Elite Credit Service, LLC Launches as a New Start-Up Business

August 25, 2015 - (Benton Harbor, MI) Elite Credit Service, LLC, a collection agency offering services for government student loans, medical, dental, credit card and utilities has launched as a new business start-up. Owner Malisa Ridley has over ten years of experience within the collection industry, working in banking where she handled credit cards, commercial and student loans.  

Ridley worked with the Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services team to get her started in the right direction. “They are an excellent resource for starting a business,” said Ridley. “They have a great deal of experience and expertise.  You learn quickly how committed they are in helping you succeed.”

Elite Credit Service’s mission is to provide quality and affordable assistance as they stand behind their clients in need. The new business will be open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. To learn more contact Malisa Ridley at (877) 786-9485 or visit their website at

​Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance Hosts “Celebrating the Entrepreneur in All of Us” September 24, 2015 at Shadowland Ballroom on Silver Beach

wbc-invite-jpeg.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI-August 20, 2015) The Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance is hosting “Celebrating the Entrepreneur in All of Us” on Thursday, September 24, 2015 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Shadowland Ballroom on Silver Beach, 333 Broad Street St. Joseph, MI. Guests will enjoy lunch, networking and meeting WBC clients who will be showcased at the event. Andrea Short, 1st Source Bank’s first female Chief Financial Officer will be the keynote speaker. The celebration will be moderated by Denise Bohn-Stewart, co-host of 98.3 The Coast’s “Denise and Jonny in the Morning.”

Margaret Adams, Manager of the WBC said, “Entrepreneurs are so important to our local economy. This event celebrates our small businesses and all that they have accomplished, and encourages others to take that next step. Each day the WBC team is focused on guiding entrepreneurs at all stages to a path of success and growth.”

The WBC at Cornerstone Alliance works with entrepreneurs of all levels throughout Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties. They offer workshops, seminars and one-on-one counseling, all designed for the success of small business owners. The WBC at Cornerstone Alliance has two offices: 38 W. Wall Street, Benton Harbor, MI; and their satellite location at 15311 Three Oaks Road, Three Oaks, MI.

Tickets are available for $35 each or $250 for a table of 8. To purchase tickets, please visit or contact Patricia Flourry at (269) 925-6100. Space is limited and tickets are available through Thursday, September 17, 2015. 

​Local Registered Nurse Launches Medical Consulting Business

edited-kristi-7.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI-August 17, 2015) - Kristi Kissinger and Associates, LLC, a certified Legal Nursing Consulting firm is open for business as of July 21, 2015. The new start-up will work with lawyers summarizing medical records for their medical cases including record review; translation services for medical terminologies and diagnoses. The mission of the newly launched business is: Registered nurses dedicated to providing the facts based on years of experience to the legal system. Founder Kristi Kissinger, is a registered nurse specializing in Emergency Medicine and Forensic Nursing.  

As a nurse, Kissinger has had a growing personal interest in the connection between law and health care. “I decided to further my education and open my own consulting business,” explained Kissinger. As a new entrepreneur, she needed help and worked with the Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance. “The WBC has been such a huge support during my transition from floor nursing into the business world,” said Kissinger. “They guided me and encouraged me throughout this process-I cannot say enough about the team.”   

Kristi Kissinger and Associates, LLC is open Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. To learn more about Kristi Kissinger and Associates, LLC, call (269) 861-5228.

T&N Farms

fullsizerender.jpg T&N Farms, LLC is the result of the husband and wife team, Nancy and Tom Wendzel’s hard work and appreciation of farming. Located in Bainbridge Township, T&N Farms is a 15 -acre soy bean farm. Nancy and Tom have owned the farm land since 2007 and had rented it out to a farmer who took care of the seeding, harvesting and other work necessary to maintain the crop.

According to Nancy, in 2013 they decided it would be more financially lucrative to farm it themselves. “I was raised on a farm,” said Nancy. “I knew the work involved since I helped out on my parent’s farm, so we decided to make it official and turn this into our own business.”

