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How has the Small Business Resource Center helped you in planning or growing your business? 

Give us the scoop along with your contact information and we'll post your business story on our website, and it may make its way into one of our newsletters.  

What a great and totally free way to spread the word about your business! 

Email your story to the business librarian or mail it to: 

Business Librarian
Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library St NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 

All submissions are subject to editing.



Winter 2018

In this issue, you’ll find our class schedule, a book review, a great success story from our own Grand Rapids SCORE, an interview with Tyler Peterson of the Opportunity Resource Fund, and of course, our new book spotlight! 


How to Use the Library to Write a Marketing Plan
Wednesday, January 31, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Wednesday, March 14, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Main Library – 111 Library St NE

One of the first rules of marketing is go where your customers are. And where are your customers? What story will you tell when you find them? How will you stand out from the crowd and perform experiments to know if you’re successful? Join the Business Librarian for an informative session on how to use modern tools and timeless tactics to engage customers, and start and grow your business.

Introduction to Finding Grants for Nonprofits
Wednesday, February 7, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Wednesday, April 11, 7:00 – 8:30 pm 
Main Library – 111 Library St NE

Designed for beginner fundraisers, this brief course shows how your organization can identify potential funders and prepare to seek grants. Using the Foundation Directory Online Platinum, a database of 70,000 foundations, students will compile a list of foundation prospects that match their organization's needs. We’ll also briefly touch upon other grant sources, such as government and business, and learn about various guides to proposal writing.

Introduction to Proposal Writing for Nonprofits
Wednesday, February 14, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Wednesday, April 18, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Main Library – 111 Library St NE

You’ve found a possible foundation to fund your new project. That’s excellent. Now the real work begins: writing a proposal that will put your program on the path to success by telling your story to the people that matter most. To learn how to do just that, join the Business Librarian for a session on proposal writing. Learn the key components of a proposal that a nonprofit foundation seeks, and how you can make your proposal as effective as possible.

Introduction to Project Budgets for Nonprofits
Wednesday, February 28, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Wednesday, April 25, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Main Library – 111 Library St NE

One of the hardest parts of writing a proposal is not finding a problem to tackle, but crafting a budget that will help you tackle that particular problem. It’s also the part of the proposal that grant writers often fear the most. Well, fear no more with this class from GRPL! Here we’ll learn to craft a budget for a grant proposal, understand what foundations are seeking in a budget, and learn how to best tell the story of your grant through its budget. 

Small Business Research Essentials
Wednesday, March 7, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE

“The chief business of the American people is business.” – Calvin Coolidge

“The chief business of the GRPL Small Business Resource Center is business, too! What a coincidence!” – Your Business Librarian

Join the Business Librarian for an informative journey through the library’s small business resources. Arm yourself with the best business information available and give yourself the upper hand, whether you are starting or growing your business.

Market Research Series
Tuesdays, May 8, 15, 22, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE

No matter your level, entrepreneurship is about risk. The most effective entrepreneurs understand how to reduce and understand their risk through information, specifically market research. But how does an entrepreneur actually do research in terms of their industry, customers, and competition? In this series from the GRPL Business Librarian, you’ll learn exactly that: the tools, tactics, and strategies to make market research faster, easier, and more beneficial to any entrepreneur at any level! 

Market Research I: Industry Information
Tuesday, May 8, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Register here

Market Research II: Business-to-Customer Market Research
Tuesday, May 15, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Register here

Market Research III: Business-to-Business Market Research
Tuesday, May 22, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Register here

SBRC Book Review: Torin Ellis' Rip the Resume: Job Search & Interview Power Prep by Sam Pennington

  46931409  Searching for work or switching careers can be a tedious and sometimes demoralizing task. It can feel impossible to make yourself stand out among the hundreds, or even thousands, of other qualified applicants all striving for the same opportunity. If you have ever wished for a single, simple roadmap that will prep you with everything you need to succeed from the job search phase all the way through the follow up after an interview, you’ve got to read Rip the Resume.

