Building economically vibrant communities by funding innovative initiatives that foster entrepreneurship, advance projects of public-private partnerships, and enable underserved young adults to advance from lower-skilled jobs or unemployment.
- Developing sustainable, market-driven models that build opportunities and networks for aspiring entrepreneurs.
- Advancing workforce development efforts that position underserved young adults ages 18-35 to successfully find mid-level skilled jobs.
- Initiating or completing challenging projects through creative public-private alliances.
“We are thrilled to have a partner in the Walters Family Foundation that is committed to investing in small businesses in low-income communities.”
– Laura Galbraith, President, Venture North
Traverse City, MI (November 2023) - In Kalkaska, Michigan, more than 90 families rely on daily childcare services from the Blue Fish Early Learning Center. When the education-based center first opened in 2019, it answered a growing demand for infant and toddler daycare in the region. Blue Fish’s owner, Kristin Andrews, was committed to providing this essential service in her hometown, but she needed business and legal assistance as her center expanded. She turned to Venture North.
Venture North provides resources to help small businesses achieve their growth and prosperity plans. It particularly focuses on low-income communities. The organization helped Kristin expand into a 10,000 square-foot space. It provided a Small Business Growth Grant that funded a third-party appraisal and covered attorney fees to draft legal documents.
“We really wanted to help her succeed,” says Galbraith. “It's really difficult to find daycare facilities that have capacity in some of these rural communities.”
Blue Fish now employs 23 team members, provides childcare to over 130 children, and has a year-long waiting list. It’s small business success stories like these that highlight the importance of Venture North’s contribution.
“Small businesses are the heart of Northern Michigan,” says Dave Bos of Bos Wine, a Venture North grantee. “It’s super impressive to see their ability to believe in small businesses when a lot of times banks look at what we’re doing as crazy. When you own a small business and other people fight for you, it’s a big deal.”
Like Venture North, the Walters Family Foundation believes in the value of entrepreneurship, diverse perspectives, and innovative solutions to challenging problems. A two-year grant will support Venture North’s Small Business Growth Fund and provide technical assistance to over 30 small businesses in northwest Michigan. Priority will be given to underserved small businesses, especially those in Antrim, Kalkaska, Missaukee and Wexford counties.
“Our organization and the Walters Family Foundation share economic vitality as a core goal,” says Galbraith. “There isn't enough philanthropy to fill the need in a lot of these communities. And because the Walters have such a focus on the underserved, it's aligned with what we're trying to do. It’s really exciting to work with them and learn more about how we both can help northern Michigan.”