MYPros offers opportunity for crowdfunding support

Expanding businesses and growing entrepreneurship are both signs of a thriving community. The Midland Business Alliance and Midland Young Professionals (MYPros) aim to facilitate that growth, and lift up local businesses with Community Crowdfund. Applications are being accepted until Feb. 28. Local businesses are welcome to apply for funds for their current business and future expansion plans. 

Marybeth M. Penkala, director, membership & partner engagement at the Midland Business Alliance (MBA), says the organization works hard to grow and support businesses in the community. MYPros is a program under the MBA aimed at attracting and retaining young professionals in the area. With over 250 active members, MYPros hosts more than 30 events each year like coffee meetups, grub clubs, and volunteer opportunities each month to encourage young leaders to grow and plant roots here. 
Grove Tea Lounge received MYPros Crowdfunding in 2022.
Penkala says the crowdfunding campaign idea started a few years back. “The goal is to support growing businesses in our area, and to create places that we can gather and support through crowdfunding,” she says.

Kevin LaDuke, communications officer at the Midland Area Community Foundation and MYPros Crowdfunding Subcommittee member, says the crowdfunding is representative of MYPros’ dedication to building a livelihood, investing in current and future businesses, and creating a sense of place. 

“One of our critical opportunities here in Midland is the development and retention of talent,” he says. “This crowdfund is really a manifestation of trying to create places for people, enhance the locations we have, and expand upon the options for third place here in Midland.”

The third place idea is the concept that communities need more places outside of their homes, and their work locations to enjoy. Previous crowdfunding winners include Aster, Grove Tea Lounge, Aviator Cookie Company and Pizza Baker for things like bigger freezers, more equipment, outdoor expansions and more.

“Grove Tea Lounge got crowdfunds last year and expanded their outdoor patio. Now they have a playground, a gated area, a patio for people to meet, work, and gather,” Penkala says.
Aster, a restaurant in downtown Midland, has been a MYPros Crowdfund recipient.
LaDuke says the campaign’s funds are traditionally used for one specific expansion project. “We’re looking for places that want to make a community impact, drive some energy and excitement. No idea is too big and no idea is too small, we’re just looking to support growth here in Midland,” he says.

After applications are gathered, the Crowdfunding Subcommittee reviews them, and rates each applicant. At the Wakeup! Midland event on May 5, the winning business is revealed to the community, and the crowdfunding portion via Patronicity goes live. The Patronicity platform allows businesses to offer specific incentives like pins, stickers, or   t-shirt giveaways for specific tier donors. 

Penkala says it typically only takes a few weeks for the supportive Midland community to reach the donation goal. “The goal is $10,000,” says Penkala. “In years past, the Midland Area Community Foundation matched that $10,000. That’s never a guarantee, but if we can make it happen, we do that to further support the business.” 

LaDuke says the crowdfund is a collaborative effort, with many moving parts. “As an entity, we do not grant to businesses, but we can grant to the Midland Business Alliance who is a nonprofit in our area, and they can utilize those funds to match the crowdfund,” he says.

MYPros community partners also help support the diverse programming the organization puts on, including Grove Tea Lounge, Saginaw Valley State University, Central Michigan University, Members First Credit Union, Dow Credit Union, MyMichigan Health, and Consumers Energy. 

“We’re thankful for the support of businesses like those who show that they’re a community partner, and support the retention of young professionals in our area. Otherwise, we might not have the growth we do in our area, without keeping the young professionals here,” Penkala says. 

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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at