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St. Julian scores 16 Medals including a double Gold

Judgement of Michigan Wine Competition

PAW PAW, MI – Michigan’s largest and longest operating winery, St. Julian Winery, brought home 16 medals last month from the first ever Judgement of Michigan wine competition presented by the Michigan Wine Collaborative and Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor.

The event brought together 21 judges – referred to as “The Judging Squad” – including a blend of restauranteurs, media, retail and wholesale representatives from around the state and country to evaluate over 350 Michigan wines from about 45 local wineries.

“MWC focused on selecting wine professionals which represented our vision of what the wine industry looks like on the ground,” according to Executive Director Emily. “Diverse career paths, lifestyles, backgrounds, and impact in the wine industry.” Some judges experienced Michigan wine for the first time during this competition, bringing their “super fresh palates and really fresh, new perspective” to the event.

Judges awarded a total of eight Double Gold medals, 33 Gold, 58 Silver and 76 Bronze medals during this inaugural competition. Of those, St. Julian claimed one Double Gold, three Gold, seven Silver and five Bronze to add to its impressive award portfolio – more than any other winery in the competition.

DOUBLE GOLD:

Solera Cream Sherry

GOLD:

2020 Braganini Reserve Lake Harvest Vignoles

2020 Braganini Reserve Serious Rosé

2020 Braganini Resererve Sauvignon Blanc

SILVER:

Cock of the Walk

Sweet Nancie

2020 St. Julian Reserve Pinot Grigio

2020 Braganini Reserve Grüner Veltliner

WS Blaufränkisch Rosé

2020 Braganini Reserve Porpetto

2020 Braganini Reserve Traminette

BRONZE:

2020 WS White Cabernet Franc

2020 Braganini Reserve Mountain Road White Blend

2020 WS Harvest Select Vidal/Vignoles

WS La Crescent/Traminette

2020 Braganini Reserve Mountain Road Rosé

“While we regularly participate in wine competitions around the country, it is an honor to be recognized here at home – especially within our own AVA region,” notes Nancie Oxley, Vice President of Winemaking at St. Julian. “This competition also provided us the opportunity to have our wines tasted by some who may not be familiar with our products as well as introduce our wines to a broader sector within our industry.”

Earlier this year, St. Julian was presented with 6 Medals at the 14th Annual American Fine Wine Competition, 15 medals at the 2021 International Women’s Wine Competition; 8 medals at the 2021 Experience Rosé Wine Competition, and 13 medals – including two “Best of Class” Gold Medals – at the International Eastern Wine Competition.

St. Julian, which is distributed in five states outside of Michigan, currently operates six tasting rooms within the state – Paw Paw, Dundee, Frankenmuth, Troy, Rockford, and Union Pier.

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BBB Tips: Giving disaster relief donations wisely

As rescue missions continue in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida, people here in Western Michigan want to help in any way possible. That can often mean contributing to fundraisers to help rescue and recovery efforts. Unfortunately, scammers often take advantage of these country-wide calls for help. 

“There are many campaigns set up by well-intended individuals, who may not be able to deliver on their promises,” says Phil Catlett, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “Giving to established charities with access and workers in the disaster area is the best way to assure your money is going to help victims directly.”

BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are five tips for trusted giving:

1. Seek out experienced charities. An established charity will more likely have the capacity and experience in disaster relief activities and already have a presence in the impacted areas. That usually provides the quickest means to deliver aid to as many people as possible. Visit Give.org to find established charities and to verify if a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability. 

2. Consider Giving Money Rather Than Goods. Donating money is the quickest way to help and provides charities the flexibility to channel resources to impacted areas. Also, find out if a charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. If the money is being passed along to other relief organizations, cut out the middle-man and donate directly. 

3. Be Wary of 100 Percent Claims. Watch out for claims that 100 percent of donations will assist victims and/or their families. The organization is probably still incurring administrative and fundraising expenses, even if it is using other funds to cover these costs.

4. Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe and IndieGoGo (both BBB Accredited Businesses) can be used to help share the stories of individuals, families, and communities in need and to solicit funds from generous donors. GoFundMe has information on how to determine if a fundraiser is legitimate and about their centralized hub for identifying verified fundraisers related to the storm. IndieGogo also has information on how to evaluate a campaign.

