According to a 2021 nationwide survey on microbusinesses conducted by Venture Forward, Americans created 2.8 million more microbusinesses in 2020 than in the previous year. A microbusiness is generally defined as a business that operates on a small scale, typically with five or fewer employers. This article is part two of our series on microbusinesses featuring small shops making a big impact in Southwest Michigan.
From flower farmers to fusion food, here are four microbusinesses worth checking out in our area:
At the root of microbusinesses are entrepreneurs with a double dose of talent and passion. This is certainly true of Tim and Alicia Barlow, husband and wife duo and owners of Loveland Farms in Buchanan. These organic flower farmers moved from California two years ago to pursue a dream of working on Tim’s family farm and creating floral-based art and aromatherapy products using all-natural ingredients. Their feature items include pressed flower art, hand-poured beeswax candles, goat milk soap, and fresh flowers. Loveland Farms also offers custom order gift baskets and floral preservation for weddings and special events.
Their products can be found on their website along with various local craft shows, the Buchanan Farmer’s Market, and their seasonal farm stand. The Barlows take pride in their products and strive to cultivate relationships with both their customers and their community. According to Alicia, “Supporting a small business is supporting a person’s dream. When you choose to support an independent company you’re acknowledging the tremendous risk and challenges inherent in starting a business.”
With over 18 years of experience in the restaurant and catering industries, Chef Jen Powell is a familiar face in Southwest Michigan as a pop-up artisanal food cart chef and the creator of “Silly Sausage.” Her newest endeavor is a rustic fusion catering company called Plenty that strives to make memorable meals to compliment any event. Chef Jen uses locally sourced ingredients and the freshest products to deliver fun fusion menus for weddings, corporate events, and private gatherings of all sizes. Originally from Houston, Chef Jen’s culinary career has taken her around the country (and around the globe) and cultivated a love for global fusion food. Described as a “passion project,” launching Plenty was the realization of a lifelong dream. According to Chef Jen, “Behind a small business is a real person, someone who cares about providing a quality product and serving the community.” Visit the Plenty website to find out more and book for your next event, and Chef Jen wants to reassure all of her customers that the Silly Sausage cart will still be around town this summer including special take-home packages.
Eclectic Pearl Crafting, LLC
If you’re looking for a vintage vibe, you’ll find it at Eclectic Pearl Crafting, LLC based in Baroda and established in 2018. Owner and solopreneur Greta Krieger is the self-taught metal stamping artist behind such creations as jewelry, dog tags, vintage silverware bookmarks and garden spoons, and refurbished vintage suitcases. Greta also offers local metal stamping workshops and private parties throughout Southwest Michigan for those looking to learn the trade and have fun with friends. According to Greta, “I aim to keep an inviting, eclectic-vintage vibe in my business and market booth. I’m all about meeting new customers, fellow business owners, and fellow market vendors.” A wide variety of customizable products can be found on her website and at Wild Ginger located inside of The Market in downtown St. Joseph.
Kelsey Leigh Designs Co.
Specializing in unique wood and leather earrings, KelseyLeigh Designs offers a wide range of jewelry for both kids and adults. Owner Kelsey Johns says, “All of the products are lightweight and made with top quality stainless steel in my home studio in Niles.” KelseyLeigh Designs can be found on Etsy and locally at East Main Gardens and The Bobbypin Boutique. Customers can also sign up for a monthly subscription box and receive a mix of earrings at a discounted price shipped directly to their doorstep.
Kelsey decided to specialize in this industry after noticing customers of her previous business (A Lovely Nest in downtown Niles) seemed to love the earrings she made and sold in the store. As demand grew, she shifted her focus to jewelry creation and now offers customized products that can’t be found anywhere else. The income generated from this microbusiness helps support her family. According to Kelsey, “When you support a small business, you’re supporting a dream.”
Opportunity For All
The surge in microbusinesses across our nation and throughout our region is proof positive that previous barriers to business ownership are falling away as ingenious entrepreneurs find creative ways to turn side-hustles into stable income. And when local consumers support their efforts with local dollars, the local economy reaps the benefits.
About the Writer: Stacey Martin is a local author and freelance writer with a passion for promoting Southwest Michigan. She is the author of We Grow Kids Here and New Girl at Church, and the creator and host of “The Folks Back Home” podcast. She’s a former marketing executive and current Domestic Director of a house full of kids. Find more of her writing at staceymartinwrites.com.