists, vendors and crafters each week. 

The business is owned by Amanda Litz and Jane Stewart. Litz, who is passionate about art and creative expression, envisions this new downtown shoppe as “a place for the community to come together to support and inspire each other, and to be supported and inspired themselves.” 

“I hope it will grow into a thriving small-town marketplace for local people to sell the art and crafts they are so passionate about creating and hopefully inspire others in some small way to follow their purpose and passion in life,” continued Litz.

Litz selected Cedar Springs as the hometown for this shopping venue and said, “I am very fond of the town of Cedar Springs.  Since I moved here in 2009, I have watched and personally experienced the community coming together to support their schools, their businesses, and their people in times of need. I don’t know that there is a better town than Cedar Springs for a small-town marketplace meant to bring local people together to support and inspire each other.”

Shopping at O’Flynn’s is free to the public. Parking is available along the street in front of the shoppe and at several city parking lots within walking distance. Opening weekend will feature a variety of artists, vendors and crafters. “We hope to create a unique shopping experience for the people of Cedar Springs and the surrounding areas, and it’s just in time for holiday shopping where everyone is looking for that special, unique, gift for their family and friends,” said Litz.

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ASK SCORE

How to boost business using live video

Live video streaming has become one of the most powerful ways to forge stronger connections with customers. Apps like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, YouTube Live Streaming, and Periscope can help small business owners boost sales and strengthen their brands. 

Going “live” enables people to see what’s happening with your business in real-time and offers a more personal view of what your company does and who the faces are behind your logo.

If you’re thinking about giving live video streaming a try, here are some ideas to help you go live with content that will engage viewers and shine the spotlight on your small business’s strengths.  

• Introduce a new product or service. Live video provides a memorable way to communicate features and benefits and get people excited about your new offerings.

• Feature product demonstrations and how-tos. Live video offers an effective way to demonstrate how products work and teach customers how to use your products. “Seeing is believing.” If you show people your products or services improving productivity or making life easier for a customer, it adds credibility and builds trust. 

• Introduce a new team member. Sharing the credentials, capabilities, and personalities of new employees can facilitate a stronger personal connection with customers and enhance customers’ confidence in what your business can accomplish.

• Interview a raving fan customer and share their success story. This type of live word-of-mouth testimonial can serve as a powerful endorsement of your products and services. 

• Show a fun “day in the life” glimpse of your office culture. Streaming video of your team’s camaraderie during work can help humanize your brand and give your customers a sense of what it’s like behind the scenes at your company.

• Feature your company participating in a community cause. Capturing real-time moments of your team giving back to the community can build a stronger emotional connection with customers. People feel good about supporting businesses that commit themselves to causes that help those in need.

• Show your team members celebrating a milestone. Whether it’s making a toast to your business’s five-year anniversary or announcing a new project partnership, celebrating your milestones through live video can show people you’re a thriving and growing company.

• Introduce a new marketing campaign or a branding development. Streaming video to raise buzz about new promotional offers or rebranding efforts (like a new logo) can generate excitement and enthusiasm—and potentially sales!

• Show off a team member’s skills on the job. By featuring your employees’ expertise and capabilities, you can reinforce why customers should choose your products and services over those from your competitors. 

Gearing up to go live

Before you use live video for the first time, consider watching how other brands that sell products and services similar to yours are using live video streaming tools. That will help you generate more ideas and give you a sense of what resonates with viewers. Also, evaluate which live streaming platforms will benefit you the most. Consider your followers will be the most likely people to tune into your broadcasts. With that in mind, will one platform over the others reach more people in your target audience? 

As you explore using live video streaming to market your business, reach out to a SCORE mentor for insight and suggestions. With expertise in marketing and all other aspects of starting and running a small business, our mentors are here to provide guidance and align you with the resources you need to succeed.

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.


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Dzingle Family Dentistry


Are you looking for a new dentist? If so, you might want to check out Dzingle Family Dentistry, located at 4655 14 Mile, Rockford. 

Owner Jeremy Dzingle DMD opened his practice earlier this year after a complete renovation of the building that used to be Cedar Rock Dental. “We had the privilege revamping everything from top to bottom and installed a beautiful new sign in the front,” explained Dzingle.

Dzingle Family Dentistry provides comprehensive dental care with personalized attention. “We offer same day treatment and help patients of all ages and look forward to making your experience a positive memory,” he said. “Services include denture and denture repair, extractions, root canal therapy, crown and bridge, cleanings, teeth whitening, fillings, dental emergencies and invisalign at affordable prices.   

So what makes Dzingle Family Dentistry unique? “I’m a compassionate dentist with love for dentistry that runs deep throughout my family,” explained Dzingle. “My father is a general dentist while my brothers are dental specialists and sisters are dental hygienists.  I believe dentistry is more than a healthy smile, it’s also a community connection that builds lifelong friendships.  Our patient driven model will focus on your dental needs while providing comprehensive education of your mouth. Our location off 14 Mile road and close proximity to 131 and Northland drive also makes dental visits very convenient to many people.”   

