Local Business

Celebrate our local, independent businesses!

Independents Week: June 27 to July 4

Locally-owned, independent businesses are the backbone of our community. And they need us more than ever right now. Help us celebrate them during Independents Week!

From the local businesses we patron (for cheesepaintshoes, takeoutcandles and more), to the independent businesses we employ (for lawn carefinancialphotography, and real estate services), these businesses employ our family and friends, strengthen our economy, add character to our neighborhoods, and contribute to our pride in and sense of place. Every dollar we spend is a vote for the type of community we want to build and sustain.

To showcase local businesses, Local First is launching a promotional campaign for Independents Week that will include Instagram takeovers, video mashups, and daily calls to action during the week leading up to Independence Day. Get a jump start on your participation and see what we have in store for the week itself:

Daily Themes

Helping the community use our member directory (click the images for ideas!)

Movie Watch List

Featuring movies about local, independent businesses

Facebook Frame

Show off your support to your whole Facebook community!


    1. Navigate to your profile
    2. Hover over your profile picture and click Update
    3. Click Add Frame
    4. Search Independents Week and select the frame by Local First West Michigan

Sharing on Social Media

We’ll be sharing out all the great things our local businesses are up to that week! Stay tuned on our Facebook and Instagram

Use #IndependentsWeek and #LocalFirst hashtags when you use this image to tag a bunch of your favorites

Communities thrive when neighbors buy from locally-owned businesses, those businesses invest in their neighbors as customers, and people are able to develop sustainable lifestyles that engage and enhance their environment. So this Independence Day, let’s vote with our dollars to grow and sustain local, independent businesses through Independents Week!

Hear us talk about Independents Week

Avalanche Creative Podcast
The Morning Show with Shelley Irwin

Local Business

Marketing Matters (Part II)

Thank you for joining the Membership Team for Part II of our marketing webinar series! Kathleen Roark and Katherine Jandernoa were joined by the following panelists to discuss why marketing matters and how to approach it during a pandemic:

Local First Marketing Webinar – Part Two

Wanting more? The conversation is not over yet – marketing is a broad topic! Check out Part I as we seek to understand what it means to maximize platforms and bring awareness to current business offerings.

    • How has your business pivoted since the Shelter in Place? What do you think the role of marketing agencies is during the pandemic? (4:30)
    • What are some of the most underrated tools for local businesses? (14:20)
    • How can a business assess its current systems vs. the need to invest in new tools/platforms? (20:35)
    • How can businesses reengage/maintain their current market amid the high volume of content available in this season? (27:00)
    • How can businesses generate more traffic to their site or the new tools they invest in? (32:57)
Local Business

Marketing Matters (Especially in a Pandemic)

Thank you for joining the Membership Team for Local First’s marketing webinar! Kathleen Roark and Katherine Jandernoa were joined by the following panelists to discuss why marketing matters and how to approach it during a pandemic:

Local First Marketing Webinar – Part One

Wanting more? The conversation is not over yet – marketing is a broad topic! Check out Part II as we seek to understand what it means to maximize platforms and bring awareness to current business offerings.

    • How has your business pivoted since Shelter in Place? (3:15)
    • How should businesses approach their “why” during COVID19? (10:58)
    • How can businesses best spend their marketing dollars in this season? (16:02)
    • What role does social media play as we navigate this ever-changing season? (21:38)
    • How can businesses position their branding now and beyond COVID19? (26:42)
    • Top 3 things to consider in your current marketing plan (35:56)

Reach out to your fellow Local First members for marketing support.

Local Business

Q & A with gr_support_local

If you haven't seen gr_support_local yet, it's time to give it a whirl. It's an easy-to-view list of local businesses and what they're offering during the Shelter in Place order. We LOVE it and wanted to get to know the person who got it up and running.

Name: Aricka Gannon

Hometown: Grand Rapids

Other roles in the community:
nI am a board member with Heartside Business Association, and a Marketing + Communications Coordinator at Via Design, an architecture and interior design firm located in downtown Grand Rapids.

Favorite/fond local business memory:
nFour years ago, I met my boyfriend, Josh, at the Winchester. It quickly became my favorite place. Each year, we go back to have our anniversary dinner (along with several drinks and meals in between).

What gave you the idea to start gr_support_local?
nGrand Rapids is special because it’s small enough to develop relationships with restaurants and their employees, and large enough to where you may find a spot you haven’t been to before. There is a lot of sentiment in our bars and restaurants, and excitement at the prospect of trying somewhere new.