In this motivating, funny, and quick read, top recruiter and career development coach Torin Ellis shares essential tools and proven strategies for job-seekers in today’s market. When was the last time you read anything about job searching or writing a resume that left you feeling excited rather than exhausted? Most resume template, job search, and interview strategy articles and books are painfully dry and boring; Rip the Resume is anything but. Ellis manages to keep this book straightforward and engaging from start to finish.

This book lends you the timely tips and tools you probably never knew you needed, but once they’re in your arsenal, you won’t believe you ever got a job without them. Guiding you through every necessary step with how and why, Ellis teaches you to be strategic and intentional with every job-seeking decision. Urging you to go after the position you truly want, Ellis will make sure you know better than to ever blast out the same basic resume to as many random jobs as possible, again.

Crafting a resume with an edge that will allow you to stand out from the sea of potential candidates means scrapping, “the ugly template”. Ellis remarks that,
“... there is no one right way to write a resume, just one thousand ways to write the wrong resume.” Containing numerous before-and-after resume examples, this book will help you remedy common mistakes and ensure that your resume is compelling. It’s important that your resume clearly lays out to potential employers “...how and why YOU are the candidate THEY are looking for.” Reading the resume you have skillfully constructed with Ellis’ help will ensure employers look forward to meeting the impressive and confident candidate you demonstrate yourself to be.

Job Search & Interview Power Prep, the subtitle of this book, speaks to the necessity of undertaking strategic research and being prepared in order to attain your professional goals. Being noncommittal or nonchalant just won’t work if you truly want to be successful. This book lays out what in-depth research you will need to do, and how and where to conduct it. Reiterated throughout this book is the seriousness with which you must face the act of landing a job. Ellis reminds us that hiring an employee costs a company a lot of money so if you want the company to invest in you then you have got to invest in yourself.

Technology grows and changes at lightspeed, which is why it is so important to utilize a resource like this job search and interview playbook that is designed to be relevant in today’s internet-connected world. Rip the Resume explains exactly how to control a potential employer’s impression of you with your resume and during an interview, but also by controlling your social media and online presence. Companies will often get their first impression of you before you ever walk in their doors by looking you up online. Ellis demystifies how to manage that first impression and every opinion they build about you after that. He even makes sure you understand appropriate interview attire.

During his 18+ years as a recruiter and career development coach, Ellis has been able to refine the process of helping people access their own power and drive to find and land the career of their dreams. His method, “... has been tested and proven to be effective” through the “thousands of search assignments,” he has performed and the “hundreds of high-performing professionals [he successfully placed] in the $150k-$300k salary range.” Read Rip the Resume and you will learn how to maintain the right attitude for success and get exactly where it is that you want to go in your professional life.

GR SCORE! Counselors to America’s Small Business by Lisa Boss

When my husband wanted to start a business with our three sons, their first step was meeting with the GRPL Business Librarian. Steve Assarian talked to them and advised them to contact SCORE. A few years later and I am still amazed at how helpful SCORE was in fine tuning their plan, and in recommending additional legal and accounting expertise that we could trust, to create a solid, successful business, Boss and Sons Environmental.

SCORE offers a service that you would usually pay upwards of $100 an hour for: expert consulting for your specific business concerns. Your own personal business mentor/coach for FREE!

SCORE’s office in the Grand Rapids area is right at the Chamber of Commerce, but they also have other locations where they schedule their mentoring sessions, and GRPL Main hosts them the first Wednesday of each month, from 5:00–8:00 pm.

Patrons can find out more about SCORE at the Library on the website. I had the pleasure of talking to Rob Hughes, our current Certified Mentor, who is just passionate about SCORE; “It's really a unique organization — You have volunteers with such a depth of knowledge in business management.” Rob emphasized the experience, training, and desire that SCORE's mentors have, to help new or existing businesses with any aspect of their enterprise. The smart person listens, Rob told me, and then they draw on their extensive background to offer “honest, sincere advice” (which is completely confidential).

Wonder what SCORE stands for? It used to be called the
Service Corps of Retired Executives, back when it was created as a resource within the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1964, but they are now known as “Counselors to America’s Small Business” (way less stodgy moniker). Take a look at their national website for ALL the entrepreneurial tools they offer, and spread the word that they are at GRPL too!