5. Online Caution. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in text messages or email. These may take you to a look-alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or may download harmful malware onto your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media have already been vetted.

Here is a list of BBB Accredited Charities raising funds for Hurricane Ida disaster relief. 

  • American Red Cross – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities
  • Americares – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities
  • Brother’s Brother Foundation – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities
  • Feed The Children – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities 
  • Heart to Heart International – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities
  • Operation USA – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities
  • Salvation Army – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities
  • Save the Children – BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report – Hurricane Ida Activities

If you find or become a victim of a scammer trying to take advantage of charitable giving, report it to the BBB Scam Tracker. 

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An affordable type of insurance you may need but probably don’t have

Consider protecting your family’s financial future with umbrella insurance.
(c) Wavebreakmedia / iStock via Getty Images Plus.

(StatePoint) When you start thinking about how to achieve financial security, a few basic things probably come to mind: insurance for your car and home; disability insurance in case you’re injured and can’t work; life insurance to protect your family in case something happens to you. But there’s one important type of financial protection that many people overlook: umbrella insurance.

“We’ve found that many people don’t understand umbrella insurance, or they mistakenly assume that it’s something that’s needed only by the very wealthy,” said Jon Bloom, vice president, personal auto, Erie Insurance. “The truth is that the vast majority of people with other types of insurance would benefit from this added layer of protection, and it’s available for a much lower cost than many people assume.”

Umbrella insurance provides coverage above and beyond the limits of other insurance policies, such as auto and homeowners. But industry experts say there are some persistent myths that keep many people from getting it.

Myth #1.

My car insurance policy will cover me for anything bad that happens.

Reality: A tragic car accident that causes life-changing injuries could result in the need for care that costs far more than your car insurance policy’s limits, and you could be on the hook to make up the difference.

Myth #2.

My homeowners policy will pay if someone gets hurt on my property.

Reality: Homeowners insurance may pay up to the limits of your policy, but similar to a car accident, if someone suffers a catastrophic accident on your property, the costs could exceed your policy limits. Umbrella insurance also protects against lawsuits for other things unrelated to injuries. For example, if you write a social media post that’s construed as damaging to someone’s reputation, or if you sit on a nonprofit board or coach a youth sports team and someone brings legal action against you. Ask your insurance agent about the wide range of scenarios that may pertain to you.

Myth #3.

I won’t get sued – that only happens to people with a lot of money.

Reality: The truth is that in today’s litigious society, anyone can be sued, and if you are responsible for someone’s injuries that exceed the limits of your other insurance policies, or if you are sued for other reasons, your house and other financial assets could be at risk.

Myth #4.

Umbrella insurance is expensive.

Reality: You might be surprised to learn how much coverage you can buy for a modest cost. For example, Erie Insurance says most of its customers can buy an extra $1 million in coverage for less than $20 a month.

When it comes to protecting your family’s financial future, some things are a given, like car, home and life insurance, but it pays to look beyond the obvious. The best thing to do is talk with your insurance agent to make sure you have the right coverages. Chances are you’ll decide that umbrella insurance is a coverage you can’t afford not to have.

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What people should and should not do if they get mail from the IRS

Every year the IRS mails letters or notices to taxpayers for many different reasons. Typically, it’s about a specific issue with a taxpayer’s federal tax return or tax account. A notice may tell them about changes to their account or ask for more information. It could also tell them they need to make a payment. This year, people might have also received correspondence about Economic Impact Payments or an advance child tax credit outreach letter.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for anyone who receives mail from the IRS:

Don’t ignore it. Most IRS letters and notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice deals with a specific issue and includes specific instructions on what to do

Don’t throw it away. Taxpayers should keep notices or letters they receive from the IRS. These include adjustment notices when an action is taken on the taxpayer’s account, Economic Impact Payment notices, and letters about advance payments of the 2021 child tax credit. They may need to refer to these when filing their 2021 tax return in 2022. In general, the IRS suggests that taxpayers keep records for three years from the date they filed the tax return. 

Don’t panic. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies do send letters by mail. Most of the time, all the taxpayer needs to do is read the letter carefully and take the appropriate action. 

