Northeastern Michigan Entrepreneurs Share Their Methods of Success | News, Sports, Jobs


News photo by Steve Schulwitz Brandon Howley, owner of Dependable Lawn Care and Property Services, lights a grass trimmer for use on a property in Alpena on August 9.

NAFTA – By using the help of local programs and organizations, fledgling businesses have a chance to succeed, some local business owners have said.

Yet, no standard method exists for people who dream of owning and operating their own business, so some people either succeed or fail by doing things their own way, while still investing money from their own. own bank accounts.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of Northeast Michigan’s economy. Alpena County has nearly 800 businesses with fewer than 250 employees, according to the US Census Bureau, and the overwhelming majority of them have fewer than 50 employees.

Harborside Cycle and Sport owner Tom Dowd with a business degree worked in Grand Rapids and wanted to return to Alpena near his family. He said he wondered what type of business might be successful in the area and set out to develop a business plan before contacting organizations like the Small Business Development Center of Alpena, the Alpena Region Chamber of Commerce and Target Alpena Economic Development Corp. services that lend money and help with site selection and business plan development.

Dowd said he spent about six months researching before crafting his plan and taking an all-round look at the cycling industry and retail climate in northeast Michigan.

“I studied the business landscape in Alpena, checked the census to see what the average income was, spoke to FedEx drivers to see how many bikes they were delivering, and called bike shops across the country.” , did he declare. “I spoke to guys who represented all the big brands and wrote and rewrote my plan.”

Wayne Kowalski opened his first business in 1981 when he purchased and renovated State Street Car Wash. Today, Kowalski owns several car washes and oil change shops in Northeast Michigan, but her success is due to her determination and trial and error more than through commercial programs.

Back then, he said, programs like those offered by Target weren’t readily available, leaving new business owners to learn on the fly.

“The harder I worked, the luckier I got,” Kowalski said. “For me, it was more determination than education, and I was determined to make it work. Now there are all kinds of low interest aid, donations, and money available. Opening a business is difficult, and it will always be difficult. Today’s business climate is tough, but there are opportunities. That’s the great thing about America is that there are opportunities.

It took many years for some business owners to grow their business.

Brandon Howley is the owner of Dependable Lawn Care and Property Services, one of Alpena’s largest lawn care companies.

Howley said the roots of his business go back to when he was in high school, mowing a lawn. Over time it went up to 20 meters and then things snowballed from there, he said.

Because he had a full-time job in addition to lawn care, Howley was able to reinvest his lawn mowing service money by purchasing more equipment and taking on larger jobs.

Eventually, the demand for his services increased to the point that he quit his job and devoted all of his time to the business. Now, he said, he employs three people and has landed major business contracts and his business continues to grow.

“I just felt a normal job wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to go, so I jumped in, and it was sink or swim,” Howley said. “I had skeptics telling me I wouldn’t be able to get there by cutting lawns, but all that motivated me was.

Dowd, Kowalski and Howley each said they probably work more than 80 hours a week and that significant vacation or time off rarely occurs.

“I work seven days a week and I don’t even keep track of my hours,” Howley said. “I really don’t have a summer life at all.”

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