SPARK to offer scholarships for Start Your Own Business program through Chemical Bank partnership

Ann Arbor SPARK will soon make changes to its Starting Your Own Business (SYOB) program, including offering scholarships to qualifying individuals, thanks to a partnership with Chemical Bank.


Ben Harrington, associate director of entrepreneurial services for SPARK, says the SYOB program has been running for many years in different iterations at Ann Arbor SPARK East, the organization's business incubator at 215 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti. The one-day intensive course is offered monthly except in December, teaching small business owners and entrepreneurs a broad range of skills from business plan development to marketing strategy.


Harrington says the SYOB program allows SPARK to connect with more entrepreneurs and help people it doesn't encounter through its other offerings.


"The program provides an additional layer of support for entrepreneurs that are a little too early on to take advantage of our other programs," Harrington says. "It's also for people who are starting businesses outside SPARK's focus area of technology."


Chemical Bank has partnered with SPARK on various programs over the years, and the recent partnership is just an extension of the pre-existing relationship. Chemical Bank will provide funding so that qualified individuals can have the $25 fee for the SYOB program waived.


Harrington says the details are still being worked out, but he expects the scholarships will be based on financial need and a demonstration that the person receiving the scholarship is serious about small business ownership. Harrington says the bar for receiving a scholarship won't be set especially high and that he would ideally like to give out as many as possible.


Chemical Bank will also contribute to SYOB curriculum for a 2019 program revamp. Harrington says past surveys of participants found a large need for information and resources around funding. Chemical Bank is uniquely poised to help in that area, he says, helping entrepreneurs learn about options from micro-loans to private equity.


"A larger component of what Chemical Bank can offer is putting all the options on the table and educating people as to when it makes sense to take advantage of different resources, and giving them tools to make decisions on their own," Harrington says.


More information about the SYOB program is available here.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at


Photo courtesy of SPARK.

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