Big John’s Pizza of Whitehall obtained funding thanks to a trio of organizations focused on small business microlending

GROW is proud to be West Michigan’s source for relevant training, tools, and microloan programs for entrepreneurs and small business owners, since 1989. GROW was recently part of a trio of lenders who aided new owners of Big John’s Pizza in securing their microloans.

Big Johns with white border

Big John’s Pizza has been a local staple of Whitehall for over 40 years. New owners, Neal and Amy Martell, worked with GROW and two additional organizations for loans that would help them rejuvenate the business and add full service dining. The new owners needed a microloan over $50,000, which exceeded the limit for GROW’s microlending programs. Despite that, Jamaal Ewing, the microloan program manager at GROW was able to work with two additional lenders, Opportunity Resource Fund and Cinnaire to facilitate the process for Big John’s Pizza to successfully obtain their business loans. Muskegon Area First also played a role in connecting the business owners with the right resources.

“The loan itself is only half of the microloan process,” said Ewing. “It is our role at GROW to ensure that local entrepreneurs have the support they need to be successful. When Big John’s Pizza needed a loan that was over the microloan limit at GROW, we partnered with two additional organizations to help fund and sustain their business. This is the first time that GROW has collaborated with two community lenders to administer a loan.”

GROW regularly participates and facilitates small business microloans through Small Business Association (SBA) microlending programs, and the Pure Michigan Microlending Initiative. GROW’s microlending programs provide funding entrepreneurs who are struggling to obtain traditional financing. This recent collaboration is a direct result of the Pure Michigan Microloan Initiative with GROW lending funds from $1,000 up to $50,000 and Opportunity Resource Fund offering loans up to $250,000.” Microlending funds can be used for startup, business expansion, or equipment investments, and are available to West Michigan business owners.

“During this collaboration, the loan for Big John’s Pizza followed the standard microloan process on our end,” said Ewing. “Outside of the fact that we used two other lenders and waited to coordinate closing as close to the other two [loan closings] as possible. While this is the first time where all three organizations have collaborated for microlending, there will be more collaborations in the future should it makes sense for the borrowers.”

“Cinnaire Lending is thrilled to partner with GROW to invest in the expansion and renovation of Big John’s Pizza,” said Katey Forth, Cinnaire Lending President. “Big John’s has long been known as a destination for great pizza – this expansion will allow them to add full service dining and serve additional customers. This investment gets to the heart of Cinnaire Lending’s mission to support and invest in projects that revitalize neighborhoods and provide jobs for those living in the community. I look forward to my first visit to the new Big John’s Pizza!”

Amy and Neal Martell, new owners of Big John’s Pizza, added, “Big John’s has been a big part of our family for years. From a part time job for Neal several years ago, to four of our children working there most recently, it’s a big part of community and our family. We’re thrilled to have had the support to purchase and keep Big John’s in the family.”

In addition to helping businesses with their microloan applications, GROW offers one-on-one counseling, assistance in creating a business plan, and provides support to business owners throughout all stages of their business. Wondering how GROW can help you? Please contact us today.