Seeds Recap – Panel Discussion


If you missed our 2017 Seeds of Growth Awards Luncheon & Fundraiser, you missed more than great food and award presentations. The format was a bit different this year, adding a panel discussion with three entrepreneurs who are GROW clients. These individuals shared some insights on starting and building their businesses, including how our organization has helped them along the way.

First, Meet the Panelists & Moderator

Marlee Ginter of WOOD TV8 took time to lead our panel discussion, and if you don’t know Marlee, you should. She is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist who joined 24 Hour News 8 from Seattle where she was as an anchor/reporter at KOMO-TV.  Marlee anchors 24 Hour News 8 at 7—West Michigan’s only 7 o’clock newscast—24 Hour News 8 at 11, and 24 Hour News 8 at 10 on WXSP-TV.  She’s also a Target 8 Investigator and reports for 24 Hour News 8 at 5 and 6. You can learn more about her here:

Tyler Phaneuf – Phlōt LLC

Tyler is a graduate of GVSU and was inspired to begin his business by comedian and color commentator Joe Rogan. Tyler is opening a new business, Phlōt, a business centered on floating – where you enter a sensory reduced environment. Visual perception is eliminated, audio signals are gone and gravity disappears. This floating environment frees you from almost all of your senses, delivering profoundly intense relaxation. Floating or Phlōt-ing will reduce stress, improve feel-good endorphins, help with rest and recovery and so much more. This will be a truly unique business here in West Michigan.


Anne Cork – Annabelle Noel Designs

Anne Cork is a serial entrepreneur and a wife and mother of 2.  She started her company, Annabelle Noel Designs, in 2003 with a spool of wire in her basement.  Annabelle Noel Designs is a product design and distribution company that focuses on the creation of products that make life easier and more beautiful.  The company has launched successful brands such as Easy Arranger, Scribbles, and Imagination Starters nationwide through independent and national chain retailers.


Josephine White – JoJo’s House of Beauty

Since the age of 16, Josephine White has had a passion for doing hair. After graduating from Western Michigan University, she decided to pursue her dreams, and, in the middle of the 2008 recession, left her corporate job to attend Empire Beauty School. After graduation, Josephine began building her clientele steadily over the next 5 years. While working at another salon, she was given the opportunity to buy her own salon. After a year of negotiating her dream of owning a salon, JoJo’s House of Beauty, Inc. became a reality on July 9, 2014. With over 8 years of experience in the industry, she is always continuing education and attending educational conferences. Josephine’s love for helping others see their inner and outer beauty makes her more than just a cosmetologist. She loves healthy hair, and her ability to style all hair types and texture is just another aspect of what separates her from other stylists. From her special, flat ironing techniques to her sassy cuts and colors to natural sew-in extensions, Josephine is exactly what every woman needs when it comes to hair!



Q1: What made you want to start your own business?

Tyler wanted to open a floating business after his own experience and the way it helped him feel totally relaxed. After researching local places, of which there were not many, he saw the opportunity to bring one of the first successful floating businesses to West Michigan. While he has a “day job” as well, he knows that entrepreneurship and owning his own business is the only way to truly control his income and destiny.

For Anne, it was her mother’s passing that led her to reexamine her priorities and take a better look at her career. As a successful pharmaceutical sales rep, she realized that didn’t see her kids often enough and found herself feeling unfulfilled. She wanted more out of life than knocking on doors, and that’s when she made a list of the things she truly wanted out of life. It was then that she realized it was time to set out on her own, and after sitting down with a spool of craft wire in her basement, her business idea came to her.

Josephine loves people, and she loves styling hair. Having worked in the corporate legal field, she knew that her own passions were being swept to the side. Interestingly enough, it was the Michigan weather that made her take the leap. After spinning out in a snowstorm on her way back to Holland from Grand Rapids, she threw her hands up and asked for a sign from above. It was that incident that made her realize that she could do anything with a little faith, and she soon began working in a salon before opening her own.

Question for Tyler: What has surprised you most about your journey to becoming a business owner?

Tyler said he was surprised most by the sheer amount of details that come with owning a business. He explained that the paperwork, permissions, systems, processes, and even regulation all require a certain amount of attention to detail and are important parts of starting and running a business.

Q2: What have you learned or gained through your relationship with GROW?

Anne told the audience that she has gained valuable connections she wouldn’t have had otherwise. While she has a national brand and sells to retailers across the country, she isn’t always recognized here in the community. This, she said, is where GROW stepped in. By bringing Grand Rapids to her, we were able to introduce her to helpful people immediately, by connecting her to professional services, mentors, and more.

Josephine has a strong business background from her past work experience but didn’t shy away from how GROW has helped her with the foundation of her business. From her business’s mission to the budget plan, GROW was there to help. Furthermore, Josephine explained that the mentors she met through GROW were quick to remind her to take time for self-care. With a smile and a wink, she said that being a business owner isn’t just about more hours for less pay, but about flexibility.

For Tyler, GROW showed him all of the things he didn’t know and wasn’t aware of. He said that the classes offered at GROW have been extremely valuable in helping him learn QuickBooks, networking and more. He went on to talk about the Google Workshop, (Google My Business and Getting Found Online). This hands-on workshop showed him how to help his business get found online through his Google Business Listing and several other tools Google offers to help customers find you.

Question for Anne: What is the most significant challenge you face as a business owner?

Anne shared without hesitation that her most significant challenge is cash flow. She explained that growing is really expensive and that finding funding to take it to the next level, to finance the next product or reach the next client, takes money. This is where her relationship with GROW came in as she was considering our Microloan program to help fund her business.

In working with a banking partner, she was able to find a solution internally and adjust things so she could fund her growth organically. She shared a lot more about the financial aspects of running a national business serving wholesale and retail clients. You can look for more of her story coming soon.

Question for Josephine: What advice would you give to individuals wanting to pursue business ownership?

Josephine’s biggest piece of advice is to never forget or lose your passion and to have the gall to keep your business afloat, as that’s often the hardest and most rewarding part of it. Josephine went on to share something we all understand, which was how she sometimes finds herself asking, “Why did I do this?!”  But she followed that up by adding that there are always those moments when you realize why you did it.

For her, it’s when parents are able to help their children style and take care of their hair when it used to be a daily battle. Or when women don’t feel great about their looks because of their hair, and her team and her salon are able to make them feel beautiful, inside and out.

She reminded everyone to have faith, work hard, and continue to show up. Remember that business ownership doesn’t have a straight path.

We couldn’t agree more!

What’s Your Story Going to Be?

Stories like these are exactly why GROW was started so many years ago. Our mission is to help women start, sustain, and scale their businesses. Yes, we work with men, too.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the clients we’ve worked with, take some time to read a few of our success stories here. More importantly, if you’re ready to take that next step, or even find out what that step is, contact us or attend an Intro to GROW session where you can learn about all we offer, meet our staff, and get the direction you’re looking for.

We look forward to sharing more stories of our clients and their businesses in the future, and we hope that yours is one of them!