A collaboration for economic development

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — It was a meeting of the four pillars of business Thursday night.

Representatives from Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce, Kinexus, the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance and SCORE were on hand at Watermark Brewing Co. to give tips to potential and current business owners.

The “Come See What’s Brewing” gathering gave the public an opportunity to listen to ideas on the planning, funding, education and networking that would help run a business in Southwest Michigan.

Among those in the crowd was Jeff Hannan, a business development manager with Kinexus.

Hannan said the event, which had been planned about six weeks prior, was a way to collaborate with the other business support organizations that serve Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

Hannan normally helps small businesses with their financial projections and business plans, but instead touched based on how much of an impact all four organizations could make together.

“This is about all of us getting together and collaborating with each other,” Hannan said. “This way we can use each other as resources. It can be confusing for a customer if they have to go to multiple places to talk to people. We tend to favor joint meetings with clients.”

One of the goals these groups are looking to complete in 2017 is to work together on workshops and come up with a calendar of events that each organization can contribute to in one way or another.

Hannan called it a “one-stop effort.”

Bob Kynast, a certified mentor with SCORE, said they were hoping to have an event where people could just mingle. The event was a way to explain what each organization’s strengths were in the business community.

Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce is best known as an advocate for local business owners that gives customers exposure through marketing and social media campaigns.

Kinexus does work beforehand by helping start businesses, while offering financial and marketing assistance.

The Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance operates as a business resource center that works to build financial independence for female entrepreneurs.

And SCORE has a mixed bag of volunteer mentors who work with small business owners and nonprofits with everyday problems. These volunteers have an assortment of skills that involve every job sector.

Kynast said the idea to hold it at the Stevensville brewery because the majority of the business organizations had been involved in getting Watermark started.

Each group had a table with information and a representative to talk to.

Outside of a few financial literacy workshops, there’s not much interaction between the four business organizations, said Women’s Business Center Manager Margaret Adams.

She said this gathering was an opportunity to network and make sure people knew what they did in a less-than-formal business setting.

“This is more of an informal setting, where people can get to know one another,” Adams said. “If they don’t need our services, at least they’re aware of us and can refer us to other individuals.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 21, 2016)

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