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Building connections and gaining knowledge

April 24, 2010
By Michael H. Babcock, DMG Writer

BARAGA - Luke Stenson didn't know exactly what he was getting into when he signed up for a booth at the inaugural Entrepreneurial Fair hosted by the Baraga County Economic Development Corporation.

But after hearing presentations from government officials, networking with other local businesses and attending a few small business workshops, he was able to leave the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College with a wealth of new knowledge and connections.

"Everything has been very informative, especially the session with Bottom Line Marketing (titled "Making a Splash With Little Money"), they were on the ball," said Stenson, who owns Stenson Carpentry & Roofing out of Covington. "The networking is also very interesting, meeting other business owners from the area, I even met someone who I'll hopefully be able to link up with to help me with what I'm doing."

Article Photos

Daily Mining Gazette/Michael H. Babcock
Donna DesJardin of Hubbell talks with Jackie Tahtinen, site manager with Michigan Rehabilitation Services, of Marquette, at the inaugural Entrepreneurial Fair at the Ojibwa Community College Friday. DesJardin was one of many to attend the event to learn how to grow and promote her small business.

Those connections weren't rare, and that's exactly why John Westman, president of the BCEDC, wanted to put on the fair.

"The internal networking here has been really good, a couple of different companies met other companies that offer services that they really need," he said. "We've heard nothing but good feedback from the booths and the consensus is that we need to do this more often."

Prior to the first class beginning and the booths opening, Westman and several other people spoke to the large crowd about entrepreneurship in Michigan.

"The morning went better than I expected, we had probably 50 or 60 people here, that weren't with the booths, and the guest speakers were very good," said Westman.

Rep. Mike Lahti, D-Hancock, was on hand, as well as Ann Jousma Miller, representing Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

"The beginning was very informative," said Jon Kliment from LL Lynx Transport. "I just moved up here about a year ago, so that was really good stuff to hear."

LL Lynx is a taxi service in Baraga County, and he was there hoping to learn a few new tricks to hopefully expand, as well as promote the company.

"We're trying to expand the business, and get our name out there a little more," he said.

Stenson was one of many people who enjoyed a presentation from Erick J. Roberts, a Certified Public Accountant with Grandchamp, McBride & Prophet.

Roberts gave everyone lessons in business tax, including information on payroll, tax returns and what sort of business would be most beneficial for different companies.

"If I had any advice it'd be that if you're starting a business, get input from as many sources as possible," he said. "Preparation and using your resources are worth a lot."

Other presenters included Bob Marks on college entrepreneurship, Lisa Nugent and Scott Byrnes on small business loans and profit mastery, five senses by Jonathan Leinonen of MTEC SmartZone, retirement planning by Debra Stouffer of Ameriprise and the do's and don'ts of starting a business by Dar Shepherd with The ELoft.

"For the first e-fair we threw a whole lot of stuff at it, and we've gotten a lot of good feedback," Westman said, adding that next year's is already in the planning.

Michael H. Babcock can be reached at



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