Trained French pastry chef and baker, Sandy Bierlein, owner of Sweet Sandy B’s in the historic shopping district in downtown Bay City, MI has been perfecting her special recipe for success since she was a little girl.
“It all begins with love and passion,” said Bierlein. “As a child I loved watching my mom bake, as I grew older baking was my passion.” When she was in college, Bierlein made it her mission to make the best chocolate chip cookies.
As her passion for baking intensified, she learned that although many people may have a favorite food, most everyone loved sweets. She also saw how sharing a homemade treat could bring about a smile and turn a bad day around. It was then that Bierlein decided to create a plan that would take her from the kitchen of her home to a busy downtown storefront.
To be successful, Bierlein knew she had to receive professional training and enrolled in the French Pastry School in Chicago where she learned from world renowned pastry chefs. After she graduated, Bierlein worked as a Pastry in Midland, MI while experimenting with her recipes at home. She has been selling her baked goods through word-of-mouth referrals and online sales at www.sweetsandyb.com.
When Bierlein was ready to rent her first commercial kitchen, she had no idea where to start. That’s when she began working with a certified business consultant from the SBA funded Small Business and Technology Development Center. “My consultant Deb Wieland was amazing to work with,” said Bierlein. “She asked the right questions and got me on the right path in moving my business forward.”
Bierlein also needed to fund her business and turned to the Grand Rapids-based Start Garden venture capital firm that provides seed money to entrepreneurs. Experienced advisors and online voters select two entrepreneurs each week to receive funding. Bierlein won the online vote and was awarded $5,000!
“I was so overwhelmed by this precious gift of money,” stated Bierlein. “I wanted to be sure to use it wisely and effectively!” She purchased her commercial refrigerator and paid for a professional branding package. She had just enough left over to put the finishing touches on her storefront in time for her grand opening on Sept. 1, 2012. Sweet Sandy B’s is a good old-fashioned neighborhood bakery with a retro style.
Bierlein supports her community by using local ingredients and fresh fruit from area orchards. “Everything is made fresh daily - not mass produced the night before,” said Bierlein. “I listen to my customers. I get to know them, their likes and dislikes, and make sweets that are customized for them!”
With the help of SBA, Bierlein has realized her dream of business success and plans to expand her product line to include more than just baked goods.
JEMS Technology LLC, an Orion, Michigan firm is revolutionizing the way health care professionals do business. The company develops and manufactures a telemedicine solution that has many applications in the health care industry.
Using a smart device or cell phone, a physician can consult a surgery, a neurologist can complete a full stroke evaluation, a family practioner can practice medicine, or an injured or ailing prisoner can be safely diagnosed - without the imminent dangers of transportation. JEMS is the only company in the world that provides consultative physicians with a live video that is secure anytime and anywhere by delivering a live streaming video to a physician’s smart device using WIFI or 3 and 4 g networks.
The company has had great success in the U.S. selling to health care facilities and EMS vehicles and was looking to test the waters in the Chinese healthcare market. Research indicated that this technology would be of significant clinical value in China, a country in which there is a limited number of physicians, very large geography and low doctor per person ratio in densely populated areas.
The company needed assistance with navigating international distribution channels and funding to cover marketing costs. That’s where the SBA’s State Trade and Export Program grant program, administered through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, stepped in. “SBA and the MEDC provided guidance and reimbursed us for the marketing costs we incurred,” said Kevin Lasser, CEO. JEMS is working through an established distribution team in China that has enabled it to target hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the country, in both urban and rural areas. The funds helped JEMS secure contracts and transactions for a group of hospitals in Shanghai, where the total business opportunity exceeds $10M. Ron Perry, Director of International Business for JEMS, said, “The Chinese healthcare market presents a tremendous opportunity. There is great demand for mobile medical solutions in China and the JEMS system is well-suited to serve the needs of healthcare providers in a number of clinical disciplines.”
STEP grant funding will support participation in foreign trade missions, foreign market sales trips, subscriptions to services provided by the Department of Commerce, website translations fees, design of international marketing media, trade show exhibitions, participation in training workshops, and other critical export initiatives. For more information on the program, visit http://www.michiganadvantage.org/STEP.
The SBA funded Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance in Benton Harbor, MI is proud of the accomplishments of Patricia McMichael, a client of the WBC. Her new business venture, Always There HHC, LLC, a quality home health care service business is the result of much hard work, years of experience and a lot of help from Cornerstone Alliance. The company provides home health care services to clients in need of additional assistance with day to day living. Examples of services provided include, but are not limited to, meal preparation, medication reminders, grooming guidance, and respite care services. The mission of Always There HHC, LLC is to provide its clients with continued support towards a positive quality of life.
Patricia McMichael worked in the elderly care field for many years and in doing so, she found her passion to take care of those that needed one-on-one help and support. After finding her passion, she decided to become a Certified Nurse Assistant and take the next step in her profession and open her own business. Working with Women's Business Center Program Manager Margaret Adams, Patricia utilized the tools, resource, and support provided to achieve her goal of starting Always There HHC, LLC. Since opening, Patricia has been able to employ 5 individuals and is hoping to hire additional staff as the business grows.