The idea that this could be disrupted is devastating. I think the idea to start the account was a natural response to the lack of control. For those able to spend money on takeout or gift cards, it’s a simple and effective way to offer help in this situation. I wanted the posts to be easy to read and to the point, because when you’re faced with a crisis, you want to know how to help and you want to know fast.

What has your response been?
nGood! Beyond good. It’s exciting to see people share their experience supporting local, and even more to see restaurants overwhelmed with the business they’ve received. As the weeks have passed, the account has evolved to include retail and businesses throughout the Greater Grand Rapids area. There are a lot of industries impacted by this virus. If this account can help spread awareness and bring some support to businesses, I want to make sure all are included. As long as they are practicing safe social distancing.

What surprising outcomes have resulted from the creation of the group?
nThere were two surprises.
nOne: it was surprising how many errors I could make in a post even after double and triple-checking my information. Thank you to those who offer corrections!

Two: I started the account using my own resources –which were my social media feeds and all of the restaurants I could think of off the top of my head–but between my day job and dealing with the emotions and transitions of this crisis, I could not have posted as timely or as thoroughly without help. The success of this account is due to the people in the community messaging with updates, tagging businesses, and sharing their local finds.

So, I would say the second surprising outcome is how much I have been inspired by the compassion of the Grand Rapids community. There is a lot of pride in this area, and I hope local businesses have felt that.

What do you envision for the group long-term?
nTo be honest, there has not been a lot of long-term thought behind it. It was created to be a resource during the COVID-19 crisis and if it continues to support local businesses in the future, then that is great. However, gr_support-local has surpassed what I envisioned, and I would be happy if the account served only for this period of time. 

How are you staying sane during this time of uncertainty?
nI’m thankful to be able to work from home. I schedule A LOT of video calls with friends. I call my parents more. I keep a schedule similar to life before, but with a little breathing room.

There’s fear of what could happen and of uncertainty, but there’s a lot of good happening right now and happening locally. There are organizations transforming their operations to make personal protection equipment for healthcare workers. Restaurants struggling for business have given away free meals. We’re social distancing, buying groceries for our parents and grandparents, and clapping for medical staff as they enter the hospitals each day. How often do we live through a time where the world, collectively, is working toward the same goal?

I find inspiration in that, and it’s keeping me sane. For now. Ask me in a few more weeks.

Local Business

La SBA ofrece asistencia en caso de desastre a las pequeñas empresas de Michigan afectadas económica

Atlanta – La Agencia Federal para el Desarrollo de la Pequeña Empresa (SBA) por sus siglas en inglés, ofrece préstamos federales de bajo interés para capital de trabajo a las pequeñas empresas de Michigan que sufren un daño económico sustancial como resultado de la enfermedad del coronavirus (COVID-19), anunció hoy la administradora de SBA, Jovita Carranza. SBA actuó bajo su propia autoridad, según lo dispuesto por la Ley de Asignaciones Suplementarias para la Preparación y Respuesta ante el Coronavirus que fue firmada recientemente por el Presidente, para declarar un desastre a raíz de una solicitud recibida de la Gobernadora Gretchen Whitmer el 17 de marzo de 2020.

La declaración de desastre hace que la asistencia de SBA esté disponible en todo el estado de Michigan; y en los condados contiguos de Elkhart, La Porte, Lagrange, St Joseph y Steuben en Indiana; y Fulton, Lucas y Williams en Ohio; y Florence, Forest, Iron, Marinette y Vilas en Ohio. “SBA está firmemente comprometida a proporcionar la respuesta más eficaz y centrada en el cliente posible para ayudar a las pequeñas empresas de Michigan con los préstamos federales para catástrofes. Seremos rápidos en nuestros esfuerzos para ayudar a estas pequeñas empresas a recuperarse de los impactos financieros por la enfermedad del coronavirus (COVID-19)”, dijo la Administradora Carranza. Los representantes de servicio al cliente de SBA estarán disponibles para responder preguntas sobre el programa de préstamos para desastres por daños económicos de SBA y explicar el proceso de solicitud.

