Charitable giving by Cherryland Electric Cooperative, DTE Energy Foundation, the Brookby Foundation and private citizens paved the way for 37 small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to receive grants totaling $83,000 from Venture North, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit created to support business and job growth in northwest Michigan.

The Regional Resiliency Fund was created in June from a grant of $200,000 from the Consumers Energy Foundation to Venture North to help small businesses with nine or fewer employees hurt by the pandemic in Benzie, Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties with grants of up to $5,000.

“We received 301 applications requesting over $1.3 million in grants through the first two rounds of the Regional Resiliency Fund,” says Laura Galbraith, Executive Director of Venture North. “We estimate that these small businesses have reserve cash to cover 14 to 27 days, which is simply insufficient. Many of these businesses were forced to close earlier in the year due to the pandemic and then had difficulty finding employees and recovering lost sales. We want to keep awarding small grants as quickly as possible with the recommendations of our local grant application review teams. With the current absence of additional federal support and autumn rapidly approaching, we encourage businesses, charitable organizations and individuals to contribute to the Regional Resiliency Fund to help sustain small businesses that are the heartbeat of northwest Michigan.”

Galbraith says discussions are underway with several other counties interested in involvement in the program and that a third round of grants would be made available with additional contributions.

“A recent estimate suggests that over half the workers in our 10-county region are vulnerable because of the ongoing health crisis,” Galbraith adds. “Losses in four of our leading sectors could amount to well more than one billion dollars. Those sectors include accommodations, food services, retail, real estate and construction, many of which are small businesses. As Bloomberg News recently reported, business failures often go uncounted because real-time data is scarce. Thousands of small businesses that are under threat nationally can go bankrupt without the knowledge of the general public.”

Regional Resiliency Fund, Second Round Grantees


Benzie County
Clark Automotive
Field Crafts
Governmental Products
JBM Management (Grey
The Betsie Current

Grand Traverse County
2 Chefs Hearth Eatery (Great
Lakes Chocolate)
45th Parallel Lighting
Ben Whiting Productions
Building Blocks Preschool
Cherry Country Café & Gift Shop
Conradie Event Design
Dream Lab Industries
Great Lakes Clinical Message
Green House Café
Hang Workshop
Higher Art Gallery
Hodges Fastener Corporation
Kilcherman Receiving
L William Consulting
Mitchell Creek Inn
Northern Lights Chiropractic
Sanctuary Handcrafted Goods
Tabone Vineyards
TC Green Clean
The Dish Cafe
Thornton Ventures
Tin Can Printing
Toy Harbor
White on Rice Sushi

Leelanau County
Heartwood Forest Farm
IndieGrow Flower Farm
Martha’s Leelanau Table
Poppy Things
Rove Estate Vineyard &
Two Twisted Trees
Wiggle Butts & Waggin Tails

“Our organization provides the caring and tools to prepare children for kindergarten,” says Amy Mayersky, who owns and operates Building Blocks Preschool and Child Development Center in Traverse City. “We have about 30 participants, ages 2 through 5. We were closed for three months, opened short-handed and have been working 12-hour days to do what needs to be done. From the cost of cleaning supplies to the basic operating costs, the grant is helping us meet the basic needs of our kids and families.”

“We make bean to bar chocolate at Great Lakes Chocolate Company,” says David Sicotte, who owns and runs the business with Shana Sicotte. “So, the cost of organic cocoa beans is critical to our business model. With this grant, we can buy beans in a larger quantity at a lower price, which improves our gross margins so we can preserve pricing as well as our bottom-line goals.”

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community,” said Tony Anderson, general manager of Cherryland Electric Cooperative. “For many, 2020 is the most difficult year they’ve had because of the pandemic, and we must continue to dig deep to support our friends and neighbors through this most difficult time.”