Helping small businesses grow.

Key Project Staff

Debi Howe

Executive Director

Debi Howe started her company building computer-based models for healthcare organizations with seven employees and grew it to 400 in 12 years, then sold it. She has walked in an entrepreneur’s shoes and understands the fundamentals of running a business and the emotional challenges. Debi has worked tirelessly in the southwest Michigan region to support small business growth and development from startup to sale. She has served as a member of the executive leadership team for SCORE Kalamazoo/SW Michigan Mentors (an SBA program), as chair, vice-chair, and a certified mentor. In 2016 she founded the Greater Kalamazoo Business Resources Network, a nonprofit organization to support small business startup and growth in the Kalamazoo Region. From these efforts, the Can-Do Kalamazoo incubator was able to recreate and follow the GKBRN model to launch. In May 2021 Debi founded the South Haven Region Business Hub with support from the South Haven Region Chamber of Commerce, the City of South Haven, and Lake Michigan College. She also helped launch the Western Michigan University WMed startup and served as Executive Director for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for 10 years.

Cheri Bales

M.A., Marketing and COMMS, Mentor, Marketing Subject Matter Expert

Cheri has spent 30 years in the marketing industry from nonprofit to education and especially small businesses. Cheri provides marketing and communications strategy and support including website development, social and digital marketing, email marketing, graphic design, event planning and implementation. Cheri volunteers as a marketing consultant to South Haven Region Business Hub leadership team and clients and serves as a SCORE Mentor for Van Buren County and the surrounding area. Mission: Making Marketing Easier for Business Entrepreneurs.

Trevor Brooks

Housing Planning Commission Representative, Mentor

Trevor Brooks is a dynamic and visionary entrepreneur and digital marketing expert. He is the founder of Ideacloud LLC, a cutting-edge digital marketing and business strategy firm that helps entrepreneurs and businesses succeed in today’s fast-paced digital landscape. With a deep understanding of digital marketing, business strategy, and technology, Trevor has a proven track record of helping his clients achieve their goals and reach new levels of success. Whether working on brand development, digital marketing campaigns, or business strategy, Trevor is always looking for new and innovative ways to help his clients grow and thrive.

Jacob Christensen

Bookkeeping Subject Matter Expert

Since December 2021, Jacob Christensen has been a professional bookkeeper and owner/operator of Great Lakes Bookkeeping, LLC. He is an Intuit ProAdvisor member certified in QuickBooks Online Advanced. He has helped clients with training, account setup, cleanup, tax preparation, and ongoing monthly services. He enjoys teaching and helping other companies get a handle on their books. Jacob supports in-person, and one-on-one mentoring at the Hub location at Lake Michigan College or virtually via zoom.

Jennifer Cohen

Virtual Assistant, Subject Matter Expert

Jennifer is a seasoned administrative professional with 30 years of experience. She’s spent her career leading departments, supporting high-level executives, and is now the owner/operator of EssentialJen Virtual Services, where she helps small business owners with the administrative and technical pieces of their businesses. Whether it’s managing the day-to-day, setting up technology, implementing systems, assisting with marketing and communications, or coordinating events, Jen’s mission is to make life easier for small business owners.

Prince A. Covington

Curriculum Development, Mentor

Prince A. Covington is a retired corporate trainer and adjunct professor teaching at Ivy Tech Community College and Notre Dame University. He has more than 30 years teaching experience including an extensive background in the areas of management/supervision, adult education, and soft skills. After retiring from education, Prince started his own business with the intent of making an impact in South Haven and the surrounding community. In January 2021, he co-founded Moveportz Private Car and Shuttle service to satisfy the need for short-haul passenger transportation. Prince holds a master’s degree in both Business Administration and Public Administration and is a retired serviceman spending 23 years in both the Marines and Army reserves.

