“The Starting Block” – Hart’s Very Own Business Machine

February 23, 2010

In my little town of Hart, MI, you can always find something new. Being a Realtor here, and having lived here for 15 years, I don’t know how I didn’t know about the Starting Block and the folks that are doing some amazing things over on Industrial Park Drive.

The Starting Block in Hart, MI

The Starting Block is a kitchen incubator and entrepreneurial center. It is a nonprofit, regional economic development organization committed to small business development initiatives. The Starting Block helps entrepreneurs in an 8 county region from Manistee to Holland start and/or expand their food-related business at reasonable rentals without the initial investment or costly facilities and equipment.

OK, I borrowed most of that last paragraph from their brochure. Here’s my take on what Jane, Jim, and Ron are really up to over there:

AWESOMENESS!!!

With the help of The Starting Block, over 25 entrepreneurs have taken an idea, and turned it into a business venture over the last four years. The majority of these are food processing ventures, like Good Life Granola, Randy’s Granola, Wee Bee Jammin’ fruit jams, and a myriad of other products, ranging from dry spice mixes to meat stuffed pasta shells.

The Starting Block starts out by helping an individual with an idea to develop a label, and get it approved. Once the label is approved, the Starting Block has a large common kitchen with industrial mixers, convection ovens, stoves, and more.

They’ve even brought in packaging equipment. A small business owner can come up with an idea, apply for USDA and MDA approval, prepare the product, package the product, and even store the product all on site. Most importantly, since The Starting Block is a nonprofit organization, the costs to do so are very low.

The Kitchen at The Starting BlockYou can use the kitchen, and all the equipment, for $10-15/hour. Dry storage runs $10/month for a pallet, and cold storage runs just $1.50/cubic foot. This is incredibly low overhead for a start-up business, and a great way for a fledgling company to get its feet under it and get running. Oh, and if you need a special piece of equipment, just ask Ron, he’ll probably be able to find it for you.

The kitchen is also available to caterers, church, school, and civic groups.

In addition to the kitchen incubator side of the house, The Starting Block also leases office space to start-up businesses. Summit Laboratories is one company that leases space on site. They’re just getting up and running, and recently received accreditation that will allow them to provide food processing testing for local farmers this season.

Office space starts at an incredibly low price of just $110/month for a 90 square foot office. It even includes phone and internet access. Need something a little bigger? You can get 225 square feet for just $275/month!

In addition to all this, The Starting Block provides its users with countless other resources, including product development, ingredient sourcing, nutritional analysis, marketing strategies, a resource library, computers and internet access, and so much more.

The Staff at The Starting Block

The Starting Block Staff

The Starting Block is staffed by Ron Steiner, Jim Henley, and Jane Dosemagen. These three folks wear a lot of hats, and are ready to help you take your idea for business to the next level. Jane was extremely helpful in giving me a tour today, and I thank her for helping me gather this information.

Small businesses are vital to rebuilding our economy, and the gang at The Starting Block are providing an invaluable service to Hart, Oceana County, and West Michigan.

To learn more about The Starting Block, visit http://www.startingblock.biz or stop by. The Starting Block is located at 1535 Industrial Park Drive, just off of Polk Road in Hart.

*Photos courtesy of The Starting Block and http://www.startingblock.biz and used with permission.

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One Response to ““The Starting Block” – Hart’s Very Own Business Machine”


  1. That’s a really great idea! I can see so many small businesses starting from that concept. Even if you just wanted to do some small catering jobs here and there, it might pay off.


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