Helping small businesses grow.

Success Stories

Mamaleelu Cold Brew

Maliesha Pullano, the founder of Mamaleelu Cold Brew, was born in Benton Harbor, Mich.  She moved to Kalamazoo in 1999 with her young son to attend Western Michigan University.

While attending WMU, she recognized that the world was becoming a smaller place and decided to study abroad in Spain. Maliesha won a scholarship that allowed her to study abroad and take her 4 year old son, for a year.

As a single mother abroad she didn’t get to do the things that “traditional” students were able to do, however, she was able to hang out, with son in tow, at lots of cafés, drinking coffee with other mothers that she met. This was where her love for strong, black, bold coffee was born.

In the early months of 2014, Maliesha applied for, and won a grant to start a food business with the Can-Do Kitchen. She was laid off from work and desperately seeking a way to support her family of three. Her brand Mamaleelu Cold Brew was started later that year.

Since starting Mamaleelu Cold Brew, Maliesha often is asked about her journey as an entrepreneur. She has won several awards, a pitch competition, and has been quoted in Roast magazine. She continues to grow her line of products, gain new stores and enter new markets.

Maliesha’s passion and mission for Mamaleelu Cold Brew’s future is to highlight her brand as a black-woman-owned food brand in a highly competitive, yet not very diverse market.

She believes that representation matters and that representation is one piece of the puzzle towards empowerment.

She hopes as her story continues to unfold, that it inspires, brings hope, and empowerment to the ones who need it most. She also desires for you to relax at home, or at the home of a friend with a cup of STRONG. BLACK. BOLD Mamaleelu and let your stories be told!

woman with cold brew coffee business

Sponsored by the City of South Haven, South Haven Chamber of Commerce, and Lake Michigan College.

Congratulations to Gregory Shelton of Grand Unique Laundry for receiving his first loan through Northern Initiatives. With help from his SCORE mentor, Cheri Bales, Gregory did a fantastic job on developing his business plan and showing real entrepreneurial spirit. We wish you much success, and look forward to your upward movement. You are a wonderful role model.

—Gregory Shelton of Grand Unique Laundry

I appreciate your ears for listening, your eyes that see my vision and your heart that makes you who you are.  I thank you for your time. You are making a difference.

—Shawntel Lindsey, Director, The Artbor Community Connections Center

The WMed Innovation Center is a perfect environment for innovation to grow and become a successful commercial enterprise.


WMU Business Connection logo

Whether you are seeking a research partner or want to enlist the help of student groups in developing business plans, or just looking for ways to engage with WMU, the Business Connection office can find the resource to help move your business forward.


A loan (from Local Initiatives Support Corporation) helped expand our cafe to triple our seating, add a kids space, increase much needed staff work areas, and make other improvements to the space.


MEL logo

The Michigan eLibrary (MeL) is the State of Michigan’s digital library. It has excellent resources available to Michigan residents at no cost.


Western Michigan University’s Starting Gate helped me take an idea and transform it into a much more attainable reality. Whether providing talks with investors and business owners or accountability, the ultimate goal is helping your business succeed.

—Peter Shutt

Kalamazoo County Land Bank logo

The Kalamazoo Land Bank did robust community engagement around the vision and gave us something to work with that was solidly desired by people in the neighborhood. Having a vision meant we had to protect it. That’s something I thank the Land Bank for. It was difficult. It didn’t make anything faster or easier, but we got a better project in the end as a result of it.

—Matt Hollander

Buy Local logo

Buy Local Greater Kalamazoo is a hard working grassroots group focused on the greater Kalamazoo community and its small businesses. Their events and networking opportunities are the best!

—Cheri Bales

SBDC logo

Michigan SBDC is a great company providing top notch service to local businesses all over Michigan. The consultants are professional and the student workers contribute with excellent work!

—Martin Herman Sorensen