Steven Cummings

Mentor, CFO Subject Matter Expert

Steven Cummings is the managing partner at SPC Consulting. He has a wealth of experience leading three different companies ranging in size from $3M to $50M.  His no-nonsense approach to devising a business plan makes it simple even for the novice. Steve and his team guide executives on strategy, process, and culture. Steve is passionate about working with people in the manufacturing industry. In the community, Steve is a Certified business mentor for SCORE, helping local entrepreneurs with their small businesses, a board member of Goodwill Industries, a featured speaker, and a blogger.

Jim Hettinger

Economic Development Consultant

Jim Hettinger started his economic development career in 1978, when he was named the Marketing Director of Battle Creek Unlimited, a non-profit corporation formed by the City of Battle Creek, Michigan, to market and manage the Fort Custer base transformation to a modern global industrial and business park. During his 30 years, he developed expertise in workforce development strategies, financing, and international logistics associated with the operation of a US Customs Port of Entry and Foreign Trade Zone. In 2009, Hettinger stepped down as the CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited and formed his own consulting practice: Jim Hettinger Urban(e) Development Services. He continues working in economic development, doing projects for local governments such as economic development assessments, strategic planning, and problem-solving.

Bradley Horstman

Web Developer, SEO Subject Matter Expert

Bradley brings more than 20 years of website design, development, and consulting. The majority of his business experience was as web developer for Western Michigan University. Since then, Bradley has worked closely with SCORE Kalamazoo and Cheri Bales of Hannah/Gold Communications to provide free feedback, guidance, and website planning for South Haven Region Business Hub’s clients.

Mike Kenny

CPA Subject Matter Expert

Mike Kenny, Principal, CPA, CIRA for CFO Advise has more than 30 years of financial experience, including the past 14 years working as a financial advisor and interim CFO for manufacturing, construction, food processors, logistics, web retailers, colleges, and service firms.

Mike Medema

CFO Mentor, Planning Team

Michael Medema is a 10x serial entrepreneur and a local Southwest Michigan resident. Michael is known throughout the country as a leading big data and digital marketing expert.  Michael and his companies have won numerous national awards in the area of innovation, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, company cultures, and scaling rapidly growing companies.  Michael has mentored thousands of startups and small businesses through innovation centers, universities, and his own businesses. In his spare time, Michael teaches entrepreneurship and digital marketing courses at two universities and mentors and consults for other entrepreneurs throughout the country.

Kathy Merchant

Curriculum Advisor, Mentor, Subject Matter Expert

Kathy is the founder and CEO of Calico Cleaning in South Haven, Michigan. She started the business with her daughter in 2009 and it has grown to 15 year-round employees and 45 seasonal employees. She joined Cleaning Business Fundamentals in 2020 and grew her business by 58% that year. She is now a coach for the program and helps other cleaning business owners grow and scale their businesses.

Michelle Mitchell

Subject Matter Expert

Michelle Mitchell, CEO & Founder of Mitchell Consulting is a self-professed lifelong learner—always on a mission to further develop her leadership skills. A graduate of Western Michigan University, Michelle obtained her BBA in Accounting and two master’s degrees, one in Organizational Management and another in Career and Technical Education. She founded Mitchell Consulting 12 years ago.  The staff at Mitchell Consulting is certified in QuickBooks Online. Services offered include bookkeeping, accounting, advisory services, and coaching.

Michele Mollard

Curriculum Advisor, Mentor, Lead Roundtable Coordinator

Michele is passionate about designing all aspects of your life. Michele started her first business right out of college. It was a business-to-business leads group. Michele works with entrepreneurs and their leadership teams to teach them how to run their businesses, so they get more of what they want from their business. Her calling as a facilitator, coach and teacher have been fulfilled as she works with Leadership Teams in many organizations annually helping people and companies reach their full potential. She has volunteered her time for several companies and nonprofits to help them grow.

