Jalen Hayes Sr. and his growing food business, Fire Up Grill, is the latest micro-business in the Blue Water Area to get financing support through a growing collaboration established by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County.
Originally from Port Huron, the aspiring food entrepreneur started Fire Up Grill back in the early days of the COVID pandemic and the business has been growing since then. Just recently he was approved for a loan from Michigan Women Forward (MWF) which received an investment from the Community Foundation to enable such support for micro-businesses.
“We provided MWF with a $250,000 investment so that they could bring their expertise, loans and staffing support to the Blue Water Area,” said Hale Walker, Board Chair of the Community Foundation. “Our team doesn’t have the internal capacity to work one-on-one with entrepreneurs like Jalen, but MWF does.”
Jalen plans to use the financing provided by MWF to purchase a second food truck and says he appreciates having the backing and support of the Community Foundation and MWF.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity that I have,” Hayes said. “Looking back to where I started, I see my vision and just to see it within a year timeframe of me opening up Fire Up Grill is a true blessing.”
Earlier this year the Community Foundation celebrated the success of another local micro-business entrepreneur, Carol Dalrymple, as she purchased the building formerly known as Studio 1219 from the Community Foundation to support her growing small business.
“Carol’s continued growth and success was another collaboration with the Community Foundation and our friends at the Acheson Foundation,” added Walker. “The Acheson Foundation was the driving force behind the creation of Studio 1219 way back in 2004 and we’re all proud to see this next chapter in the building’s life under the direction of a private entrepreneur like Carol.”
Over the last several years the Community Foundation has been fine-tuning its emphasis on the growth and prosperity of the downtowns throughout the region, and the micro-businesses that are such a key element of economic development. Back in 2019, the Community Foundation provided a significant loan to Mark and Kim Stevens from St. Clair, to open up the Anchor Point Bistro at the Riverview Plaza in St. Clair. Their restaurant has now become one of the major draws for dining in St. Clair.
The Community Foundation’s growing family of micro-businesses also includes local food entrepreneurs Daysha Woodley and Chris Moore, who are both now licensed through the Thumb Coast Kitchens program based out of the Atrium Café in Port Huron and the commissary kitchen at Grace Church.
“We feel really good about our network of financing and investment options for micro-businesses,” added Walker. “And in the near future we have plans to expand our investments into the area of daycare as we try to make some kind of impact on the tremendous shortage of existing daycare spots in our region.”
The Community Foundation of St. Clair County is the largest and oldest grantmaking foundation in this part of Michigan, and for several years its top strategic priority has been community and economic growth.