Helping small businesses grow.

Success Stories


“My passion is to make our product in the U.S. and help secure local, Michigan jobs.”
– Karen Smoots

One winter day several years ago, when Karen Smoots’ son took off his wet winter gloves after school, she smelled a horrible stench. After some quick investigating she realized that the odor was coming from his gloves, which were wet from playing outside in the snow. It was in that moment that she knew she needed to come up with a lasting solution to this problem.

When gloves do not thoroughly dry, the bacteria thrive inside, often resulting in that awful smell. Her invention, the TheEcoDryer® by greenglovedryer®, allows users to easily dry wet gloves, boots, and other gear. The EcoDryer attaches to an existing floor or wall vent, and allows users to easily place items on the dryer. The hot air from the vent dries and warms gloves, mittens, hats, slippers, and more.

With the idea for a solution firmly in mind, in 2014, Smoots began working with the Southwest Michigan Small Business Development Center, hosted at Western Michigan University in the Haworth College of Business, to receive guidance on the future of her company. The SBDC assisted her in writing a business plan, which is a foundational component of her business’s success. She also received an International Search Engine Optimization analysis to examine the effectiveness of her website and identify areas where she could improve her online marketing, website strategy and sales.

“The assistance and guidance I received from the SBDC has been unbelievable. I have used and implemented so much of what they have helped me with,” commented Smoots.

TheEcoDryer® has been drawing attention throughout the country and especially from school districts and can now be found on shelves throughout the Midwest, and online. Smoots debuted her product on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) in November 2016 and continues to gain momentum. She was named a 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year by SCORE Kalamazoo/Southwest Michigan in May 2021.

“Every household who deals with snow should have this product in their home. It’s a no brainer,” says Smoots who is a graduate of the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich. She is a lifelong resident of Michigan and actively involved in her community both personally and professionally. She created/invented her product, The EcoDryer in Michigan and manufactures all components local as well. Fabrication, manufacturing and packaging are all completed in Michigan.

A personal mission to provide every K-5 Elementary school with TheEcoDryers® blossomed into an partnership with Consumer’s Energy which has spread throughout Michigan and allows a zero increase in energy costs to schools all over the state.

TheEcoDryer® has received positive publicity nationwide with awards and recognitions from Family Choice Awards, Mothering magazine (Top 10 Must-Haves to Get Your Family Through Winter), Today with Kathie Lee & Hoda (2018 Winter Must Haves), ABC World News Tonight’s Made in America Christmas 2017.

More information on TheEcoDryer®

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