Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to help launch a new business.

This region has an amazing network of collaborating partners that gather around industrious entrepreneurs to help them turn their dreams into reality.

My fellow SCORE mentors and I have the thrill of watching stories unfold every day. We see people of all ages with great ideas who want to take control of their financial future. Twenty community partners support SCORE so that we can help individuals achieve their goals.

One of my favorite stories involves donuts. Third Coast Bakery started with a personal desire by Heather Burson to provide healthier alternatives for her family after her husband faced brain cancer. She started selling tasty treats to those who need products free of allergens. This small-scale operation attracted eager buyers and soon the demand outstripped her ability to keep up in her home kitchen.

The network of resources that she was able to tap into enabled her to be where she is today — in a beautiful retail storefront, rolling out more than 30,000 donuts a month and employing 14 staff members. From its humble beginning, Third Coast Bakery was helped along by a long list of community partners including SCORE, Huntington Bank, Venture North, the Small Business Development Center, the City of Traverse City, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Grand Traverse County, and a host of other small businesses who offered coaching and professional advice.

This is the village that helped Heather — and she has never stopped being grateful. As she puts it, “the bakery is successful because we realize that it does not belong to us, it belongs to the people who walk through the doors.”

Another touching story started with the crushing circumstance of homelessness. Randy Parcher and his partner Laurie Koelsch knew the heartache of being without a real home, living in a van and fighting the cold. They wanted to promote a better understanding of those in economic transition and to dispel the myths and stigmas applied to those experiencing homelessness.

So Randy developed the concept of a children’s activity book called "Understanding Homelessness: Where Will Teddy Sleep?" The idea was to explain in simple terms that not everyone has a safe place to rest their head at night.

Randy’s village of support started with the Family Partnership Mentoring Program. His mentor encouraged him to pursue his dream. So Randy developed a mockup for the book. From there, his SCORE mentors guided him in establishing a crowdfunding campaign to raise the capital needed to begin publication. The activity book is in circulation and has served as the launching pad for more publishing ideas for Randy. It has contributed to economic stability and a warm place to call home for Randy and Laurie.

These are great stories. I hope they serve as an inspiration to the others who live in our village.

Donna Probes, M.B.A., spent 10 years as a small business owner. She is retired from the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and is active as a SCORE mentor as well as a professional musical performer. For information on SCORE visit upnorthscore.com.

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