SBRC Interview: Tyler Peterson, Opportunity Resource Fund
In Grand Rapids, we’re lucky that our entrepreneurial ecosystem has lots of different economic resources to draw on: venture capital firms, nonprofit programs, and traditional banks. However, one type of economic resource you might not know about is the Community Development Financial Institution, or CDFI. CDFIs are unique, mission-driven financial institutions that use economic muscle to improve their constituent communities. They are chartered by the US Treasury, and traditionally serve people outside the economic mainstream, including entrepreneurs, in many different ways.

One CDFI that’s been making great strides locally and statewide is the Opportunity Resource Fund, or OppFund. I was able to sit down with Tyler Peterson, OppFund’s Small Business Lender, to get a sense of what he, and the OppFund, are all about.

Steve: Give me a little history of OppFund.

Tyler: OppFund has been around for over 30 years providing loans throughout Michigan while working for social and economic justice. Historically, we have had strong ties in Detroit when it comes to economic development and homeownership loans. Over the past decade we have expanded our efforts to provide funding for affordable housing developments, small businesses, and homeownership in all of Michigan’s communities. Our work is made possible by the many socially minded organizations and individuals who donate and invest in OppFund’s vision.

In Grand Rapids specifically, we are working to promote homeownership in underserved areas while providing economic development through a program called The Pure Michigan Microlending Initiative. This initiative is a collaboration with many of our partners including Huntington Bank, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan’s Small Business Development Centers, and other local organizations. The primary goal is to increase capital available to small businesses, particularly when they are not able to access funds offered by traditional lending institutions. Small businesses and start-ups are often denied funding due to the relatively small size of the loan, their own limited operating history, and/or lack of traditional collateral and credit history. Our loans will enable these small businesses to move toward traditional financing.

Steve: Tell me about your background.

Tyler: I graduated from GVSU’s Seidman College of Business in 2015 where I studied Finance and Marketing. I began working for Opportunity Resource Fund at the beginning of 2017, focusing all of my effort on small businesses and economic development in West Michigan. I have spent the past six years here in Grand Rapids, and it has been very exciting to watch the city grow, and I feel that I have an obligation to support growth in all of our communities and neighborhoods. I am very fortunate that OppFund provides that opportunity.

Steve: What does your average day look like?

Tyler: So far, a majority of my time has been spent with our team working with small businesses across West Michigan and collaborating with the other organizations in our area. If I am not working with an entrepreneur or small business, I am likely knocking on doors garnering attention for this program, or in my car en route to do so.   

Steve: When you see an entrepreneur, what sort of questions are you asking them? Are there any limitations you have on lending?

Tyler: Well, we ask all sorts of questions during our initial inquiry and underwriting. Like other lending institutions, and despite our additional flexibility, we still need to be certain of the borrower’s ability to repay. One of the exciting aspects of our underwriting is that instead of focusing on an applicant’s credit score, we aim to get a good understanding of their credit history. When it comes to credit, especially in Michigan, everyone has a story to tell and we like to give everyone an opportunity to tell it.

Right now, we are seeing a lot of start-up businesses in Grand Rapids and across West Michigan. It is a very exciting time to operate within this space.

Steve: So what’s the default rate of OppFund’s small business loans?

Tyler: While we have had some loans in default, we have never lost a dollar of our investors’ capital, and we are very proud of that. Our team is incredible when it comes to working with businesses and borrowers that need additional attention throughout the year. Having operated in this unique market for so long, we have developed great systems for understanding and helping our borrowers succeed.   

Steve: For the future, what’s OppFund looking for?

Tyler: Here in West Michigan, we are looking to reach more businesses and individuals! We have had great success collaborating with area organizations, and are excited to continue to see our work grow.    

You can find out more about the OppFund, and, of course, apply for funding, here

Small Business Resource Center funding is provided by the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation – Titche Family Fund.  Support your public library. Consider a gift today!

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Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library St NE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503

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