Michigan is in the middle of a transformation. With a long-standing culture of grit, determination and entrepreneurial spirit, the motor capital is quickly becoming a hub for start-ups and small business owners. We’ve already seen some of the incredible entrepreneurs in Flint. Here, we look at some of the entrepreneurs who are shaping Battle Creek.
1. Shannon Patrick, AWOL clothing
Founded in 2017, AWOL stands for “All Walks of Life.” The clothing brand sells ladies’ and men’s shirts, bottoms, accessories, and more. “The clothing business is my passion and everything else kind of feeds into that,” Patrick says. Currently, she sells her clothes online and has a “storefront” in a rent-free cargo container at the downtown BC Cargo complex. Patrick lives in Battle Creek's Historic Northside Neighborhood with her three children.
2. Peecoon Allen, Umami Ramen
Named the best bowl of ramen in the state by Business Insider, Umami Ramen is your classic American success story. Born in Thailand, Allen moved with her family to the United States at age 9, eventually settling in Battle Creek and opening her diner. Allen is known for procuring nearly all of its food from local farms and its customizable bowls. “It’s a clean taste, flavorful and savory — that’s Umami Ramen,” Allen says. Big changes are thought to be coming to Umami Ramen in the next few months, though Allen is hush-hush on the details so far… stay tuned!
3. Felicia Stanley, Shadey Bizness
Felicia Stanley works by day in forensics at Sparrow Hospital and runs Shadey Bizness part-time. Her hobby of crafting custom character-themed lampshades and nightlights became popular with her colleagues; from there, Shadey Bizness was born. She uses a 3D printer to make the lights and sells them at Battle Creek stores Inge's Place and Lakeview Card & Gift Shop. She has plans to expand and hopes to see her shades on store shelves. “I just have that passion to be bigger,” Stanley says. “I would like to walk into Walmart or Sam’s Club somewhere and see Shadey Bizness.”
4. Ken Faris, Twinzy Toys
Ken Faris is the CEO and re-founder of Twinzy Toys, a brand of environmentally-friendly organic dolls made by hand. For the past five years, the Battle Creek resident has been working hard at reinvigorating the business established by twin sisters Bernice and Blanche Squier in 1918. His larger vision is to not just create the dolls, but to build a network of co-creators who can make their own dolls and stories to go with them. “The Squier sisters did this so they could make money to go to school. I want to take that same drive and mission and let others participate and create a brand with me and (together we) benefit,” Faris says. “That’s what’s compelling about this. It’s the bigger business model and that vision that keeps me going.”
5. Markeeta Haddley, Simply Sensational Berries
Markeeta Haddley, a Battle Creek resident who grew up in Washington Heights, began making chocolate confections for the elderly residents at the nursing home where she worked. She never thought of becoming a full-fledged business, but photos of her treats on Facebook led to an influx in orders. Today, her business shares space with Cafe Rica, another home-grown business ran by bothers Tristan and Jackson Bredehoft that sells coffees and cold brew.
6. Curt & Janette Tramel, Station 66
Named one of Michigan’s 50 Companies to watch in 2018, Station 66 sells high-quality ice cream, baked goods, and locally grown produce, all housed in a 1940s gas station. The “simple, friendly atmosphere” is beloved by Battle Creek residents, who take part in the many community events held by the business — including concerts, car shows, and hayrides for the kiddies. “As we look to the future, we plan on growing our wholesale baked goods program so that some of Station 66’s love will be spread all over the state,” Curt Tramel says.
7. B.D. Alexander “StreetPriest,” OVG
B.D. Alexander, a writer and speaker, operates OVG, a company that connects with families of those incarcerated and hopes to direct young people away from crime and gang violence. His own father was murdered in 1986 and he himself was facing three felonies in 2009. He turned his life around, self-publishing a book about his experiences and was voted one of the Under 40 Emerging Leaders in Battle Creek Michigan in 2016.