Local entrepreneurs detail proposed businesses

Spark Manistee competition to come to a head Sept. 15

MANISTEE —  Competition is heating up in the upcoming Spark Manistee competition, hosted by the Manistee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and West Shore Bank.

Five finalists will deliver five-minute business presentations to five local judges, in front of a live audience from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 15. The winner walks away with $5,000 in cash, a $5,000 low-interest business loan and in-kind professional business services.

The competition started earlier this year with several applicants who submitted their business concepts to a panel of judges. The judges then chose the top five to move on to the live show.

Now, finalists will take the stage for the last round at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts.

“We are hoping for around 100 people from the public to come to the event, and help the judges decide who will win the grand prize,” said Tyler Leppanen, DDA executive director.

Top five finalists 

Jamie Catlett — Manistee Men’s Grooming Company

Catlett’s vision includes a professional grooming and hair design classic barbershop, offering complimentary cold beverages and an open waiting area for relaxed conversation.

“It’s going to have the old fashioned feel, but at the same time it’s going to be a modern barber shop,” said Catlett. “Nowadays men’s grooming is huge, there are so many neat products… we are going to have Michigan exclusive products. It’s going to be a fun place.”

The finalist hopes to bring her talents to the downtown area, and she plans to operate in the building next to The Outpost on River Street. Catlett said the award money would help her create not only a successful business plan, but also pay for any extra costs in the process.

“My business fits right into the downtown, it’s going to be a service business that we don’t have many of downtown,” Catlett said. “People come from all over for my services right now.”

Shane DeVries — Lakeside Tattooing

DeVries is no stranger to the art of tattooing; he has been a tattoo artist for nine years with experience working at several shops in Grand Rapids. His vision is to offer affordable, quality custom tattoos from traditional to photo-realistic, and even watercolor designs.

“I want to make the tattoo parlor a fun place to be,” he said. “Tattooing is an artform that’s been around for hundreds of years.”

Currently, he is considering a building on Division Street near Wahr Hardware. DeVries plans to offer discounts to veterans and active military personnel.

He said the business would bring people to the area from all around Michigan, given the high demand for tattooing services.

“I’ve had a plan of owning a tattoo parlor since day one,” said DeVries. “I love seeing the expressions on people’s faces when they love their tattoos. That in itself is something that cannot be explained.”

Tarrah Hernandez — Taco Bout It

This finalist hopes to provide an authentic and fusion Mexican menu featuring locally sourced foods and ingredients. Hernandez said the restaurant would have a sleek, modern feel in an updated and classy downtown establishment.

“We are hoping to open up in the spring, but we are trying to have a realistic goal,” said Hernandez. “We have a couple of locations in mind on River Street.”

She said the restaurant would serve as a place for people to hang out late a night, as well. Hernandez said she has been catering for 10 years, and the Taco Bout It truck — a local attraction in Manistee — has been serving locals for two years.

“There’s not a lot of flavor and ethnic variety in Manistee,” she said. “We could bring in a good amount of traditional and fusion foods. We’ve had our menu planned for quite awhile now.”

Ronan O’Neill — The escape room (unnamed)

Bringing something new to Manistee, O’Neill is working to open a family entertainment facility in the form of an escape room in the downtown area. The escape room would be housed in the former Hotel Northern building on Washington Street.

An escape room is an adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy with one goal — to escape the room as fast as possible.

“I think our overall goal is to make this a destination venue, to put Manistee on the map,” said O’Neill. “People will travel hundreds of miles for these games. There are some build outs we need to do, but the majority of the build out is the lobby. We would like to have a ‘steampunk’ theme.”

Joann Snay — Artful Creations

Snay, a local artist, plans to open a do-it-yourself arts and crafts studio featuring an option to make art through canvas classes, pottery painting, pottery wheel classes, fused glass art and jewelry workshops.

“Ever since I was a child I was active in art,” said Snay. “I know all of the ins and outs, and I would really like to offer this to people in Manistee who enjoy it.”

Currently, she does not have a location set up but is searching for the best place for her creative business. She said the prize money would help speed up this process, and make building renovations possible.

“Manistee is growing but still in need of more places for people to get together for activities, birthdays and special events, in addition to dining and shopping,” said Snay. “I want to show people of all ages that they can be creative and can express themselves when given the right tools and encouragement in a fun and supportive setting.”

What to expect

Spark Manistee is a competition to encourage and incentivize entrepreneurs to open or grow their businesses in downtown Manistee.

Judges include West Shore Bank president and CEO Ray Biggs; and West Shore Bank vice president of Commercial Lending Steve Brower; Manistee Chamber board member and Douglas Valley owner Kendra Remai; and RRCA board member Al Frye.

Attending members of the public on Sept. 15 will participate as the collective fifth vote.

“It has been a very positive experience thus far, being able to get the community involved and seeing how excited the contestants are to be in the event,” said Leppanen.

While the DDA has been full-force in sharing details about the competition, Leppanen said plenty of interest has built up around the competition.

“There has a been a lot of interest on our social media,” he said. “We’ve had around 20,000 total views on the six videos we shared highlighting the contestants.”

For more information on the competition, visit manisteedowntown.com/spark.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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