Dzingle said their future vision is to build strong roots within the community. “My wife Allison and I are very excited to be involved in local events and to enjoy this beautiful area of Michigan,” he said. “Dzingle Family Dentistry wants to reach out to the Cedar Springs, Sand Lake/Pierson, Trufant, Sparta, Rockford and Greenville areas. Give us a call at 616-263-9549 and have the best dental experience of your life!”

Hours are Monday, Wednesday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

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FBI now investigating sudden closure of national payroll company


The Better Business Bureau® is advising businesses who contract with MyPayrollHR.com to contact the BBB and law enforcement following the company’s sudden closure. MyPayrollHR.com closed last week. The company handled payroll accounts for businesses in Michigan and across the United States. To date BBB has received just one complaint from Michigan. A cleaning business in the Detroit area tells BBB bank deposits made at the end of August were reversed, leaving employees with negative bank balances. However, it is anticipated more companies in Michigan have been affected. The FBI announced last week that it was also investigating the sudden closure. Affected businesses are asked to make a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org, the New York Attorney General’s office at ag.ny.gov and by emailing the FBI at MyPayrollHRVictims@fbi.gov.

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Humane Society of West Michigan Appoints Executive Director


Holly Guild

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Humane Society of West Michigan Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Holly Guild as executive director. Guild joins the organization with 17 years of experience at Capital Area Humane Society in Lansing, where she most recently served as director of operations, and eight years as a licensed veterinary technician at Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. 

“It was Holly’s experience in all critical facets of Humane Society’s operation that made her the ideal candidate to lead our organization,” said LaChaun Steverson, Board of Directors president. “Having served so many years at our sister Humane Society in Lansing and her work at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital are amazing assets for us and the animals entrusted in our care.” 

In her role as executive director, Guild will be responsible for overall management of the Humane Society of West Michigan – including leading the organization’s dedicated staff of 45 part-time and full-time employees. The area’s leading animal welfare organization, with a vision to build a healthy, safe, and compassionate community where all animals receive the care they deserve, Humane Society of West Michigan is committed to placing homeless animals in permanent homes. 

“For nearly two decades, I’ve seen firsthand the impact the Humane Society has on the animals in its care and the communities it serves,” Guild said. “That’s why I am grateful for the opportunity to work with others who are as passionate as I am about the welfare of animals. I’ve been impressed by the support West Michigan has provided this agency in the past and I can’t wait to meet the many generous donors and partners committed to our cause.”

Guild takes over an organization that provided forever homes to more than 3,750 animals and conducted over 2,500 medical procedures supporting animals in need in 2018. One of her first objectives is to support the continued growth of Humane Society of West Michigan’s signature events—Paws, Claws & Corks and Bark in the Dark—the latter of which is scheduled for October 5th at Riverside Park. For more information or to register for Bark in the Dark, visit http://www.hswestmi.org/bark.html. 

In addition to providing adoption services, Humane Society of West Michigan offers a full range of educational programs for the public. 

The Humane Society is fully funded through the donations and grants it receives annually. To support the thousands of animals it cares for each year, please visit www.hswestmi.org. 

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Achieving Product/Market Fit For Your Small Business

AFor any startup to succeed, achieving product/market fit is among the most vital of goals. But verifying that your product meets a strong market need and can stand up to competitors is not an exact science, nor does it typically happen in one grand a-ha moment. Likewise, building momentum in a market requires patience and comes with no guarantees as customers’ needs, regulatory landscapes, and competitive pressures change over time.

Consider that your business will only succeed if it adds real value for the user. In this case ‘value’ means that businesses or individuals will understand they need or want it enough to pay you a price that will give you profit and success. Start by understanding your target market’s need and then whether you will be a better solution than your competition.

Despite the uncertainty and risk you face when starting a business, there are some actions you can take to increase your success in accomplishing product/market fit:

Do your homework to understand your customers’ current needs and anticipate what they’ll need in the future. Research your target demographic by spending time with prospective customers, read industry blogs and print publications, attend industry tradeshows and webinars, and seek out a professional in your industry who might serve as a mentor to you as you develop your products and services. 

Focus on one primary and critical value proposition. It’s impossible to be all things to all customers. By homing in on what’s most important to your target customers, analyzing significant trends in your industry, and identifying where competitors are falling short in solving customers’ problems, you can deliver value out of the gate. If you’re solving a pain point for your customers from the start, they will be more patient in waiting for you to add other features and options.

Listen. Learn. Adapt.

Have a business plan, but be open to change as you listen to feedback and ideas from your early customers. Learn from what they’re telling you can improve your products or services. And be prepared to adapt your systems and processes to make your business more viable and sustainable.  