Don’t reply unless instructed to do so. There is usually no need for a taxpayer to reply to a notice unless specifically instructed to do so. On the other hand, taxpayers who owe should reply with a payment. IRS.gov has information about payment options. 

Do take timely action. A notice may reference changes to a taxpayer’s account, taxes owed, a payment request or a specific issue on a tax return. Acting timely could minimize additional interest and penalty charges. 

Do review the information. If a letter is about a changed or corrected tax return, the taxpayer should review the information and compare it with the original return. If the taxpayer agrees, they should make notes about the corrections on their personal copy of the tax return and keep it for their records. 

Do respond to a disputed notice. If a taxpayer doesn’t agree with the IRS, they should mail a letter explaining why they dispute the notice. They should mail it to the address on the contact stub included with the notice. The taxpayer should include information and documents for the IRS to review when considering the dispute. 

Do remember there is usually no need to call the IRS. If a taxpayer must contact the IRS by phone, they should use the number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. The taxpayer should have a copy of their tax return and letter when calling the agency. 

Do avoid scams. The IRS will never contact a taxpayer using social media or text message. The first contact from the IRS usually comes in the mail. Taxpayers who are unsure if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information on IRS.gov.

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Kent County Credit Union has changed its name to Intandem Credit Union

Kent County Credit Union has announced that is has changed its name to Intandem Credit Union. As part of a plan for growth and neighborhood commitment, the new name represents where the credit union is headed as an active and supportive partner in strengthening families and community. 

Kent County Credit Union was established in 1956, originally as a credit union for employees of the county. In 2004, the credit union expanded its field of membership to include all those who live, work, worship, or attend post-high school institutions in Kent County. 

“Over the years, our name has presented a challenge to growth,” said Barbara Page, President/CEO. “It really hit home when we attended a community event at City High/Middle School, right across the street from our main location. Several neighbors told us they thought we were part of Kent County government and didn’t think they were eligible to join. This wasn’t the first time we heard something like that, and it really made us think critically about who we are and where we are going.” 

The credit union offers a comprehensive range of financial services including credit cards, mortgages, and personal loans. Members need not worry about their accounts during this transition. Member account numbers, and the credit union routing number will stay the same. Direct deposits, payroll deduction, automatic drafts, and other ACH services will continue to function as they have in the past. Online banking, debit and credit cards, and the mobile app will still be available and function the same as before, but with a new name and design. The MyKCCU.com website will automatically redirect to the new website, IntandemCU.com.

“We believe that we are stronger together,” Page said. “When we focus on strengthening the financial lives of our neighbors, the credit union also becomes stronger, and as a team, we help our neighborhoods flourish”.

For more information, visit: Intandemcu.com.

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Workbox Staffing holds grand opening

Front row (L to R):  Workbox Staffing employees Eric Shadley, John Demarest, Jessica Bazzett, Terilynn Riley, and Kristen Schreiber 
Back row (L to R): Rose Powell (CS City Council), Christina Fasae (Workbox), Alexis Shadley (Workbox), and CS Area Chamber of Commerce members Tyler Luevano, Dawn Reyburn, and Jonathan Huizenga.

Workbox Staffing recently moved into a suite at 151 S. Main Street, next to Hungry Howie’s Pizza, and held their grand opening and ribbon cutting on Tuesday, July 14. 

According to President John Demarest, the move to this location is more on brand for them. “We love being part of the community and will continue to grow,” he said.

Jessica Bazzett is the regional manager in charge of the Cedar Springs store, and she is also in charge of the Reed City and Newaygo locations. 

Workbox Staffing is an industrial staffing firm specializing in jobs in the manufacturing and warehousing sector. They are based in Grand Rapids, Michigan,  and have branches in the Midwest, Midatlantic and Southeast regions of the U.S. market. They have 30 branches.

To see their job board, visit their website at www.workboxstaffing.com or call the Cedar Springs location at 616.326.2550. Their hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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What you must know before buying a business

Rather than building a small business from the ground up, buying an existing company offers the opportunity to move along the path to entrepreneurship more quickly. With all of the startup tasks already taken care of, a staff in place, an established customer base, existing vendor relationships, and processes and procedures laid out, you have a head start. 

