Ludington DIY art business takes first place in Momentum competition

All 2019 Momentum Business Plan Competition contestants on stage with checks and judges (left to right) aer Tom Paine, Metalworks Inc.; Chris Turnbull and Carmen Biggs, HumaniTea; Kathy Maclean, Spindrift Cyclesports; Mary Case, Art by Mary Case; Ray Biggs, West Shore Bank; Jim Scatena, management consultant; Sarah Stechschulte, Inspired Parties; John Wilson, Western Land Services/Pennies from Heaven Foundation; Tracy Sheid, The Tailor Shop; and Leta Bowman, Leta’s Educational Daycare (front row). (Courtesy photo)

LUDINGTON — Five Ludington area businesses just got a boost of confidence — and a sizable chunk of change — in Mason County’s fifth annual Momentum Business Plan Competition Pitch Night on May 17.

Inspired Parties art business of Ludington was awarded $14,000 as the top winner, and the other contestants also each received $9,000: Art by Mary Case, HumaniTea, Leta’s Educational Daycare and The Tailor Shop.

Momentum Business Plan Competition administrators added a new twist to this year’s competition that typically awards one entrepreneur $50,000 to start or relocate an early-stage business in Mason County. This year, judges had full discretion to allocate the funds as they chose across the board to the five finalists.

Friday’s Pitch Night at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts was the culmination of a rigorous process for finalists in the fifth annual Momentum Business Plan Competition, administered by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce and funded by Pennies from Heaven Foundation. Contestants submitted business plans that were short-listed to five finalists, who presented to a panel of judges. Contestants were each given five minutes to review their plans, followed by seven minutes of questions from the judges.

“This was an especially exciting year for the Momentum Competition since the judges could award the prize money any way they chose,” said Tom Hinman, talent and entrepreneur development coordinator for the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The essence of this competition is about helping small businesses thrive in Mason County — and by changing up the contest a bit, we were able to spread the wealth and have a greater impact on more small businesses in Mason County.”

In addition to the largest monetary prize, Inspired Parties also receives professional support services plus business counseling through the Momentum board of directors, which includes Raymond Biggs, president/CEO of West Shore Bank; John Wilson, CEO of Western Land Services and chair/founder of Pennies from Heaven Foundation; Thomas Paine, president/CEO of Metalworks Inc.; Kathy Maclean, co-owner of Spindrift Cyclesports; and Jim Scatena, management consultant.

Open since 2016, Inspired Parties offers social art events and DIY crafting parties, with a focus on step-by-step paintings and projects, in Mason County. The business caters to individuals of all ages, any size group, and any special occasion or event (e.g., kids’ birthdays, bachelorette parties, corporate events, church groups, family reunions).

Owner Sarah Stechschulte’s goal is to give clients a creative experience in a “judgment-free” environment. She hosts workshops both at her Inspired Parties studio, plus at local businesses who hold art parties at their establishments.

A Class of 2012 Ludington High School graduate who received her associate in arts degree at West Shore Community College where she studied painting and pottery, Stechschulte started her art career at Petri Gallery in Pentwater working for one of her WSCC instructors. In the summer of 2016 while she was exhibiting and selling her work at Shagway Arts Barn in Mason County, the owner encouraged her to teach a monthly painting class. Stechschulte’s classes grew from two to 10 attendees by the end of that summer.

In November 2016, she opened Inspired Parties and taught painting classes at locations around Mason County. In December 2018, Stechschulte opened a permanent space at a building on Jebavy Drive to hold her workshops.

“This feels pretty unbelievable to win the Momentum Competition,” said Stechschulte. “I’m really grateful for this opportunity – not only for the prize money and judges’ support, but also for the process in preparing for the Momentum Competition that really opened my eyes to how I can help the community and support others. I want to make good use of the funds and bring something very unique to the community.”

With the Momentum funds, Stechschulte will expand her service offerings by adding a drop-in workshop area with open hours where people can stop in and create a project of their choosing from a menu of options. She plans to offer 10 new types of classes beyond canvas painting, including wood sign painting, DIY painted door mats, jewelry stamping, succulent planting classes with painted pots, tie-dye clothes and bags, painted pillows and more. She also will hire an employee to manage the drop-in workshop on a daily basis.

Art by Mary Case, owned Mary Case, of Ludington, includes a retail store, art gallery and studio, offering classes to all ages. Case plans to update her building on Dowland Street, adding classroom space and an improved restroom facility.

HumaniTea is owned by Carmen Biggs and Chris Turnbull, of Ludington. The owners’ passion for assisting victims of human trafficking led to opening this tea and artisan gift shop to generate dollars to fund anti-human trafficking efforts. The duo plans to upgrade the downtown operations, as well as purchase AV equipment for education and awareness events.

Leta’s Educational Daycare is owned by Leta Bowman, of Ludington. Bowman prides herself in providing a clean and healthy environment for children’s success through care, faith and education at each child’s pace. She plans to upgrade and expand her facility on Washington Avenue. 2.

The Tailor Shop is owned by Tracy Sheid, of Ludington. In business on Filer Street for two years, the company provides professional tailoring services and outsourced laundry and dry cleaning services. Sheid plans to upgrade tailoring services and start her own laundry and dry cleaning business.

Momentum will conclude the year with its second annual Momentum 5X5 Night hosted and sponsored by Epworth Assembly and Epworth Church Association at 6 p.m. on Aug. 7 at Epworth Heights Auditorium, 1161 N. Lakeshore Drive in Ludington. Five applicants will pitch their business ideas for five minutes each in front of four judges and a live audience as a fifth judge in the event of a tie, with the chance to win a $5,000 prize. The contest opens June 1, with the entry deadline of July 19. More information can be found at momentumstartup.org/momentum-5×5-night.

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