“Las pequeñas empresas, las organizaciones privadas sin fines de lucro de cualquier tamaño, las pequeñas cooperativas agrícolas y las pequeñas empresas de acuicultura que han sido afectadas financieramente como resultado directo de la enfermedad del coronavirus (COVID-19) desde el 31 de enero de 2020, pueden calificar para recibir préstamos para desastres por daños económicos de hasta 2 millones de dólares para ayudar a cumplir con las obligaciones financieras y los gastos de funcionamiento que podrían haber sido satisfechos si el desastre no hubiera ocurrido”, dijo Carranza.
n”Estos préstamos pueden ser usados para pagar deudas fijas, nómina, cuentas por pagar y otras cuentas que no pueden ser pagadas debido al impacto del desastre. Los préstamos para desastres pueden proporcionar una ayuda económica vital a las pequeñas empresas para ayudar a superar la pérdida temporal de ingresos que están experimentando”, añadió Carranza.

La elegibilidad para los Préstamos para Daños Económicos por Desastre se basa en el impacto financiero la enfermedad del coronavirus (COVID-19). La tasa de interés es del 3.75 por ciento para las pequeñas empresas. La tasa de interés para las organizaciones privadas sin fines de lucro es del 2.75 por ciento. SBA ofrece préstamos con repago a largo plazo para mantener los pagos asequibles, hasta un máximo de 30 años y están disponibles para entidades sin capacidad financiera para compensar el impacto adverso sin dificultades.

Los solicitantes pueden presentar su solicitud en línea, recibir información adicional sobre asistencia en casos de desastre y descargar las solicitudes en Los solicitantes también pueden llamar al Centro de Servicio al Cliente de SBA al (800) 659-2955 o enviar un correo electrónico a para obtener más información sobre la asistencia para desastres de SBA. Las personas sordas o con problemas de audición pueden llamar al (800) 877-8339. Las solicitudes completas deben enviarse por correo a la Administración de Pequeñas Empresas de los Estados Unidos, Centro de Procesamiento y Desembolso, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

La fecha límite para solicitar un Préstamo para Daños Económicos por Desastre es el 21 de diciembre de 2020.

Para más información sobre el Coronavirus, por favor visite:

Para más información sobre los recursos y servicios disponibles de SBA, por favor visite:


Acerca de la Administración de Pequeñas Empresas de los Estados Unidos
nLa Administración de Pequeñas Empresas de EE.UU. hace realidad el sueño americano de ser propietario de un negocio. Como el único recurso y la única voz para las pequeñas empresas respaldada por la fuerza del gobierno federal, SBA otorga a los empresarios y propietarios de pequeñas empresas los recursos y el apoyo que necesitan para iniciar, hacer crecer o expandir sus empresas, o para recuperarse de un desastre declarado. Presta servicios a través de una amplia red de oficinas locales de SBA y de asociaciones con organizaciones públicas y privadas. Para obtener más información, visite

Local Business

SBA Offers Disaster Assistance to Michigan Small Businesses Economically Impacted by the Coronavirus

ATLANTA – The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Michigan small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced today. SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, to declare a disaster following a request received from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 17, 2020.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Michigan; and the contiguous counties of Elkhart, La Porte, Lagrange, St Joseph and Steuben in Indiana; Fulton, Lucas, and Williams in Ohio; and Florence, Forest, Iron, Marinette and Vilas in Wisconsin.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist Michigan small businesses with federal disaster loans. We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19),” said Administrator Carranza. SBA Customer Service Representatives will be available to answer questions about SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and explain the application process. “Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” said Carranza.

“These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” Carranza added.

Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.
nApplicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21, 2020.

For more information about Coronavirus, please visit:

For more information about available SBA resources and services, please visit:


About the U.S. Small Business Administration
nThe U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit

Local Business

Support Local (while keeping a safe distance)

As we know, local businesses not only make our communities unique, they are also the backbone of our economic stability. Many of our small, independent businesses are going to suffer while we do our best to stay safe and healthy. But they are also masters of innovation and have already started responding to the needs this crisis has created.

The app below includes the information we've received from our members and other support organizations. Please support our local businesses as much as you can during this uncertain time. We're receiving updates by the hour, so check back regularly!

WEBINAR: Thank you to the American Sustainable Business Council for hosting us along with West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and the Southeast MI Sustainable Business Forum

P.S. Do you have information that should be added to our lists? Email

Local Business

Imagine Restaurants Encouraging their Patrons to ‘Dine ‘n Dash’!

By: Scott Ptak, Content Writer at Writing2Ranking

That’s right!  Dining ‘n Dashing at restaurants is going to be highly encouraged by restaurant owners and management at locations all over the nation.  In some states, it is already happening.