But that doesn’t diminish the importance of doing your research before making the decision to buy a business. Acquiring an existing small business requires substantial examination so you avoid the many pitfalls that befall eager entrepreneurs who leap before they look.

According to William Comiskey, a SCORE Mentor at the Southwest Florida SCORE Chapter, “Investing in a business is the same as investing your savings in a mutual fund or stock portfolio to secure both your future and possibly your retirement. You study and review the past performance and the current condition and seek help and advice from professionals on the prospects for the future.” 

Before purchasing an existing business, you need to get answers to some critical questions:

Why is the current owner selling the business? Seek the truth. If the business is in a declining neighborhood or the owner has caught wind of an upcoming market change that will negatively affect revenues or cost structure, you might put yourself at risk of failure from circumstances beyond your control. Uncovering the real reasons for a sale may be difficult. Be wary and realize that smart business owners don’t often walk away from profitable endeavors unless they have strong personal reasons (illness, retirement, etc.), or they have received offers that are too good to refuse.

How is the business doing financially? If it has been losing money or hasn’t been generating a satisfactory profit, you’ll want to dig deeper into the reasons why. Unless you’re confident you can operate it more profitably than the current owner, you might end up with a sinking ship on your hands.

What sort of reputation does the business have? When you buy an existing business, you’re getting the brand reputation along with it. That will either work for or against you. Turning around an existing business’s poor reputation will be difficult and could take years—and it might even be impossible depending on how negatively the company is perceived by customers, suppliers, and the public. 

If the business has a favorable reputation, find out what has made it so. A strong reputation based on personal relationships between the owner and customers might not easily transfer to you. Be particularly cautious of this if the business relies primarily on a few key customers or suppliers. 

Are you getting everything you need to seamlessly take over running the business? Find out if the purchase will include essentials such as: leases and contracts; customer lists; patents, trademarks, service marks, and trade names; key employees who are vital to the business; and other important components. 

As Comiskey suggests, you don’t have to embark on the process alone. Consider tapping the expertise of professionals (such as SCORE mentors) who can help you assess the opportunities and risks of buying an existing business. 

Further advice on the purchase of an existing 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. Visit their website at www.grandrapids.score.org.

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Business credit scores: 6 things every entrepreneur should know

(BPT) – Do you have a side hustle you’re looking to grow? Are you a small-business owner wondering if you should use your personal credit for your business? Before you do, consider your business credit score. Whether it’s a modest side gig or you’re looking to expand your small business into a full-time, multi-person venture, it’s important to understand your business credit score and how it can help you.

Haven’t heard of a business credit score? You’re not alone. “What is a business credit score?” is the top question we get at VantageScore from small-business owners. Our goal is to expand understanding about credit scores for everyone, and when it comes to businesses, helping empower owners with useful information to help them make smart financial decisions.

The credit experts at VantageScore Solutions share must-know info about business credit and how small-business owners can establish and grow their business credit score:

Consumer and business credit reports are different

A consumer credit report is for an individual while a business credit report is for an organization, even if it’s just one person. What’s on the report varies: A business credit report has different number ranges for credit ratings, such as zero to 100. Additionally, you won’t see a list of creditors on a business credit report like you would on a consumer credit report.

A positive business credit report matters

A business credit report shows credit-related data a credit reporting company (CRC) has gathered about an organization from different qualifying sources. This includes records of credit card balances and payments, as well as public records, such as bankruptcies. Having a rich business credit report can help you get better terms on business loans and other financial relationships needed to manage and grow your business, including lower interest rates.

Be proactive to strengthen your business credit report

If you get a consumer loan, that information may be reported to all three bureaus for your consumer credit report. On the business side, there’s less data consistency and less chance your lender is going to report to all the commercial credit bureaus. Be proactive by using strategies that include reporting to the bureaus, such as utilizing small-business credit cards. You can also work with vendors that knowingly report to the bureaus. Finally, as always, pay all bills on time and keep debt low.

Separate yourself and your business

Just like with consumer credit, it takes time to build a rich credit history. Business owners should start building good credit as soon as possible and start by establishing a business entity. The majority of small-business owners in the United States operate as sole proprietors, which means they don’t have a formal business structure such as an LLC, S-corporation or C-corporation. Having these types of designations separates you and your business and therefore separates your business and personal credit.

