A total of 70 small Northern Michigan businesses are receiving $200,000 in grant awards ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 from the nonprofit Venture North to address issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. The purpose of the program, initiated with a grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation to Venture North of $200,000, is to keep businesses in Benzie, Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties with nine or fewer employees open and operating safely.

Appreciations from funded businesses are flooding in from the three counties, demonstrating the impact of the first round of grants for small businesses in the region.

“The Regional Resiliency Program encourages and empowers small businesses to make dynamic shifts during this pandemic that may not have otherwise been possible. We are so grateful to use these funds to pivot our taproom service and reopen our doors to the community in a safe manner. Nourishing our community from the inside out is Cultured Kombucha Co.’s passion, and the Regional Resiliency Program is helping make that possible,” says Courtney Lorenz, owner of Cultured Ferments.

“We truly appreciate your kindness and generosity! It means so much to our small farm and business. You give us hope and even more determination to be successful with your grant! We know it’s been a struggle for many small and large businesses, and we feel honored to be blessed with your assistance! We promise to continue to work hard and make it! Thank you over again and again,” says Christine and David Nelson, owners of Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm.
Grant funds will be transferred to the accounts of the grant recipients the week of June 22. Funding among the three counties was as follows:

County // Number of Businesses // Total Grant Amount // Number of Grant Applications

Benzie // 20 //$50,000 // 52
Grand Traverse // 28 // $100,000 // 150
Leelanau // 22 // $50,000 // 60

“While the use of funds varied greatly, they will be used for the same main purposes—to keep small businesses open and to operate safely,” says Laura Galbraith, Executive Director of Venture North. “We are pleased to report that we are receiving additional grants and donations, so there will be a second round of grant funding. We expect some of those who did not receive funding this round will eventually succeed. Also, funds are still available through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and we encourage all businesses or nonprofits that have not applied to this program to do so now since the funding will be cut off the last day of June. We are encouraging donors and granting agencies or foundations to contact us if they are interested in helping small businesses. We estimate that over half of these small businesses have not received any financial relief to help with costs attributed to the pandemic.”

Galbraith says that PPP funds might be used for similar purposes as the R.R.F. funds, including wages, rent, lease expenses, utilities, inventories and others. She said that Venture North will assist anyone interested in P.P.P. to get on a track to apply for those funds. Contacts to help with P.P.P. or answer questions about the R.R.F. program are:

Laura Galbraith
231-357-6776 (All three counties)

Betsy Evans
231-383-2798 (Benzie County only)

Elise Crafts
231-313-7116 (Leelanau County only)

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner