Community co-op and tech company take home top prizes at this year’s Scale Up North Awards

What’s happening: A locally owned cooperative grocer and a tech startup that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) took home the top prizes at this year’s Scale Up North Awards, demonstrating that businesses making use of methods tried and true, as well as those harnessing the future, are thriving in the Grand Traverse region. The third annual Scale Up North Awards took place at the City Opera House in Traverse City on May 5. Economic development organization Traverse Connect organizes the annual competition, which recognizes those businesses scaling up in the Grand Traverse region.

Winners’ circle: Taking home the 2022 Emerging Business Award is the Traverse City-based FirstIgnite, the growing tech firm that utilizes AI to connect companies, consultants, and investors with academic experts and university research. The prize package includes a $2,500 cash prize and more than $20,000 in in-kind business services, including consulting services from Hagerty, a spot at the 20Fathoms co-working space, and more.

Winning the 2022 Hagerty Scaling Business Award is Oryana Community Cooperative, a co-op grocer locally owned and based in Traverse City. The growing grocer celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023. The grand prize nets the co-op a $5,000 cash prize and a prize package valued at more than $41,000, including in-kind business services that include consulting and professional development services, employment law counseling, and more.

What they’re saying: “Traverse City can be seen as a tourist destination with great restaurants and retail and outdoor destinations — and we have all those things. But we want people to know that Traverse City has a great year-round, world class economy, too,” says Camille Hoisington, director of Ecosystem Development, Traverse Connect. “There’s more to Traverse City than beautiful beaches and hiking trails, which we also have, but it’s also a great place to do business.”

Synergy: The 2022 Scale Up North Awards took place the week before the return of Northern Michigan Startup Week, which opened May 9 and runs through May 15. That’s not lost on Hoisington, who says that the two separate events could sync up as soon as next year.

“We really want to incorporate this into the new Startup Week. It’s definitely something to look at for next year,” she says. “Scale Up and Startup Week are happening because there is a very vibrant startup ecosystem here, so it makes sense to somehow combine the two as a public demonstration of the great things happening here in Traverse City.”