Nancy needed help with creating a Limited Liability Corporation and contacted the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. “The team was so helpful to us,” recalled Nancy. “We learned so much during this process. Margaret Adams provided a lot of options as far as crops we could farm, as well as business formation options. We couldn’t have done this without them.”

Today, T&N Farms is a profitable soy bean farm. Tom and Nancy are considering potential expansion options to their farm.

Lazy Ballerina Winery in downtown St. Joseph Celebrates Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening!

dscn3894.jpg (August 6, 2015-Benton Harbor, MI) The Lazy Ballerina Winery, a wine tasting room featuring 12 local wines and food pairings, at 315 State Street, St. Joseph, Michigan celebrated their grand opening on Thursday, August 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm with representatives from the City of St. Joseph, St. Joseph Today, Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance and Senator John Proos’ office. Winery owners, business partners and cousins, Melanie Owen, and Lauren Kniebes officially opened their doors on June 25, 2015. A grand opening public celebration is scheduled for Friday, August 7, 2015 from noon to 7 pm at the Winery where the public is invited to attend and enjoy door prizes, special discounts and more.

Owen and Kniebes, both from Coloma, Michigan are no strangers to the winemaking business. They experienced first-hand from their grandmother the art of harvesting grapes from their family farm and both enjoyed careers in the wine industry. The duo always knew that launching their own business focused around local wines was something that would eventually happen.

Owen was a 2013 graduate of the Promoting Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs Program (P.O.W.E.R.) offered by the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. P.O.W.E.R. is an 11-week program set in an interactive environment where female entrepreneurs learn everything from marketing to financing. “P.O.W.E.R. inspired me to take the knowledge and business connections I made to pursue the opportunity to open what is now the Lazy Ballerina,” said Owen. “The WBC team has been such a strong support system to us during the entire process. We certainly could not have done this without them.”

The Lazy Ballerina is also benefitting from the Cornerstone Alliance Rent Subsidization Program; designed to supplement first entrepreneur’s first year’s lease. Greg Vaughn, Cornerstone Alliance’s Chief Operating Officer and Vice-President, Business Development said, “Recognizing that cash flow is usually a challenge for start-up businesses, this program helps to minimize operating expenses; reducing some of the financial burden experienced in the first year of business.”  

For more information on the Lazy Ballerina, please visit their website; find them on Facebook; or call them at (269) 363-6218. They are open daily noon-6:00 pm and by appointment for evening events.

Big Head Farm is a Winner!

Comcast Business presented Big Head Farm a check for $10,000 for being named one of 32 regional winners of its “Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs” competition. To win, participating entrepreneurs and start-ups had to submit essays about how they would spend the prize money on technology for their businesses. Owner and founder of Big Head Farm, Karen Warner will use the money to implement technology to connect all farm employees to the tools needed to complete and document tasks on the farm for organic, environmental and food safety record keeping using web based software.
Big Head Farm located in Benton Harbor, Michigan is a certified organic farm that grows vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers. To learn more about Big Head Farm, visit

Small Businesses, Big Successes!

To download the PDF, click here.

Small Businesses Offer Summer Fun in Michigan’s Great Southwest!

(Benton Harbor, MI) June 11, 2015 - Summer is almost here in Michigan’s Great Southwest! Several new business starts who worked with Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance are open for business! Take advantage of their offerings and enjoy!  

Hayride Winery Tours
13508 Madron Lake Road
Buchanan, MI  49107
Owner Paul Granholm launched Hayride Winery Tours in the fall of 2014. Granholm who retired from the electronic components business last year was looking for an enjoyable enterprise to keep him busy. The idea for the business actually started several years ago when Granholm and his wife Carol took a group of their friends to three local wineries on their own hay wagon, pulled by a tractor. Their guests loved seeing the countryside from that vantage point while enjoying the wine and spirits from the area.

The winery tours can accommodate up to 12 adults, and the tour includes wine tasting at three local wineries: Hickory Creek Winery, Tabor Hill Winery and Round Barn Winery. Hayride Winery Tours are open from May through October. To schedule a tour and learn more about Hayride Winery Tours visit their webpage at and on Facebook
Conway’s of Three Oaks
1 East Central Street
Three Oaks, MI 49128
Kieren and Lorraine Conway, owners of Conway’s of Three Oaks, a coffee and sandwich shop specializing in Irish cuisine never thought they would be owners of an eatery. They did know that they would one day settle in Three Oaks. Both are originally from Ireland, had a home in New Buffalo and frequently visited Three Oaks. Several years ago, Kieren had health issues and Lorraine took some extended time off from her job to help her husband through this time. During his recovery, she perfected her mother’s Irish recipes, they found a building in Three Oaks and everything else fell into place.

Guests enjoy pastries including scones, as well as sandwiches, coffees and more. Conway’s of Three Oaks is open Thursday-Saturday 9 am to 6 pm; Sunday 9 am to 4:30 pm. Visit their Facebook page or call (708) 369-2831.

Great Lakes Sand Sculpting School
13416 Red Arrow Highway
Union Pier, MI
Owner, Janet Schrader is a professional sand sculptor, and has been teaching the art of making sand sculpting for over 8 years. She works with families, individuals, corporate groups and others to create team building events, private beach parties on Lake Michigan.

Beginning in July through September, “The Bottomless Bucket Class” will be taught in a covered 10’ x 20’ sandbox. As a professional sand sculptor, Schrader teaches groups and individuals how to be creative as they learn the secrets of sand. During these one hour classes, students will learn how to create a sand tower, complete with doors, windows and stairs. All tools are provided for each class. For more information, please visit or call (269) 405-5772. 

M Squared Modern Hair Celebrates Grand Opening in St. Joseph Township

(Benton Harbor, MI) June 5, 2015 - M Squared Modern Hair located at 3094 Niles Road, St. Joseph, MI hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, June 5, 2015. Representatives from St. Joseph Township, The Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance and Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce were part of the event.

Owners Mandy and Scott McDonald worked for two years on creating their dream salon. They purchased the building and completely rehabbed it from the studs on both the inside and exterior. Mandy has been a hairdresser in the area for more than 10 years. “I have been looking to create a wonderful space where I can collaborate with my hair stylist peers, all focused on creating the ultimate customer experience for M Squared Modern Hair guests,” said McDonald. “We have a number of talented hairdressers in southwest Michigan, and I wanted to create a local salon for those clients that may go out of town for their hair and nail services.”

As a first-time business owner, McDonald needed direction navigating through the sometimes complicated process of launching a business from the ground up. She enlisted the guidance and expertise from the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. “The Women’s Business Center was the blade that cut through the red tape of opening a salon,” explained McDonald. “Margaret Adams and her team helped us at every step and connected me with the resources I needed to be open for business. I know if I ever have a question, the WBC will be there for me.” 

The full service salon featuring Paul Mitchell products offers haircuts for women, men and children; coloring and highlights, styling, conditioning treatments and manicures and pedicures. M Squared Modern Hair also has a full-service blowout bar when clients need their hair styled for special events. 

M Squared Modern Hair is open Tuesday-Thursday, noon to 7 pm; Friday, 9 am to 4 pm; Saturday 9 am to 3 pm. Appointments can be made by calling (269) 588-3059 or by visiting their website at Or visit the salon’s Facebook page here.

Marmalade Boutique Celebrates Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on May 29, 2015

(Benton Harbor, MI) May 29, 2015 - Mary Ellen Tainer, owner of Marmalade Boutique opened her store, Marmalade Boutique on May 1, 2015 at 5861 Sawyer Road in downtown Sawyer. Today, she hosted Chikaming Township elected officials, Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce staff and staff from the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance for a ribbon cutting ceremony.  

