Press Release - Updated
Start Garden adapts Michigan’s most popular business competition to support entrepreneurs who have been forced to shut down by COVID-19.
The 100 Comeback Fund provides $300,000 in small grants dedicated to individual entrepreneurs and their families as they make their comeback.
(GRAND RAPIDS, MI) Apr 3, 2020 – An organization known for funding new business ideas through the Start Garden 100 has adapted this competition to relieve entrepreneurs whose businesses are critically impacted by COVID-19. Today, Start Garden launched The 100 Comeback with $300,000 of its own money to provide grants for qualified entrepreneurs who can then use the money to support themselves and their families and stay safe and work to make their comeback.
Start Garden stresses that The 100 Comeback is not a small business relief fund, but rather a grant to support the personal needs of entrepreneurs, so they can regroup and adapt during this unprecedented time.
Entrepreneurs can learn more or submit an application online at 100.startgarden.com between Tuesday, April 7 at 8:00AM until Saturday, April 11 at noon. Individuals and organizations wishing to contribute to The 100 Comeback also can do so on the website.
“Our community, our residents and Entrepreneurship itself is in crisis right now,” said Jorge Gonzalez, Start Garden co-director. “While most federal and state relief is about businesses and their employees, none address the entrepreneurs who didn't have the time to grow their business to the point that their own families are supported for the next few months.”
For our entrepreneur community, their problem solving, determination and creativity is incredible to see right now. Many just didn't have enough time to grow their business to weather this storm. New entrepreneurs often defer paying themselves in order to grow their business and they can’t lay themselves off. Almost all federal and state small business relief comes in the form of loans, and many new businesses can’t risk the additional leverage.
As the pandemic continued to make headlines and creep its way into West Michigan, Start Garden leaders huddled to discuss how to respond to the reality that the impact on entrepreneurs will last months, with ripple effects lasting perhaps years. Their biggest initiative, currently underway, was the annual Start Garden 100, which provides $300,000 in prize money to 100 new ideas. The 2020 version of the event was recently announced and submissions were well underway.
“It wouldn’t be right for Start Garden to award funds to new business ideas while a generation of entrepreneurs gets knocked down, not knowing if they can get back up,” said Start Garden co-director Paul Moore. “We exist to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem. To not do this would feel like we’re turning our backs on our risk-takers when they need us most.”
Start Garden officials hope the idea catches on in the business and philanthropic community and more funds can be added to the initial amount.
“West Michigan has a big heart, so we hope this idea sparks interest from those who can help out,” said Start Garden Program Director, Laurie Supinski. “We’re making calls, but we also invite individuals and corporations to contact us.”
Who qualifies for The 100 Comeback Fund?
Current business owners who:
- Have a demonstrated personal need
- Can verify their business was shut down, or severely impacted, as a result of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders
- Can verify the business has a loyal customer base
- Is located (or has a registered addresses) in Kent County or has been selected in the past to participate in the Start Garden 100 or 5x5 Night (Updated 04/06/2020)
Any business that fits the above criteria is encouraged to apply. Furthermore, additional allocations are available for minority- and women-owned businesses and tech companies that are connected with the Grand Rapids SmartZone.
How do entrepreneurs apply?
All applications must be submitted between Tuesday, April 7, starting at 8:00AM to Saturday, April 11, at noon EDT. First, entrepreneurs can register at 100.startgarden.com. There, they record and upload a 100 second video that answers 3 simple questions:
- What does your household need to get through the next few months? (You are not obligated to open your business right away. Instead, take the time needed to be safe, navigate this new business landscape and plan for the future.)
- Share a little about your business: How long has it been open? What do you do? Who are your customers?
- How has the COVID-19 shut down impacted you/your business?
“The funds we provide are not expected to be repaid, nor are we expecting any investment or favors from anyone,” said Start Garden co-director Darel Ross II. “No entrepreneur should be worried about safety and shelter for their family, while carrying the burden to figure out how to reopen and rehire when the dust settles.”
“Although Start Garden has always been about getting new ideas and aspiring entrepreneurs off the ground, the reality is, entrepreneurship itself is going to be a disaster area if we don’t step in and support them during this difficult period,” said Start Garden Program Director, Laurie Supinki. “We need local and diverse entrepreneurs to stay strong for the spirit of entrepreneurship to stay alive.”
Anyone interested in contributing or learning more about The 100 Comeback Fund can contact Laurie Supinski, Program Director & Belen Salas, Program Assistant firstname.lastname@example.org or visit 100.startgarden.com.