More Than a Party: A Community-Centric Event

Having lived in Grand Rapids for several years now, I have had ample opportunity to explore the City, its happenings and culture. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I am always looking for opportunities to connect with and support fellow local business owners. One of my favorite summer events has become the Local First Street Party. It is a great way to experience some of the food, drinks and entertainment that Grand Rapids has to offer.

As a Local First member, I have been hearing about their “Good for Grand Rapids” campaign promoting social, environmental and sustainability initiatives. With the Street Party being once of their largest events of the year, I wanted to take a different look at it this year. Instead of attending solely as a community member looking for good eats and entertainment, I wanted to see if I could witness Local First putting any of their initiatives into action and hear what other Grand Rapidians thought about the event.

The Street Party drew a crowd young and old, representing various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. New this year, I noticed several event signs in both English and Spanish. The entertainment acts were much more diverse and did a great job engaging the audience. “There’s a quiet area. They have American Sign Language interpreters. There are a lot of resources to make sure that everyone who wants to attend can attend and enjoys it,” local resident and first-time attendee Justin Dailey observed.

“I see a much cleaner environment in terms of what the event looks like. The trash composition is a lot [more pleasant],” says long-time member and local restaurant owner Don Everette.

In line with that, attendee Veronica Kirin noted, “[t]he trash is actually very small so it’s encouraging everyone to recycle or compost…It makes you think before you throw something away.”

As with anything, there are always still more opportunities for growth. For example, one initiative this year was to have Access Assistants wearing red buttons available to help disabled attendees. I did not see any of the individuals during the time I was there and, unfortunately, any attendees suffering from color blindness may have struggled to see the red buttons. Local First also created designated, “reserved – access seating only” sections. Upon observation, these seats were being used by the general public and it was unclear who they were actually reserved for. Another recommendation would be to encourage or assist vendors in providing bilingual signage as well when promoting their offerings.

It is clear that there were significant advancements taken during this year’s event to help improve ease of access, community engagement and green initiatives. Seeing these changes from previous year’s events, I am optimistic to see what else is in store. I will be looking further into the “Good for Grand Rapids” campaign, the Quick Impact Assessment and the other upcoming Local First events focused around these initiatives. Every great accomplishment begins with one action. I look forward to seeing how my company, other local businesses and Local First can continue having an impact here and help take our City from good to great.

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About Stingray Advisory Group LLC: Stingray Advisory Group LLC is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By creating dynamic customized solutions for business growth, we empower businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools to further their development. To learn more or schedule a consultation, visit Follow us today on Facebook, LinkedIN, Google+ and Twitter for more helpful tips!

Hanna and I Bought a Cow!

Well technically speaking, we bought a share of a cow through Two Sparrows Farm. Under our herd share arrangement, we let Dan and Whitney Belprez deal with the heavy lifting; boarding, milking, caring for the cow, sterilizing the milk jars, transporting the milk, etc. while Hanna and I focus our attention towards the high responsibility of consuming the milk. I must say that we are really enjoying holding up our end of the bargain!

If you aren’t aware of what a herd share is, my anecdote may be a bit confusing. A herd share is an agreement in which a person owns a share of a herd, which is cared for by the farmer. Herd shares are currently the only legal way to obtain access to fresh, unprocessed, whole milk in the State of Michigan. Participating in a herd share provides a delicious and simple way to shift your food dollars towards the local economy.

Our milk share has led to some creative additions to our cooking routines. Hanna started making her own yogurt, I infinitely improved my chocolate cake recipe, and we both have been experimenting with making paneer – to varying levels of success. The milk share is shaking up our cooking while offering us another way to connect to our environment and our community. We are pretty excited about this new adventure. Interested in participating? Learn more


The images above serve to document one of the more successful attempts at making paneer. 

Zeeland’s one and only brewery is getting a makeover this summer!

Since opening in 2014 as Zeeland’s first brewery, Tripelroot has not only grown as a community gathering place but, physically as well! Still Zeeland’s only brewery, Tripelroot is located at 146 E Main Avenue, right in downtown Zeeland. Being consistently busy, even with the more recent addition of the alleyway beer garden, Tripelroot has been looking for ways to add more seating. This past winter when the business next to them closed and the building was up for sale, owners Laura and Nate Gentry new they had to pounce! The newly acquired building, the former home of On Silver Shores Jewelry & Imports will essentially double the seating area of the brewery and, add additional outdoor seating. On top of that, they’ll be able to rent out the space for private events like wedding receptions or birthday parties!

Like the original brewpub’s dining area, the new expansion will feature a similar aesthetic including natural materials like wood, metal and brick. Garage doors will be open out onto a patio in the warmer months so folks can soak in that warm weather we wait all winter for! A lot of the building’s original features, like the tin ceilings and wood floors have been restored. Gentry also mentioned that they were looking to add some “funky” pieces to the space, to give it some additional character! One of the main differences between the new space and the old? The Gentrys aren’t doing the build out themselves this time. After doing all the work on the original space in their spare time, they decided to hire out for the expansion. Even so, the expansion will feature some personal touches as the new front door was made by Nate himself!

This spring’s expansion isn’t the only place the brewery is growing. For the first time, their beers will be available at different bars around the area! Be on the lookout for their tap handles at your favorite bars and restaurants! With their licensing, Tripelroot can not only brew and serve their own beers, but beers from other breweries as well. Their beer menu features bottles and drafts from breweries around the state, country and world as well as wines and ciders. Food wise, Tripelroot serves up sandwiches, stonebreads, salads, quesadillas and appetizers including the giant “Feel the PretZEEL!” pretzel in homage to their community of Zeeland.  They have a kids menu, and for the Yoopers among us, a pasty feature every Monday.

With all this new growth, one thing that the Gentrys look to keep the same is the importance of community to their business. In addition to creating a place where the community can gather to share a meal, have a drink and listen to some tunes, Tripelroot organizes events around the community to get people active and to give back! They’ve organized The Root2Farm bike rides which are thirty mile round trip rides out to nearby Farmhaus Cider as well as hosting Alley Cat rides. The benefits from last year’s Alley Car ride went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. They also donate a dollar from each monthly stonebread feature to a local charity and are involved in events in the Zeeland community like Plaiderday Chili Crawl. It’s important to support the folks that support you!

Whether you’re looking for a beer on a patio, dinner with friends, a place to host your reunion or some folks to bike with, Tripelroot has you covered. You could say along with being Zeeland’s “first”, “only” “smallest”, and “largest”, they’ve become Zeeland’s “best” brewery as well, without one bit of bias! 

Measure What Matters: River City Improv

 This blog post is part of Local First’s Measure What Matters series, where we interview Local First Members who have taken the Quick Impact Assessment, and learn about how the assessment has helped them use their business as a force for good and be Good for Grand Rapids.

Started by a group of Calvin College alumni back in the 1993, River City Improv has been making Grand Rapids residents laugh for over 20 years. Since its inception, River City Improv has evolved into a comedy group that’s passionate about making a positive difference in West Michigan through fun and witty humor. 

“We love making people laugh – it’s how we give back to the community,” said Rick Treur, co-founder and business manager for River City Improv. “Many of our performers also make a positive difference by donating their time and talents to various nonprofits around Grand Rapids.”

River City Improv entertains audiences using comedic improvisation. Many of their shows weave together skits, games, and songs with audience suggestions to create a unique show every time. Hosting approximately 20 public shows and up to 40 private shows per year, River City Improv still makes time for volunteering. Some of the ways they give back are by performing volunteer shows or donating free passes to nonprofits for auctions. If a performer is involved with a nonprofit, they can also donate a performance to the organization of their choice.

River City Improv joined Local First in 2010 and Treur recently took Local First’s Quick Impact Assessment to identify more opportunities for River City Improv to make a positive impact.