If you are a law-abiding citizen, you’re probably thinking that promoting an illegal act isn’t a good idea.

But this Dine ‘n Dash concept is not what it suggests.

Dine ‘n Dash is the reference for a newer (Scan & Pay) point of sale system that will benefit both restaurants and their patrons alike, utilizing the scanning of QR codes from iPhones to finalize restaurant sales.

The ‘WOW’ factor for the Scan & Pay Program

The Scan & Pay program is a response to consumers wanting more speed and convenience out of their restaurant visit experience.  It also eliminates inefficiencies that are associated with traditional payment processes.  With the new Scan & Pay program, payments at any restaurant can be fast and secure by leveraging QR codes read seamlessly by customer iPhones, and without having to download any apps or participating in the exchange of credit cards to servers. 

Once an invoice is printed with a dedicated QR code and delivered to a customer, it can be scanned quickly without any mistakes, tips added accurately, and with a sense of security.  Lost time for customers waiting on servers to handle the payment process will no longer be an issue.  And it is an opportunity for restaurants to turn tables more quickly, resulting in more profits, higher tips for servers, and happier customers.  The level of credit security is enhanced for restaurant guests as they must authorize transactions via Face ID or Touch ID on their iPhones.

Not only can servers see customers’ payments immediately, but customers can review their bills on their iPhones.  And, by customizing their Scan & Pay program, restaurants will have the option to collect customer feedback directly from their devices.

Never again will a customer be held up from making it to a scheduled meeting, theater show, movie, or any other after-meal planned event as a result of slow payment processing.

A high-volume restaurant owner in Las Vegas who has been using Scan & Pay said –

“We wanted a more efficient way for guests to pay.  Since using Scan & Pay, we have been able to offer a seamless payment experience, providing them with ‘wow!’ moments as they pay their bills and allows our business to turn more tables.”

Pitfalls from Traditional Restaurant Payment Processes

Let’s break down a typical restaurant experience for a group of sales reps and expose some of the pitfalls resulting from traditional payment solutions:

8:00 am – A small company begins its annual sales retreat for its entire sales staff. 

5:30 pm – After a long day of sales projections, profit and loss reports, graphs, charts, and training, the group disbands to change and freshen up. 

6:30 pm -The sales group reconvenes at an upscale steakhouse for dinner and drinks.

8:30 pm – One of the sales reps suggests that their group attend a comedy show only a 10-minute walk from the restaurant.  There are seats available, and the laughter promptly starts at 10 pm, with the doors closing 15 minutes before the start time.  Everyone agrees that the show is a great idea.

9:10 pm – After an excellent dining experience and much comradery, the VP of Sales offers to cover the cost of the meal and asks the server for a bill.

9:20 pm – The server delivers the bill to the table.

Having agreed with the invoice, the VP is ready to send it, along with a credit card, back to the server to finalize the transaction.  The restaurant, now bustling since the sales group's arrival, is cause for the server to be overwhelmed with customers.

9:30 pm – Most of the group members head to the comedy venue, but several hang back with the VP.

9:35 pm – The server retrieves the VP’s credit card to finish the payment process.

9:45 pm – Finally, ten minutes later, the server returns to the table with a merchant receipt, a customer receipt, and the client’s credit card. 

The VP fills in the tip amount and adds it to the subtotal.  Every person that stayed back waiting for the server has since missed their opportunity to join the other group members at the comedy show.

The process of paying the bill took 35 minutes  – time that can never be re-captured.

Additionally, because the receipt that the VP filled got wet, the tip and grand total numbers were no longer legible, causing the server to guess at the final billing total.

The Take-aways for Scan & Pay:

  • Frees up servers to cover more tables and reduces the labor required to manage guest billing.
  • More revenue per shift, more tips for servers.
  • More secure than cash – clients get notified once their bill is paid.
  • Guests pay at their convenience, from their table. No credit card, no waiting, no stress.
  • No more bill entry mistakes resulting from non-legible receipts.
  • n

Whether you are a restaurant owner or customer, get ready for the ‘WOW Factor’ to Dine ‘n Dash with Scan & Pay! Contact us to learn more!