For 27 years Tainer worked in the real estate business in Chicago. She and her husband own a home in Three Oaks, MI and have been coming to Harbor Country for more than three decades. Following the advice she received to do what you love, Marmalade Boutique became a reality. The retail store features clothing styles with flair of fun yet are contemporary and classic. Marmalade offers more than 40 brands that Tainer has personally worn ranging from casual to dressy. The boutique also sells handbags, scarves, jewelry and more.

New to the entrepreneurial world, Tainer looked to the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance for guidance. “Margaret Adams and her team held my hand,” said Tainer. “I didn’t know where to start and they helped me with writing my business plan; getting my financial resources in order, and everything else that you need to launch your own business.”

Marmalade Boutique is open Thursday through Monday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. To learn more about them, visit their Facebook page or call (269) 405-1042. 

Beyond Basics Salon Opens in Downtown Benton Harbor

11639155_953239641406867_1773192918_o.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI) May 18, 2015 Beyond Basics Salon, 88 West Main Street, Benton Harbor is open for business. Today, the full-service salon had their ribbon cutting ceremony. Elected officials of the City of Benton Harbor, Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services, Women’s Business Center and SCORE of Southwest Michigan were part of the celebration. Salon owner Samrosetta Hardnett has been involved in the beauty industry for 25 years and a licensed hair stylist for 15 years. Her experience coupled with her passion for people led her to opening her own salon.

Hardnett has worked with the Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and Women’s Business Center staff to get her business launched. She was a POWER graduate; an 11-week series focused on providing women entrepreneurs with the information and resources needed to start and sustain a small business. “The guidance and expertise that I have received from the Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and Women’s Business Center has been tremendous,” said Hardnett. “The workshops and resources they offer are invaluable to anyone starting a business.”

Beyond Basics Salon’s mission is to “Revive, Renew and Relax,” and will accomplish this through their services which include haircuts for women, men and children; textures; perm waves; relaxers; straighteners; full head weaves; shampoo; blow dry, and condition treatments. In addition, the salon offers hair color treatments, highlights and manicures.

The new salon is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm by appointments; however, Hardnett says walk-ins are welcome. To learn more about Beyond Basics Salon, call (269) 363-4555.

Unity Boutique Celebrates Grand Opening on May 2, 2015

logo.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI) May 4, 2014 - Entrepreneur Erin Thompson officially opened the doors to her new business, Unity Boutique at 7220 Heritage Square Drive, Suite 550, Granger, IN 46530 on Saturday, May 2, 2015 during her Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Elected officials from the City of Mishawaka, IN, Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance as well as SCORE of Southwest Michigan were part of Thompson’s celebratory launch. Unity Boutique offers sustainable, organic, fair trade, and USA made clothing, gifts, and accessories. 

Thompson, a Niles, MI resident had worked in the resale clothing business for nearly 10 years. During her tenure of managing a consignment boutique she found her passion for recycling and repurposing clothing. “I fell in love with clothing, textiles, and the business behind it,” explained Thompson. “This experience encouraged me to earn my degree in business management, and someday be able to launch my own clothing store.”

As a first-time business owner, Thompson needed direction on securing financing for her venture. She contacted the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. “I would not be opening my boutique, if it weren’t for the professional guidance shown to me by Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and the Women’s Business Center,” said Thompson. “From the beginning, they were honest with me about setting realistic business expectations, and answered the many questions that I had. They were responsive, and professional.”

Manager of the WBC, Margaret Adams, who worked with Thompson said, “Erin was driven to succeed, and knew what needed to be done to launch Unity Boutique. It’s always rewarding to work with clients who can start a business based on a passion. Erin embodies the entrepreneurial spirit, and has worked diligently to make this happen.” 

Unity Boutique is open Monday-Friday from 10 am to 7 pm; Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm and Sundays 12 pm to 5 pm.  To learn more about them, visit their website; Facebook or call them at (574) 217-7481. 

Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and Michigan Small Business Development Center Expand Partnership

(Benton Harbor, MI) February 18, 2015 - Greg Vaughn, Cornerstone Alliance Chief Operating Officer and Vice President, Business Development announced today that they have expanded their service offerings through a formal partnership with the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC is a resource for second stage small businesses and advanced technology companies that provides counseling, training, and market research. “Cornerstone Alliance has had an informal partnership with the SBDC for many years, collaborating on small business development initiatives throughout Michigan’s Great Southwest,” said Vaughn. “We are delighted to now be able to include SBDC among our toolbox of viable resources focused on the success and sustainability of our entrepreneurial clients in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties.” The SBDC will operate out of the Cornerstone Alliance offices at 38 W. Wall Street, Benton Harbor, MI on a bi-weekly schedule.

The SBDC joins the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance, SBA Microloan Program, SCORE and  504 Loan Program as strategic business offerings, all available at Cornerstone Alliance; creating a single business development resource for local small businesses. “This partnership is a win and step forward for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the tri-county area,” Vaughn said. “Local entrepreneurs and small businesses can leverage the full support of SBA business assistance programs under one roof and tap into the expertise of the area’s best business mentors and participate in workshops and seminars.”

Tamara J. Davis, Michigan Small Business Development Center Regional Director said “The partnership with Cornerstone Alliance is a logical fit. Clients will benefit from access to a wide array of services, counseling, secondary research, and training. And, our SBDC team will benefit as they collaborate with the Cornerstone Alliance Business Development team to support and strengthen the area’s entrepreneurial clientele. SBDC growth consultants, Melissa Angel and Carolyn Rourke will provide consulting services for Southwest Michigan. We will increase our presence at Cornerstone Alliance in the near future by adding an additional consultant.”

To schedule a meeting with a SBDC Growth Consultant, the Women’s Business Center, SCORE, or for a Microloan or call Cornerstone Alliance (269) 925-6100.
About the MI-SBDC
The Michigan Small Business Development Center provides counseling, training and secondary market research for Michigan’s new business ventures, existing small businesses, expanding new businesses and new technology companies. The MI-SBDC Southwest Michigan is located at the Western Michigan University Haworth College of Business. Entrepreneurs and small business owners may access services by calling (269) 387-6004 or visiting

Premiere Indoor Golf Facility Ribbon Cutting October 17, 2014; Play Virtual Golf Year Round Starting October 18, 2014

(Benton Harbor, MI) October 13, 2014 - SWM Indoor Golf, the area’s first indoor golf center boasts 2,700 square feet of golf simulators. Local entrepreneurs, Richard Askren and Michael Alexander, both from Coloma, MI, and avid golfers and gamers developed the idea several years ago; wanting to create a facility where the local golf community could play their game all year long. “Golf is such a popular sport, and with so many great courses in our area, we wanted to develop a space where golfers of all skill levels could hone their game throughout the year, and not have to risk losing momentum due to our sometimes long and cold winters,” said Askren.

Located at 600 Langley Avenue in St. Joseph, MI, “SWM Indoor Golf will feature four state-of-the-art golf simulators where golfers of all ages can play a round of golf or work on their swing on the virtual driving range,” added Askren.

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will take place on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm and will officially open their doors to the public on Saturday, October 18, 2014 from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Golfers of all levels will be able to participate in a series of free challenges for prizes including closest-to-pin, long drive, putting, and bunker shot.  

To learn more about SWM Indoor Golf, visit their website at or their Facebook page. Hours of operation will be Sunday through Thursday, 9 am to 9 pm; Friday and Saturday, 9 am to 11 pm.

WBC 10 Year Anniversary Celebration!

wbc-10-year-logo.jpg The Women's Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance has been supporting the innovation and abitions of our Community's entrepreneurs and small business owners since 2004. Read all about our milestone event and keynote speaker, Melanie Bergeron of Two Men and a Truck!