Michael Neiss

Leadership Program Coordinator, Human Resources Subject Matter Expert

Michael brings a passion for leadership and organizational excellence that was formed during his years as a member of the management team at United Parcel Service, CMS Energy, and General Motors. Throughout his work with his own firm, Michael T Neiss and Associates, and his continued work as a senior consultant with the Tom Peters Company, Mike’s focus has been on helping organizations gain a competitive advantage through their people. Mike has been recognized as one of the original Master Consultants for the Leadership Challenge. Mike’s work has been focused on helping organizations develop their leaders and build the necessary systems and practices to insure a committed and focused workforce. He has had the opportunity to work closely with many of the best thought leaders. Michael is also one of the founding certified consultants of the Extreme Leadership Institute.

John M. “GB” Richmond

Planning Team, Business Positioning, Culture Mentor, Professional Speaker

John M. “GB” Richmond is the founder of Goodbye Money Stress, a company providing much needed financial literacy workshops for groups, as well as offering consulting services for individuals. A “St. Paul moment” led GB to a second B.A., this one in Theological Studies, and some new paths. He relished time he was given teaching high school theology, as general manager of a small Catholic radio station, and as North Region Manager with Mid-West Family SWMI. Each opportunity was a steppingstone providing new experiences that he shares for the benefit of others. GB is also actively involved in serving his community, as an Ambassador with the South Haven Chamber of Commerce, in the South Haven Rotary, where GB is chair of the Youth Services Committee, and in many roles at St Basil’s Catholic Church.

Fred Schubkegel

Business Attorney, Legal Advisor

Fred Schubkegel is with Varnum LLP, provides general legal counsel to private business interests and non-profit organizations. He has more than 30 years’ experience assisting for-profits and nonprofits with advice, strategies and services including entity formation and governance, financing, partnership agreements, contracts, asset protection and business succession planning. Fred has specialized expertise in real estate and economic development, finance, and businesses or properties impacted by environmental regulations or concerns. Fred serves as the administrator of Varnum LLP’s MISpringboard program which provides legal counsel to qualified businesses and individuals. Fred is one of Varnum’s go-to experts for legal matters involving business ventures of Native American tribes and minority business enterprises.

Desi Taylor

Bookkeeper

Desi Taylor is the Founder & Executive Director, Kalamazoo Start-Up Center. She has participated in many small business accelerator programs, including WMU’s Starting Gate and WMU/Michigan Tech’s Integrated Customer Discovery Program and was the 2018 recipient of WMU’s Wendell Christoff Award for Entrepreneurship. Her businesses have been featured in National Geographic Traveler, The Travel Channel, and Frommer’s Travel Guide. For the last seven years, she has trained extensively in the areas of bookkeeping, business finance, and small business structure and compliance.

Kevin S. Whiteford

CPA & MST Subject Matter Expert, Mentor

Kevin S. Whiteford is the owner and operator of multiple small businesses with the two main businesses being Whiteford Wealth Management, Inc., and Whiteford Properties Inc., in South Haven, Michigan. Kevin started up his investment and financial planning business in December 1999 and is licensed with a series 7, series 66 and series 24. Kevin utilizes his tax knowledge and international business experience when assisting businesses and individuals in meeting their retirement investment needs. Whiteford Wealth Management, Inc. currently serves clients in 28 states who operate businesses all over the country. In November 1997, Kevin decided to start his own firm specializing in small businesses and the business owners. Kevin currently sits on the board of directors for the DDA for the City of South Haven.

Scott Whiteford

Attorney, Planning Team

Scott Whiteford, J.D., is the owner of Historic Hotel Nichols and co-owner of Kal-Haven Outpost. He has a strong background in small business finance, tax, legal, and real estate. He owns nearly 70 long-term rental properties in the area. He is an associate at Whiteford Wealth Management full-time and a board member on Market Van Buren, Drawing Children Into Reading, YDC, and The Mitten Children’s Museum.

Our Partners

Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance

Michigan Small Business Development Center

The Michigan Small Business Development Center offers expert assistance at no cost to entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a business.

WMed Innovation Center

The WMed Innovation Center is the place to start and grow life science, technology, or engineering ventures.

SCORE Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan

Starting and growing a small business can be challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone.