Helping small businesses grow.

Success Stories

Colors and Cocktails

When you consider all that Lauren Parker Lasater has done in the last 10 or so years, you would think she would be exhausted and just looking for a place to rest. Instead, after stops in Japan, Philadelphia and Virginia, she has her most interesting business up and running in Kalamazoo. Colors & Cocktails teaches groups of 8-20 people how to paint on canvases or drinkable glassware in the comfort of their homes, locations of their choice, during public events at several of the areas’ most popular wineries and breweries, and now her newest adventure downtown on the Kalamazoo Mall.

Lauren was inspired to start her business after attending a painting event at a wine bar in Philadelphia. She launched Colors & Cocktails in February of 2014 in Virginia Beach, Virginia out of the desire of wanting a consistent career as a military spouse. In 2016, Lauren’s husband, Josh, received orders to Battle Creek. With the help of SCORE mentors Debi Howe and Cheri Bales, Lauren expanded her business from strictly a mobile art party company to a thriving studio space in the Park Trades Center.

If you know Lauren, you know she would not stop here. Lauren is very forward thinking. In less than 9 months at the Park Trades Center, she found an amazing opportunity to move her company to downtown Kalamazoo on the Mall. She said, “Yes”!

In two short months, with the help of contractors, family, and friends, she impressively renovated the company’s newest location at 240 S Kalamazoo Mall. Lauren’s beautiful art gallery, classroom, and boutique are flourishing downtown in the heart of Kalamazoo!

Lauren is a professional artist originally from Nashville, Tenn. She received her B.A. in Studio Art & Communications from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill. Her studies have taken her around the world. She met her loving and very supportive husband, Josh, while she was teaching English abroad in Japan.

How SCORE Helped: 

With the help of SCORE mentors Debi Howe and Cheri Bales, Lauren expanded her business from strictly a mobile art party company to a thriving studio space in…

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business?: 

When asked what SCORE services she utilized in setting up her business, she answered  “Every one that is available!”  And when asked what suggestions she has for small business entrepreneurs, she quickly came up with five:

  • Don’t be scared to ask questions
  • It doesn’t happen overnight
  • Just doing 1 task a day can propel your business forward
  • Don’t wait for the perfect time, there isn’t one
  • Always be open to the world of opportunities

Source – SCORE
Photo by Megan Johnson with Give Me a Shot Photography

Lauren Laster headshot

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