Ramona Bells Pizzeria to Celebrate Grand Opening

6f5bb2d8d645c46e6e59a70444786f38.jpg (St. Joseph, MI) June 12, 2014 - Ramona Bells Pizzeria is the latest business start-up from Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance. Owner Brad Hurlbutt opened the eatery’s doors on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 2809 Niles Avenue, St. Joseph. The new restaurant serves pizza, pasta and sandwiches for takeout and delivery. Ramona Bells, named after Hurlbutt’s daughter will celebrate their launch with a grand opening on Monday, June 16, 2014.

Hurlbutt has over 13 years of experience in the food industry, and has always known he would open a pizzeria. “My passion for serving an excellent pizza coupled with providing the highest level of friendly service to the community is finally happening," said Hurlbutt. “I could not have done this without the help of the entire WBC team. They kept me on track to achieving my business goals, and because of their support and knowledge, I am able to pursue my passion.”

Dubelsa Mata-Garcia, Business Developer at WBC worked with Hurlbutt to get his doors open; walking him through the necessary steps. “Brad was determined to make Ramona Bells a success. Because of his strong background in the food service industry, he understood the challenges that opening a restaurant can pose," she said. "It is always rewarding to work with clients who are able to transform their aspirations into a business.”

Ramona Bells is open Mondays through Thursdays 10:30 am to 10:00 pm; Fridays and Saturdays 10:30 am to 11:00 pm and closed on Sundays. For more information on Ramona Bells Pizzeria, call (269) 982-7777.

Explore The Purple Door at the Stevensville Village Square

85621e67c8a459f01f85e1c1cc1e14ba.jpg (Stevensville, MI) June 5, 2014 - After working 30 years in area factories, 16 years at Heath/Zenith and 16 years at Whirlpool Plant 7, Nancy Stuck has decided to make a huge career change by opening a new resale store in Stevensville.

When Whirlpool’s Plant 7 closed their doors in March of 2011 Nancy decided to return to college. Last September, during her 2nd year at L.M.C., Nancy was accepted into the Women’s Business Centers, 11 week  P.O.W.E.R. program. Nancy always had a flair for buying and selling, whether it was a garage sale, Ebay or her booth at a local resale mall, she would find fabulous items and fix, paint or polish them to make them even better. A resale store was a natural fit.

Margaret Adams, from the Women’s Business Center put her in touch with a  SCORE member to help develop the business plan to be presented to 1st Source Bank. Nancy then contacted Bob Jones at Kinexus, who is guiding and helping prioritize the steps necessary to make the business plan a success. Nancy purchased 2620 and 2622 W. John Beers Road in the Stevensville Village Square. So customers could easily find the store among the look alike Village Square store fronts, Nancy decided to paint the doors purple and name the store Explore The Purple Door.
Explore The Purple Door is a special and different kind of resale store. Explore The Purple Door offers an assortment of hand-picked new and gently loved items of interest including antiques, collectibles, home décor and stylish plus size clothing. There is an interesting collection of local memorabilia including a House of David collection and books of southwestern Michigan history. Nancy was also very excited to tell us that she carries the popular Chalk Country paint made in Battle Creek and used by crafters worldwide for painting and distressing furniture. Butera Original Jewelry Designs is also featured. In the near future Nancy plans on expanding her store to include other vendors and consignment items. Now with Explore The Purple Door and What’s New I resale, located in the Village Square, and the Goodwill boutique, Nancy hopes that Stevensville can become a destination for quality resale stores.

Explore The Purple Door hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday 10-6, Thursday and Friday 12noon- 6 and closed Sunday and Monday. Located in the Stevensville Village Square at 2622 W. John Beers Rd. Phone number is 269-281-7116. Website is and for even more information look up Explore The Purple Door on Facebook and “Like” us. And when you’re in Stevensville on John Beers Rd. look for the purple doors and come explore.

