Northern Intitatives is asking students and community members to vote for them to win money from the Starbucks Foundation.
Northern Initiatives is a private, non-profit community development corporation that provides rural entrepreneurs with access to capital, information and markets.
Lending out money to small businesses, specifically in the Upper Peninsula, Northern Initiatives also reaches down into Wisconsin and downstate Michigan, operating in 46 rural counties overall.
Northern Initiatives also employs eight to 10 Northern students, giving them an opportunity to work alongside growing businesses.
Their connection with Northern Michigan University has always been strong since its inception in 1985.
Initially starting out as an academic department on campus, it has since branched out but is still located in the Jacobetti Center. Dennis West, president of Northern Initiatives, is excited about the current Starbucks competition, “vote.give.grow.”
“Northern Initiatives is one of two Michigan-based businesses competing in this $4 million national contest,” West said. “Focus Hope, located in Detroit, is the other business in the Michigan region.”
The $4 million will be broken up among the different region winners with each region receiving $35,000.
“If we were to win, the first thing we would do with the money is hire more Northern Michigan students,” West said. “It is a great opportunity for them to get to work with different businesses, and a great opportunity for work experience doing things such as market research.”
Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks and fellow entrepreneur, is a graduate of Northern Michigan.
Northern Initiatives, getting funding from a former graduate and entrepreneur, would then give that funding back into the community, supporting the next big idea or business to come out of the area.
Voting has already started, but will continue until April 30. In order to vote you need to be a Starbuck’s card member.
Those who are eligible to vote are able to do so once a week for the remaining three weeks of the competition.
Currently Northern Initiatives is holding a slight lead over Focus Hope by a margin of six percent.
For anyone who is interested in the program or just wants to check out the variety of projects they are currently working on, you don’t need to go far.
Northern Initiatives is located in the Jacobetti Center on Northern Michigan’s campus. They are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Those eligible to vote are encouraged to do so by going to www.votegivegrow.com.