The SURGE Celebration marked the first time the group’s network of entrepreneurs and startups had seen each other in more than a year. As the COVID-19 restrictions banned in-person gatherings, participants stayed connected online.
More than a hundred people gathered under sunny skies in the late afternoon of June 17 outside of the Holland Civic Center. Despite the challenges of last year, SURGE is seeing greater demand for its services.
“There’s been an uptick in people wanting to start a business and wanting to connect. It’s been amazing to watch how startups step up to help each other out,” says Amanda Chocko, director of entrepreneurship at Lakeshore Advantage.
SURGE, the entrepreneurial support organization managed by Lakeshore Advantage, helps startup companies navigate to their next growth milestones and receives funding through the Holland SmartZone.
The results of the past five years are impressive: 135 startups raised more than $38 million in capital, creating or retaining 400 jobs.
Jordan Vanderham, on the right, at his Orindi Gear booth at the SURGE Celebration on June 17, 2021. (JaymiJoy Photography)
Jordan Vanderham, 26, is one of those success stories. He has been part of SURGE since graduating from GVSU in 2018.
“SURGE has given me a community to get more serendipitous touchpoints among people,” says Vanderham. “I am a young entrepreneur and I'm only as smart as the smartest person in the room. So this gives me a chance to work for myself and for my endeavor, but still get the touchpoint of these brilliant people.”
He was one of several entrepreneurs at the event with a booth, displaying his product. His business, Orindi Gear
, makes cold-weather masks that help filter air safely for workers in below-freezing temperatures.
“This event really makes me really appreciate the community that we've intentionally built together,” Vanderham says.
The SURGE Celebration at Holland's Civic Center drew more than 100 people. (JaymiJoy Photography)
It’s been nearly 50 years since Gentex was a garage startup, but the Zeeland technology company is a major financial supporter of Lakeshore Advantage and SURGE. Growing the next generation of business not only is good for the West Michigan economy, but it attracts talent to the area.
“It’s always fun to see people are so excited here when they're showing the product. They’ve got a lot of motherhood in it,” says Craig Piersma, Gentex director of marketing and corporate communications. “So much of innovation is pure sheer will. Anybody can have an idea but, getting it to market, there are 1,000 things to overcome.”
Lakeshore Advantage introduces Gentex interns to their new home in West Michigan
Entrepreneurial GVSU grad finds success with cold-weather masks