Sister Bees wins Mason County business contest

Sister Bees won the first place prize of $50,000 in Mason County’s Momentum Business Plan Competition. Pictured with the check (from left to right) are co-owners Kelly Bonnema, Amber Boerema and Kimberly Ambrose. (Courtesy photo)

Sister Bees won the first place prize of $50,000 in Mason County’s Momentum Business Plan Competition. Pictured with the check (from left to right) are co-owners Kelly Bonnema, Amber Boerema and Kimberly Ambrose. (Courtesy photo)

Cynthia Lang Pilates wins second in Momentum Business Plan competition

LUDINGTON – Good things do come in small packages, as natural skin care product business Sister Bees can attest after winning $50,000 last month in Mason County’s Momentum Business Plan Competition.

The maker of beeswax skin care products was selected out of four other finalists in front of a panel of judges and a packed auditorium in a “Shark Tank”-style pitch Sept. 21 at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. Cynthia Lang of Cynthia Lang Pilates took home $5,000 for second prize.

The pitch night was the culmination of a rigorous process for finalists in the fourth annual Momentum Business Plan Competition, administered by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce and funded by Pennies from Heaven Foundation, which awards one entrepreneur $50,000 to start or relocate an early-stage business in Mason County.

Eligible contestants submitted business plans by July 31, after which they were short-listed to five finalists who presented to a panel of judges on Sept. 21. Contestants were each given five minutes to highlight their plans, followed by seven minutes of questions from the judges. The competition’s board of directors served as the judges, who are Mason County business leaders: John Wilson, CEO of Western Land Services; Kathy Maclean, president and CEO of the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce; Tom Paine, president of Metalworks; Ray Biggs, president and CEO of West Shore Bank; and Jim Scatena, local business leader. Cheryl Freeman and Wendy Morrow, co-owners of All Occasions Events and Floral and the 2017 Momentum winner, served as guest judges.

Cynthia Lang, of Cynthia Lang Pilates, hold her check for $5,000. She was the second place winner in Mason County’s Momentum Business Plan Competition. (Courtesy photo)

Cynthia Lang, of Cynthia Lang Pilates, hold her check for $5,000. She was the second place winner in Mason County’s Momentum Business Plan Competition. (Courtesy photo)

“Pitch Night is always a fun and exciting evening in which the entire community comes out to cheer on our finalists,” said Kathy Maclean, Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce president and a Momentum judge. “The Momentum Competition celebrates and highlights entrepreneurs of Mason County, and their investment and passion in their dreams creates a vibe that makes Ludington a special place to live and work.”

Co-owners Kim Ambrose, Amber Boerema and Kelly Bonnema, the second presenters determined through a random drawing, pitched the judges on Sister Bees, a company that creates all-natural skin care products from beeswax.

Sister Bees (named initially because friends Kim Ambrose and Amber Boerema were as close as sisters but became more literal when Ambrose’s sister Kelly Bonnema joined the business) began three years ago when the women realized that the beeswax byproduct from beehives kept at Ambrose’s home for making honey was a valuable and healing ingredient for the skin. Sister Bees also won $5,000 in the Momentum 5×5 Night a few weeks earlier that secured the business a spot in the Top 10 of the Momentum Business Plan Competition.

Making the products out of their homes, the Sister Bees team produces a line of nine natural, chemical-free lip balms (with flavors such as coffee vanilla, peppermint and chai) and four, two-ounce body moisturizers with essential oils (including Bee Butter, Beard Balm, Worker Bee for men and Paw Putty for pets) sold at more than 35 retail stores in West Michigan from South Haven to Petoskey, pop-up markets and craft fairs, and online through its website, sisterbees.com.

“We are so appreciative of this award and know that $50,000 will have a huge impact on Sister Bees, but we are equally excited about the relationships of the five judges,” said Amber Boerema, Sister Bees co-owner. “We are confident that we will glean so much from their expertise.”

With the help of the Momentum grant, Sister Bees plans to expand its online sales channel, implement a digital marketing strategy, and attend industry trade shows in hopes of getting noticed by regional and national retailers to ultimately grow business nationally. The owners also are looking into equipment to help them manufacture and produce more products.

A second place prize of $5,000 provided by the Mason County Growth Alliance was awarded to Cynthia Lang of Cynthia Lang Pilates at 913 S. Washington St., a classical Pilates studio offering private and group classes as well as individual sessions to cater to specific client needs. Lang, also one of the five finalists in the 2017 Momentum Competition, wishes to create a website, build a certified team to meet the needs for more clients, and become a certified teacher trainer. Her long-term goal is to set up satellite studios in Manistee and Fremont.

“This competition is all about helping small businesses like Sister Bees and Cynthia Lang Pilates grow and flourish in Mason County,” said Maclean. “We are thrilled for Sister Bees – they have an amazing product that has great potential on a national stage. And Cynthia Lang’s second place prize should help her attain at least one of her business goals. She’s such an asset to our community.”

Contest finalists in addition to the top two included Leta’s Educational Child Care, Leta Bowman, of Ludington; The Lake House, Jeff and Jean White, of Ludington; and HumaniTea, Carmen Biggs and Chris Turnbull, of Ludington.

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