Good planning and research will pay off in money/costs avoided and a far better marketing strategy and tactics that will resound in your customers’ minds. It is not ‘how’ you bring your product or service but rather what the benefits are in the language the customer understands. 

Further advice on doing business with your new small business is available from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

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Nonno’s Homestyle Italian & Pizzeria


If you are yearning to try a new Italian restaurant, check out Nonno’s Homestyle Italian & Pizzeria, located at 4025 17 Mile Rd, in the strip mall next to Tractor Supply. Owners Roberto and Courtney LaFranca opened the restaurant earlier this summer, in the spaces formerly occupied by Riccardi’s and a hair salon.

Nonno’s is family-owned and operated, and all of their recipes have been passed down through the generations. They serve homestyle Sicilian/Italian food and pizza. All of their sauces, dough, meatballs, and a variety of entrees are house-made from scratch using old family recipes.

Roberto’s family came here from Sicily, and many of their recipes came from his parents and grandparents. Roberto and Courtney said they have been in the restaurant business over 20 years. 

“We and our children live in the community and all work to make our restaurant a family-friendly place to enjoy delicious meals from our family to yours,” they said. 

In the future, they may apply to purchase a tavern license to serve beer and wine with their delicious pizza and pasta.

Nonno’s is open Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for inside dining, and until 10 p.m. for take out. They are open Friday/Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for inside dining, and until 11 p.m. for take out. On Sunday they are open from 11 a.m. to 8 .m. for inside dining, and until 9 p.m. for take out. They are closed on Monday. 

You can find their menu on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NonnosHomestyleItalian/. Call them at 696-0999 for more information.

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Six tips for maximizing the benefits of a business mentor

Ask SCORE


Embracing the help of a SCORE business mentor offers many advantages to entrepreneurs. Whether you’re in the early stages of exploring a business idea or already running an established business, a mentor can provide valuable guidance, serve as an objective sounding board for listening to and evaluating new ideas, and motivate you to be more accountable. With a SCORE mentor, you benefit from expertise and experience that can help you launch and/or grow your business.

Before you begin working with a mentor, consider what you can do to get the most fulfillment from your mentor/mentee relationship. 

• Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Come prepared with a list of questions and issues you’re facing to every meeting with your SCORE mentor. Mentors are there to answer even what seem to be the silliest questions. They don’t judge you by what you know or don’t know. They are there to develop your understanding and awareness. And if they personally don’t know the answer to a particular question, they can tap into the expertise of other SCORE mentors within their chapter or nationally. 

• Focus. 

When you talk with your mentor, be entirely present and ready to focus on your business issues. Unless you need them for research during your meeting, put your digital devices away so they won’t distract you from your conversation.

• Have realistic expectations. 

Your mentor is there to advise you, not to do the work for you. You will gain insight and direction from a mentor, but you will still have to work hard. Starting and running a small business requires effort—no exceptions.

• Follow through. 

Do your homework! You should walk away from every meeting with your mentor with next steps (a.k.a. action items). Make sure you tackle what you agreed to do between meetings. If you slack off and don’t take the initiative to complete the tasks necessary to move forward, you won’t be able to take full advantage of your time together. 

• Keep an open mind.

You and your mentor may not always see eye to eye on certain ideas or approaches. Rather than instantly discarding suggestions that don’t align with your initial thoughts, consider your mentor’s frame of reference and experience in working with other SCORE mentees who faced similar challenges. The right answer may not always be what you want to hear, so it’s important to listen with an objective ear. 

• Keep the lines of communication open.

When first starting your business, you will probably find you need to meet with your mentor on a relatively frequent basis (possibly every week). As time goes by, your need to consult your mentor may ebb and flow depending on the nature of the competition you’re facing, industry changes, or opportunities you want to pursue. Even when you don’t feel you need to meet very often, keep your mentor up to date on what’s happening in your business via email or a periodic phone call. That way, your mentor will be informed and better equipped to provide guidance when you do face a new challenge.

Getting Started

To find a SCORE mentor in your area who has expertise in the specific aspects of small business you need help with, visit the SCORE website  www.grandrapids.score.org  

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

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CS Brewing Company beer gets gold


The accolades keep rolling in. 

The Cedar Springs Brewing Company took home another medal earlier this month when its Küsterer Original Weissbier earned gold in the German Wheat Ale category at the U.S. Open Beer Championships.

Breweries from Russia to Rhode Island sent in more than 7,000 beers representing over 130 different styles for the 2019 U.S. Open Beer Championship in Oxford, Ohio. The competition is the only one to include beers from professional breweries and award-winning home-brewers, with judges from England, Canada and the United States.

Earlier this summer, the Küsterer Original Weissbier earned a silver medal, and the Küsterer Dunklweizen earned a gold medal at the International Beer Awards in Idaho.

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