Contact: Nancy Stuck (owner)
Store:  269-281-7116
Home:  269-926-4039


Local Entrepreneur Launches Hair Salon in Benton Harbor

cc79023b63ed352ea5b812d909a8ae00.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI) May 22, 2014 - Nicole Wooden, a local entrepreneur celebrated her new business start-up at her grand opening of Nikki’s Place of Hair Care, a full-service hair salon on May 3, 2014 at 151 East Napier in Benton Harbor, MI. The new salon offers haircuts, styling services, relaxer treatments, permanents, and pressing services from Wooden and her team of three licensed stylists.  

Wooden has been working with the Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance since 2010. “I always knew that I would be a small business owner,” Wooden said. “The WBC team was very patient and worked with me on perfecting and implementing my business plan. Their professional expertise and guidance allowed me access to business resources that I wouldn’t have received on my own. They definitely made my journey to owning my own business easier.”

Wooden’s entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop with launching her own business. She purchased the 8,000 square foot building on Napier Avenue in 2014 and has available space for retail and office businesses. Two retail stores and café also opened on May 3, 2014.

Margaret Adams, Manager and Business Developer of Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance and her staff have worked with Wooden since the beginning. “Nicole has a strong work ethic and desire to succeed,” said Adams. “She was very deliberate in her plans and implementation of her hair salon. Her tenacity to launch her own business and offer future entrepreneurs and existing small business owners the opportunity to lease space in her building has been inspiring.”

For more information on the salon hours and services, please call (269) 369-6064.

New Eatery to Open in Benton Harbor Arts District; Organic, Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Dishes Using Local Ingredients

88f92fa3818ad53acb0abc2498f6964c.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI) April 17, 2014 - The Mason Jar Café, a full service breakfast, brunch, and lunch restaurant featuring a menu of organic, vegetarian and gluten-free options will open on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 210 Water Street in the Benton Harbor Arts District. Owners Jayme Cousins and Abel Abarca Martinez will be sourcing many of their ingredients locally. Entrepreneurs Cousins and Martinez bring a wealth of restaurant and culinary experience to their new venture. Martinez worked with the Bistro on the Boulevard’s Chef Ali Barker from 2000-2010, and Cousins has managerial and front- of- the- house experience from working in various local restaurants.  

The birth of the Mason Jar Café came about as a result of Cousins experiencing some medical issues and closely evaluating the foods she was eating, and the affect it was having on her health. “It’s been a shared dream to own our own restaurant,” said Martinez, “We want to foster an environment where people can savor the flavors of healthy foods. It is exciting to offer a product that is healthy and flavorful. We will not be serving anything frozen or processed; and the majority of our products will be from local sources. Everyone that enters our restaurant will feel at home.”

Cousins and Martinez sought the business guidance and expertise of the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. “The team has been very supportive during this process,” said Cousins. “We really had no idea on where to go or what to do with our ideas. They got us focused and connected with the right people.” The owners of the new eatery are benefitting from the Cornerstone Alliance Rent Subsidization Program which supports their first year’s lease expense. Greg Vaughn, Cornerstone Alliance’s Chief Operating Officer and Vice-President, Business Development said, “Recognizing that cash flow is usually a challenge for start-up businesses, this program helps to minimize operating expenses; reducing some of the financial burden experienced in the first year of business.”  

“Jayme and Abarca have worked hard,” said Margaret Adams, Women’s Business Center Manager and Business Developer of Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. “We are excited to have another start-up business launch in the community; further supporting the importance of home-grown business to our local economy.”

For more information on The Mason Jar Café, visit their website at or call (269) 757-7333. The Mason Jar Café will be open daily from 7:00 am to 3 pm. 

Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services Help Local Entrepreneur Launch Public Safety Firm

(Benton Harbor, MI) March 20, 2014 - Lange Investigation and Consulting Service, LLC, a new business specializing in public safety, surveillance and security services will open March 24, 2014. Founder, Roger Lange of Benton Harbor, is a veteran of law enforcement; his resume includes Detective Lieutenant of Berrien County’s Sherriff’s Department and Benton Harbor Public Safety Director. Lange brings over 28 years of security experience and will employ a staff of certified police officers with strong backgrounds in all aspects of public safety including tactics and strategies.

