If an entrepreneur was to ask me what Start Garden is and what they do, I would tell them it is our community's best tool to help them with their endeavors. As CEO of Soldadera Coffee, I have known about Start Garden since 2010 and have seen it grow, expand, and, most importantly, connect with the entrepreneurial community. Thanks to Start Garden, many good ideas that have been floating around in our city have developed into great businesses and created new community partnerships.
I genuinely believe Start Garden is a hub for the community's economic growth and well-being in Grand Rapids. Their ability to work with so many different kinds of startup companies is fantastic. The biggest thing I have seen that no other entrepreneurship organization has done is tap into the diverse community that makes Grand Rapids great.
Soldadera Coffee continues to grow, but it all started with an idea and the support of the great team at Start Garden. Their heartfelt openness and ability to connect and communicate with anyone that walks in their front door (well, pre-COVID, anway) is something that I have never seen before.
After many attempts to start a business, I had the opportunity to present the idea for Soldadera Coffee in the most unlikely of places — the parking lot of a Rite Aid pharmacy. One can say Soldadera Coffee was born in the streets of Grand Rapids, and they would be 100% correct, figuratively and literally. Our team, with a tip from a friend, told us about a Start Garden “99 Second Pitch” competition. I took a chance there and found hope and connections with an organization that cares for the community. Soldadera kept pushing to grow, and the hunger for growth was complemented by Start Garden resources and opportunities that are accessible to those who want them. This is shown through the 5x5 monthly competitions pitch competitions, which present an opportunity for individuals with an entrepreneurial drive to present their idea for a chance at seed money. It doesn’t end there: if your business is ready for the next step, their “100 Ideas'' event is genuinely life-changing. It demonstrates that if you are ready to launch your company to the next level of growth, the sky's the limit, if you let it be.
I want to thank Rick Devos, his organization, and all of the supporting funders, including the many private firms and the City of Grand Rapids, for seeing the positivity and economic growth impact organizations like these make. Mostly, I want to thank the Start Garden team for always willing to help and point us in the right direction. Their willingness to find ways to give you their best answer, guide, or source of information is unmatched. And anyone thinking of starting a business, young or old, techy or simple, Start Garden is the place that guides you on.
Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone, Celebrate with us through cultural cold brew.
CEO - Coffee Energy Officer