Eastside Neighborhood

Thinking of starting a small Eastside business? Now's the time!

It’s a great time to start a small or micro business or get help with an existing one on Kalamazoo’s Eastside.

Thanks to the City of Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Eastside Neighborhood Association (KENA), and other local non-profits, financial and mentorship assistance is plentiful. Small business owners only have to ask.

“I am totally impressed, amazed and hopeful about the amount of resources that are available to small business owners right now,” says Pat Taylor, KENA Director. “The Eastside is just ripe for acquiring property and land, and small business owners really couldn’t pick a better spot to have an easier time of it. We are ready and willing to help.”

At a small business seminar that took place at KENA in December, over a dozen residents gathered to hear representatives from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Western Michigan University’s Small Business Development Center, and the City of Kalamazoo discuss available loans, grants, and support.

Foundation for Excellence offering small business grants and loans

“It’s an exciting time to be starting a business in the city,” said Dwayne Powell, Jr., a neighborhood business and special projects coordinator for the city, as he outlined the various new small business loans and grants the city began offering in late 2018. “We like to under-promise and over-deliver.”

Through the Foundation of Excellence, grants up to $25,000 are now available for small businesses to help with facade improvements in the city’s urban core (downtown, Edison, Northside and Eastside). An additional $25,000 is available for loans. Applicable projects include siding, signage, or storefront improvements, for instance, but would not include roofing, Powell said.

Grants of up to $2,500 are also available for technical, legal, marketing or accounting assistance. And business loans of up to $35,000 are also available through the Capital Consortium if banks have not approved desired loans due to credit scores.  
Powell says the city is trying to lessen barriers for new, small or micro business starts by decreasing the necessity to have a large credit score or financial resources. “We are in the business of supporting the underserved,” he says.

LISC offering matching KIVA loans of up to $5,000 

As an initiative to encourage existing small business, LISC is matching KIVA loans of up to $5,000, which means a total of $10,000. The application process requires those interested to secure the endorsement of a certified KIVA Trustee, which currently includes Taylor at KENA and Tammy Taylor at the Edison Neighborhood Association. Here’s a link to the program.

While anyone can apply for crowdfunding through KIVA, the LISC match needs application and approval. More information is available through the neighborhood associations.

Business consultants offer their expertise free of charge

For consulting services, SMBDC at WMU and SCORE Kalamazoo, 1126 Gull Road, have business experts that provide small business support free of charge.  Most of the consultants have owned or run their own businesses and have experience and access to a wide variety of resources to ease all aspects of starting or maintaining a business.

“We’re here to assist you in whatever you think you need to keep things going,” said John Schmitt, Senior Business Consultant. 

Taylor says she’s excited about the future of business development on the Eastside.

“Thousands of cars go through East Main, Gull Road, and East Michigan, monthly and the Eastside is an easy drive from any side of town so it would be easy for a new business to secure a large clientele,” says Taylor. “The time to start a small Eastside business couldn’t be better.”

Read more articles by Theresa Coty O'Neil.

Theresa Coty O’Neil is a freelance writer, editor, and writing teacher with over two decades of covering people, places, and events in the Kalamazoo community. She is the Project Editor of On the Ground Kalamazoo.
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