3/6/2023: 5 minutes. $5k.

Monday, March 6, 2023

High 47°/Low 32° Rainy

An entrepreneur support network returns with the first of its new monthly pitch competitions and a series of programs to invigorate local business growth. Also: Kalamazoo County’s treasurer is facing continued scrutiny. And after a safety scare, a Kalamazoo leader is reminding people to check their carbon monoxide detectors.

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5 local businesses. 5 minutes. $5K.

Demargeo White and Sydeny Davis hold an oversized $5,000 check.

After a five-year hiatus, Startup Zoo has re-launched with a $5,000 grand prize for its new monthly pitch competition, which Demargeo White of Huey D’s Goodies won last Friday.

The competition is one of a number of the initiatives by the organization that was first launched in 2007 to help start-ups and other entrepreneurs discover best practices, investment, and other support.

“We don’t have the limitations we had 10 years ago as far as investors,” says Carl Brown, co-founder and Interim Director of Startup Zoo. He says this 5×5 pitch competition (five entrepreneurs pitching for five minutes each) is the first ever held in the city.

White says this was the fourth local pitch competition he’s entered but the first he’s won. White founded Huey D’s Goodies LLC in 2019, a gourmet cheesecake business. He says his current focus is to hire a baker to alleviate the work he currently does all by himself, with only occasional help from his family when they’re available.

“A lot of people say there’s no opportunity in Kalamazoo but really they’re running in the wrong circles,” he says, reinvigorated, a $5,000 check in hand.

“If we’re building a business in Kalamazoo, we can’t look at Kalamazoo as the end of the market, so we have to look at investors that are not exclusively in Kalamazoo,” he says.

However, the current challenge is that “institutional investment and venture capitalists say they don’t know what’s happening in Kalamazoo,” he says.

That’s the barrier Startup Zoo aims to eliminate in its mission to fund the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Read more about the business ideas presented, plus the deadline for entering the upcoming Startup Zoo pitch competition.

Kzoo treasurer still under scrutiny

Kalamazoo County Treasurer Thomas Whitener will have to give a financial report while under oath for a second time this week. The first time was nearly two weeks ago. After failing to show up for a previous meeting, county officials required him to give a quarterly investment report while under oath. On Tuesday, he will give an updated report. The oath requirement is unusual, but comes after months of mistakes by the embattled treasurer. The county went as far as to hire an outside accounting firm to help clean up financial records. As of mid-January, the county had spent about $30,000 with the accounting firm.

Some Kalamazoo County leaders would like Whitener to resign. So far he has refused. Commissioner Jen Strebs said a voluntary resignation is about the only way to get him to leave his elected position. “It’s not simply a vote this board can take and remove the treasurer. It would take a recall vote or intercession by the governor,” she said. There have been recall attempts. Just last Friday, the state’s board of canvassers rejected two recall petitions. Strebs said there’s a high bar to recalling an elected official. “I don’t think that we’re seeing illegal activity occur in the treasurer’s office. What we’re seeing is incompetence,” she said. Whitener’s term runs through 2024.

More News You Need To Know

100-year-old bricks could get reused in road project

The City of Kalamazoo is rebuilding Ransom Street in the Northside Neighborhood and some century-old bricks could be incorporated into the final product. Parts of the road running between Walbridge Street and North Westnedge Avenue are made up of bricks laid over 100 years ago. The city plans to make improvements to water and wastewater lines along the road. In the end, the road will be paved with asphalt.

The original brick sections of the road were placed in 1913 and 1921. After discussion with area residents, the city decided to employ some of the old bricks in the new project. They will be used in decorative improvements along the roadway – accents, road borders, and the like. Besides replacing water lines, crews will add new sidewalks, replace trees, and install new lighting. The entire $12 million project will begin in May and be completed by November 2024. [MLive]

Carbon monoxide scare prompts statement from Kzoo commissioner

Kalamazoo City Commissioner Chris Praedel is urging everyone to install a carbon monoxide detector on every level of their home. That comes after his family discovered dangerous levels of the gas in their own home. It was a Saturday evening when one of his sons heard a beeping coming from their basement. It was their own carbon monoxide detector warning them that there was a dangerous level of the toxic gas in their house. That detector had only been installed about a year earlier. “We were all about ready to go to bed,” he said during a recent city commission meeting. “If we had not had that in our basement, I’m not sure that we would have woken up.”

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can be emitted any time a fossil fuel is burned. Detectors can sense concentrations above about 70 parts per million. That level is enough to cause dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. That’s because our body’s red blood cells will pick up carbon monoxide instead of oxygen. If you breath it for long enough, it can cause injury or death. Carbon monoxide detectors are required in Kalamazoo for all new construction and for rental property owners. But people who own their own homes won’t necessarily have them. Praedel said their carbon monoxide detector was quite literally a life saver. [MLive]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

Making Pizza with Mel – Pizza Katerina
6:00PM 3/6

Rookie Detectives: Lots of Dots – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
10:00AM 3/7

All the Reasons Why I Love Lucy – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
12:00PM 3/7

Quarterly Downtown Business Townhall – The Catalyst Center
2:00PM 3/7

Code with Ada – Kalamazoo Public Library, Oshtemo
4:00PM 3/7

The Rainbow Fish Musical – Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
10am 3/8-9; 7:30pm 3/10; 2pm 3/11-12

Phil Allen: A Search for Meaning – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
10:00AM 3/8

“The Right to Read” documentary screening – Right to Literacy Collaborative
5:30PM 3/8

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, West Main
6:00PM 3/8

Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life – Richland Community Library
6:00PM 3/8

Acoustic Roulette with Dean Madonia – ThunderBird Kalamazoo
7:00PM 3/8

Moon Hooch – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 3/8

See more upcoming events here.

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