Local Business

Benefits of Supporting Locally Owned Businesses

By: Corey Evans, Marketing Strategist

At Stingray Advisory Group, we are always looking to both work with and support fellow locally-owned businesses. Not only is it rewarding to connect with other community members, but it also helps a much bigger cause. Keeping money within the community allows for the community to grow and prosper and is one of the biggest benefits of shopping locally. This happens due to the multiplier effect.

The multiplier effect refers to the proportional amount of increase in final income that results from an injection of spending. Locally-owned businesses can recirculate a great percentage of revenue within the community as opposed to franchises/satellite companies. There are three elements that result in the multiplier effect.

Direct Impact

The direct impact is spending done by a business within the local economy which allows it to operate. This includes everything from maintaining inventory to paying employees. Simply put, local business success creates more jobs. If individuals can work closer to home, they can also save on travel expenses incurred from commuting. This can lower overall vehicle emissions, improving air quality within a community. When employees are taking their lunch breaks, having the opportunity to eat close to their place of employment helps local businesses. This also keeps money within the community allowing it to prosper.

Indirect Impact

The indirect impact is spending done by a business with other local businesses. Local business owners tend to band together and support the community by encouraging spending to stay within their establishments. Some businesses partner with other businesses offering discounts for spending within the community, deals, and even referrals. Not only does this keep the money within the community, but this allows businesses to build meaningful personal relationships with their customers. Customers feel better cared for when they’re able to go to one specialist that can immediately direct them to another specialist for a needed product/service. This mindset increases goodwill between business owners for an overall positive experience. The success of one locally-owned business could potentially mean success for other locally owned businesses.

Local business owners are more cognizant of how their decisions impact their neighborhood and its inhabitants. These owners become more involved in the community – joining membership organizations, sponsoring or hosting local events (charitable, tournaments, sporting events, etc.), and more. They may also get involved with local universities and small entrepreneurial centers, providing guidance and innovative expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Induced Impact

The induced impact is spending that happens as employees, business owners, and others spend their income in the local economy. This creates a sense of community identity. Cities become known for attractive elements that are unique to that city, like how Grand Rapids is known for our beer and furniture and has been aptly nicknamed “Beer City” and “Furniture City”. Vibrant small business communities create this identity and lead to local economic advantages. This identity brings in tourists from all over, further increasing revenue for local businesses. There is only one Las Vegas and one New York City for reasons like this.

Most consumers would rather go to specialists than generalists when purchasing goods and services. Locally owned businesses know the area/community and know what their customers want. Most local owners started their business to correct a problem they noticed would benefit consumers of that specific area.


Communities benefit greatly when consumers support and spend at local-owned businesses. We, at Stingray Advisory Group, are passionate about community involvement. We love visiting fellow Local First member coffee shops for meetings, utilizing members for our business needs, and collaborating with members to support our clients. If you haven’t taken the time to look at the Local First Member Directory lately, this would be a great time to revisit it. The next time you’re deciding where to stop for lunch, pick up a gift, or enlist help for your business, challenge yourself to support a fellow local business in the process!

We want to hear from you – let us know which local businesses you’re supporting!

* * *

Stingray Advisory Group LLC is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is a proud member of Local First and the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We help businesses grow. By creating customized solutions, we empower businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools to further their development. To learn more or schedule a consultation, visit email Follow us today on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more helpful tips!

Local Business

Localize your Valentine’s Day!

Whether you're spending the day with someone special, having a night out with friends, or showing yourself some love, here are a few ways to show you LOVE local! 

Sweet Tooth

Looking to sweeten your Valentine's Day? Search Chocolate or Candy in the online directory and get a number of different options in Grand Rapids and on the Lakeshore.

Floral Arrangments

Flowers are always a nice gift when it's cold and wintery. Brighten up someone's day by searching Flowers or Greenhouse in the online directory.

Dinner Reservations

Restaurants make up the largest section of our Local First members. Search for dietary restrictions, type of cuisine, or zip code in the Restaurants, Food & Beverages category.


Ready to pop the question? Or maybe you're celebrating a milestone anniversary. Make sure to check out our list of Jewelers and get something shiny for your Valentine!

Artwork and Galleries

For the art lover you love! West Michigan has tons to choose from when it comes to art, galleries, and other ways to support local makers. Search Gallery to get ideas!

Last-Minute Gifts

Ok, so maybe you procrastinated and need something QUICK! Search Gift in the online directory and get tons of options! And remember, you can always narrow it down by zip code.

And, as always, make sure to thank these businesses for being Local First members and setting up shop in West Michigan.