“Lange Investigation and Consulting Service, LLC is a culmination of my public safety background and my desire to make a difference for the residents of the community,” Lange said. “I want to be among the agents of change for bringing success to the community.” The new public safety firm will offer a range of services including preventative countermeasures for gated and open communities; surveillance; process services and large public events.

Lange worked with the Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Team to transform his idea into a reality. “The Small Business Services team worked diligently with me by educating me on what is needed to get a start-up business off the ground,” explained Lange. “The connections I have been able to make with community business leaders have been invaluable. I am grateful for the support and business guidance from the Cornerstone Alliance staff.”  

Margaret Adams, Women’s Business Center Program Manager and Business Developer at Cornerstone Alliance worked with Lange from the beginning. “Roger was very focused and organized,” said Adams. “He worked to accomplish what was needed to launch his consulting service and had goals in place to make them happen.”

To learn more about Lange Investigation and Consulting Service, LLC, contact Roger Lange at or via email at

Coloma Mexican Restaurant Plans Grand Opening; Entrepreneurs Offer Columbian and Mexican Influenced Dishes

f5002734807b5d4bcde653b1e9033ba8.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI) May 14, 2014 - El Asadero, a restaurant at 168 N. Paw Paw Street, Coloma featuring authentic Mexican and Columbian influenced dishes will celebrate their grand opening on Saturday, May 24. The new eatery opened their doors in March 8th, 2014, and is the culmination of husband and wife team Maira and Federico Santana. The couple had always wanted to own their own restaurant, and when they moved to Southwest Michigan from Chicago, the time was right for the entrepreneurs to make it a reality. El Asadero serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is located at 168 N. Paw Paw Street in Coloma.

Maira has over ten years of culinary experience, specializing in both Columbian and Mexican cuisine. “El Asadero is the word for oven in Spanish, and seemed very fitting for the name of our restaurant as all of our dishes are prepared on a hardwood charcoal grill,” said Maira.

Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and The Women’s Business Center worked with Maira and Ferderico as they navigated through the many requirements to start a restaurant from the ground up; from the initial business planning to the licenses. “It was very difficult to comprehend everything that was needed to start our restaurant, since our native tongue is Spanish with limited fluency in English,” said Maira. “We were fortunate that Dubelsa Mata at Cornerstone Alliance was able to interpret and explain what we needed; making completing the documents more manageable. The guidance and expertise that we received from Cornerstone Alliance made us more confident as we worked through the entire process.”

Dubelsa Mata, Business Developer at Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance said,” Maira and Federico came to us with well-defined plans of their restaurant. As with any start-up, the details of paperwork and compliance can be overwhelming; we were able to work together; putting their dreams to work.”

“We are so pleased to be able to share the authenticity of true Mexican cuisine in Southwest Michigan,” said Maira. “We provide each of our guests a friendly environment while they enjoy their freshly cooked meal.”

For more information on El Asadero, visit their Facebook page or call (269) 202-6015. El Asadero is open Mondays 9:00 am to 9:00 pm; Tuesday-Thursday 8:00 am to 9:00 pm; Friday-Saturday 8:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sundays 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. 


Helena’s Boutique – Ribbon Cutting

cutting.jpg (Benton Harbor, MI) September 11, 2013 - Helena’s Boutique celebrated her Ribbon Cutting at 155 W. Main Street, Benton Harbor, Michigan. Entrepreneur Helen Adams offers a selection of new and gently used apparel, shoes and accessories for women, men and children including plus sizes. Consignments are also available at the new boutique.

Helen graduated from the 2013 P.O.W.E.R. Program (Promoting Opportunities for Women EntrepreneuRs) an 11-week interactive course presented by the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. POWER focuses on giving female entrepreneurs the tools and resources they need to launch or grow a business. 
For more information about Helena’s Boutique, you may contact Helen Adams at (269) 208-5165 or