Avoid tapping personal assets

When starting or growing a business, a lot of people use personal assets such as savings, retirement funds or home equity for funding. Before you do this, exhaust all other possibilities for business financing. There are over 6,500 different companies with lending products for small-business owners, so it’s worthwhile to research and find one that fits your needs so you don’t have to put your personal finances at risk. Plus, many of these other options come with the opportunity to build your business credit report.

Check your business credit report regularly

Just because you pay your bills on time doesn’t mean you should assume your credit report is good. If something negative occurs, you want to respond quickly, such as financial fraud or identity theft. Visit VantageScore.com to access a list of free credit score providers for both your personal and business credit reporting purposes.

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Positive attitudes generate positive results

Ask SCORE

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business

Everybody has a bad day at work at least now and then. If you’re not careful, those bad days can become the norm rather than the exception for your small business. Without a positive attitude among everyone involved with your business (including yourself), a business suffers in tangible and intangible ways. Employees with poor attitudes affect customers negatively, discourage other workers from doing their best, and fail to perform to their own level of capability. Customers can sense when the person helping them is indifferent about their work, and they may wonder if it extends through the entire company.

When examining employee attitudes, start with your own. Be genuinely interested in the other people you work with—not only employees but also customers and suppliers. Respect your employees’ dignity. Let them know that they are important to you and your business and that high performance will be rewarded.  Help employees identify realistic approaches to making them feel fulfilled by their jobs. While you want to be sensitive to the emotions of employees, do not ignore poor performance.  When an employee does not perform up to standards or has made a mistake, meet with him or her in private to discuss the issue.

Include your employees as team members. Ask for their suggestions and respect their ideas-even if you do not always agree with them. When you implement an idea contributed by an employee, remember to give the employee credit. This practice helps all employees see their value to the company the way you see it.

Allow employees input into the business operation when you can reasonably do so. For example, if your small business were to conduct an employee survey, would you then be willing to respond by making changes in the business? If left unaddressed, the problem areas that surface within companies and can lead to employee dissent and hinder productivity in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

If you would like to discuss employee surveys and team-building, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of volunteer counselors providing free, confidential advice to entrepreneurs. For the Grand Rapids SCORE chapter, call 1-616/771-0305, or find a counselor online at https://grandrapids.score.org.

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Staff up for success

Every business, it seems, cites people as being its most important resource. Why? Because any business, regardless of size, is only as good as the people who work there, from the owner and managers to the newest entry-level staffer.

As an employer, you want to hire and retain employees most qualified for the positions within your company. To do this, you need to define who you are looking for, and what is expected of them once they are on board.

Policy standards are a must. Begin with a personnel manual that explains your policy for hours, overtime, fringe benefits, sick leave, annual leave, training, dress code, personnel reviews, grievances, termination, and retirement. Every employee should have his or her own copy of this manual. In addition, consider giving every job applicant a copy for review.

Each position within the company, including your own, should have a job description that outlines the responsibilities and duties of such position. This job description should also include a list of the objectives of such position with specific and measurable goals. Each description should also include reporting relationships. The job description provides you and the employee a clear road map for the expectations of the position, from the standpoint of both workload and expertise required to accomplish the job.

Job application forms for your company should be simple and focus on relevant employment history, including names of supervisors and references you can contact. Provide space for the applicant to summarize career accomplishments.

At the interview stage, you want to learn as much as possible about the person’s job skills, work ethic and personality. Ask specific questions that require more than a yes or no answer. The more dialogue you have, the more you learn about the applicant. More information will help you make an informed decision.

Always check references.  Competent and friendly employees make a positive statement about your business to customers. An applicant who interviews well and has a sterling resume may be the ideal fit for the job. References will validate your impressions and expand on areas not covered in the interview. This is also a way to learn more about potential weaknesses as well. What a reference says or does not say gives you clues as to the character and skill of your candidates. Take all this information into account before you form your final opinion of a given candidate.

If you are interested in developing staffing guidelines, policies, and application and interview procedures, contact SCORE a nonprofit organization of volunteer business counselors who provide free and confidential to advice to present and future entrepreneurs.  To reach the Grand Rapids SCORE chapter, call 1-616/771-0305, or go online at grandrapids.score.org.

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