“Getting involved with Local First seemed like a natural fit for River City Improv because of our commitment to giving back to the community,” said Treur. “We took the Quick Impact Assessment because we like supporting B Corp values and believe it’s important to be mindful of what we’re doing as a business.”

When taking the Quick Impact Assessment, Treur realized there were many practices that he could be tracking and measuring for River City Improv. One of Treur’s major takeaways from the assessment was learning about the significance of buying local and using sustainable products for their shows.

“Even though we are a small business, the Quick Impact Assessment made me realize that there are things we can do better,” said Treur. “You can make a positive impact in the community no matter the size of your business, field, industry or level of community involvement.”

Treur added that getting involved with Good for Grand Rapids has been a great way to strengthen the community by showing support for local businesses.

“Look around at our local businesses in Grand Rapids and you’ll notice that many of them have a global reach and can have a positive impact on the world,” said Treur. “By using our resources for good and being thoughtful about how we run our business, we can make a difference in our local community, West Michigan and beyond.”

Interested in learning how your business performs against best practices on employee, community and environmental impact? Take the Quick Impact Assessment today to learn how much good your business is doing for the local economy and community at Meet these and other values-aligned businesses at the Measure What Matters Workshop on June 21!

Measure What Matters: Hemp Solutions

This blog post is part of Local First’s Measure What Matters series, where we interview Local First Members who have taken the Quick Impact Assessment, and learn about how the assessment has helped them use their business as a force for good and be Good for Grand Rapids.

Hemp Solutions USA is changing the way people think about using materials that are good for people and the planet through its sustainable and eco-friendly hemp-based products. Founded in 2011 in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, Hemp Solutions USA is dedicated to helping protect the planet and future generations. Today, Hemp Solutions USA is headquartered in Wyoming, MI and sells and distributes hemp-based products including animal bedding, construction materials such as hemp-crete and more. 

“We are dedicated to driving positive change in the world by creating products that are good for our planet and people,” said James Novak, founding and managing director of Hemp Solutions USA. “We’re all about creating a healthier world by producing hemp-based materials and educating communities about the benefits of using hemp-based products.”

Hemp Solutions USA has locations across the United States. They give back to local communities by hosting workshops and events about using hemp-based products to make a positive environmental and social impact.

Earlier this year, Hemp Solutions USA hosted a workshop in Rochester, N.Y. on building with hemp-crete, which is a carbon-negative building material used for “Platinum LEED certified” homes around the world. Hemp Solutions USA also provided materials for an Earth Day event at Dr. Bronners Soap Company in California where 75,000 people learned how to make environmentally friendly homes using hemp-crete.

“Through our educational events and workshops, we’re teaching local communities about the importance of shifting to Earth-friendly materials and how to live a healthier, more sustainable life,” said Novak. “We are very focused on permaculture and making a positive impact, and these events bring together the whole-listic community and teach people that they have an important role in protecting our planet for generations to come.”

Having deep Native American roots, Novak explained that Hemp Solutions is committed to working with Native American communities on teaching them about hemp products.  

“My business partners and I are all proud of our Native American roots and are here to bring our events to the Native American Communities across the United States,” said Novak. “We are already working with over 80 tribes in Alaska with our hemp growing medium being used for microgreens. It’s all about the positive impact!”

Hemp Solutions became a Local First member this year. Novak took Local First’s Quick Impact Assessment just recently to become a part of Good for Grand Rapids. He encourages all businesses to take the Quick Impact Assessment to learn how they can use their business as a force for good and become a role model in the community.

“Hemp Solutions is thrilled to be recognized as Good for Grand Rapids,” said Novak. “It’s amazing to see other businesses in the community stepping up and being recognized as ‘Good for Grand Rapids’ and dedicating their business to making a positive social and environmental impact.”

Interested in learning how your business performs against best practices on employee, community and environmental impact? Take the Quick Impact Assessment today to learn how much good your business is doing for the local economy and community at