Shop (Super) Small: Microbusinesses in SW Michigan

What’s a “microbusiness”? Just what it sounds like: a business that operates on a small scale, typically with five or fewer employees. This article is kicking off a series where we’re focusing on some MICRO-microbusinesses: super-small enterprises, often run from home with just one employee: the owner!

From herbal medicine to handmade furniture, the following establishments bring new meaning to the word “shop small” – allowing you to procure really unique products while supporting the local business community in a whole new way.

Tiny Native Boutique

Michigan-inspired onesies from Southwest Michigan owned Tiny Native.
Tiny Native owner Kelsey Yech

Southwest Michigan native and mom of two Kelsey Yech started Tiny Native to showcase her love of her home state. “I started creating hand dyed and customized onesies for my son while pregnant, and fell in love with the process and adorable results,” she says. “My Etsy shop features many Michigan and boho-inspired onesies and shirts, and I also love creating custom orders!” Tiny businesses like Tiny Native hold an important place in the local business ecosystem, says Yech: “Being a very small business allows me to focus on creating unique products while also giving excellent and personal customer service. Every order I receive, and every positive review brings a smile to my face.” Shop Tiny Native on Etsy.  

Create with Clay Mobile Pottery Studio

Create whimsical works of art with Create With Clay
Debi Bishop, owner of Create with Clay.

During the early pandemic, Debi Bishop got an idea for a business that would help people – through art. “I just felt people needed a way to laugh, play, reconnect, and decompress,” says Bishop, who decided to put her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis on ceramic art to work and open Create with Clay, a mobile pottery studio. “We bring pottery wheels, clay and tools to a location and guide participants in various projects. Sessions are taught by me and the time commitment is just a few hours,” Bisho explains. “This is a personal experience you can’t get online or in a any big box store.”   
While her studio is currently under construction and set to open in March, you can connect with Create With Clay now on Facebook or by visiting the website.

Kindred Root Herbals

Maria Falce, owner of Kindred Root

“At Kindred Root, I hand make all of the products I sell, from growing and wild harvesting many of the herbs, drying them for teas, making them into tinctures/vinegars” says owner, herbalist and integrative healing expert Maria Falce. “I source the herbs I cannot grow or find from other small herb farmers, supporting their businesses. And when I have to buy an herb from a larger company, I make sure they are supporting smaller farms with their buying habits.” Falce’s approach to running her tiny business is centered around her beliefs around healing and wellness. “I believe that healing starts with right relationship…with yourself and with the earth. Locally sourced herbs grown and harvested with integrity, formulated specifically for you and your body, fosters that relationship.” Since Falce herself is doing the growing, preparing, and formulating, she’s able to facilitate that connection for her customers. “As a community herbalist, I can take the time to sit with you and listen deeply to everything you are holding and formulate from there.” Falce lists her Triple B, Blackberry Balsamic Bitters, as well as her spice blends and customizable loose-leaf tea blends as some of her favorite products. “I use these products every single day in my kitchen,” she says. Find Kindred Root on Facebook or check out the website.

Cardinal Furniture Co.

A Midcentury Modern Piece from Cardinal Furniture Co.
Walnut midcentury clock from Cardinal Furniture Co.

Ryan Maly has always had a passion for building things. The Southwest Michigan native’s dad was a contractor for many years, and while working for the family business, Ryan found that he enjoyed all aspects of building – but particularly the detail work: painting, trim work, cabinetry, and the like. After graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in marketing, Maly spent several years in the business world, but every spare moment found him in his garage, designing and building furniture. In early 2020, Ryan lost his job like many hardworking Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and found a silver lining: more time to do the one thing he was most passionate about. After building several pieces, friends and family began to inquire about building pieces for them. Word spread, and the rest, Maly says, is history.

Cardinal Furniture Co. is best known for mainstay items like the popular walnut boomerang clock pictured above, but Maly also enjoys working with clients to bring their visions to life with commissioned pieces. Follow Cardinal Furniture Co. on Facebook and Instagram, or visit the website.
You can also email hello@cardinalfurnitureco.com to learn more about commissioning a piece.

Ultimately, Southwest Michigan residents should remember that super-small businesses are an important part of the business landscape and the community at large, and a great way to get can’t-find-elsewhere goods and excellent customer service. “The unique thing about a micro-business is the level of passion and dedication we have,” says Maly. “Microbusiness owners are some of the hardest working and most passionate people out there. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears go into what we do.” When asked the best way to support a super-small business like Cardinal Furniture Co, Maly says, ‘Referrals are worth their weight in gold. Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to help support us in the local market. Even something as simple as passing our name along or sharing a post on social media helps more people find out about us.”

This article was brought to you by Forever Clean Soap Works – a Berrien County “microbusiness” carrying nontoxic, handmade personal-care products. From delicious-smelling hand soaps, lotions, shower gels and candles, to a whole line of men’s products, Forever Clean is stocked with unique products to help you feel – and smell! – your best. Check out their gift packages for a special someone!

Forever Clean Soap Works, just south of Martin’s Supermarket on Cleveland Avenue in St. Joseph

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