Learn about the process of starting and growing your own business from these seasoned entrepreneurs. Panelists will share their personal journeys of creating and building their visions, talk about the nuts and bolts of how you can make it happen, and have time to answer your questions, too.
Jamiel Robinson is the Founder & CEO of Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB). GRABB is an Economic Development enterprise that focuses on fostering an economy that supports the revitalization of the Black community and expands opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in the Metro Grand Rapids area by promoting economic empowerment and equity.
He is a leader in West Michigan on economic equity and development with feature articles in the Crain’s Detroit, The Guardian, Grand Rapids Business Journal, Grand Rapids Press and Grand Rapids Magazine. He was named by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce as one of 30 extraordinary leaders over the past 30 years, Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 under Forty Business leaders, and highlighted as one of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan.
Darel has had a lifelong passion for serving the Grand Rapids community. For more than a decade, he has worked in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors to elicit real change and make Grand Rapids a more inclusive and opportunistic city for living, working and educating people of all backgrounds.
In addition to his work at Start Garden, Darel sees Forty Acres as another extension of creating more job, learning and cultural opportunities for the residents of Grand Rapids.
Paola Andrea Carlson
Paola Andrea Carlson came to the USA six years with a bag of luggage, her daughter Gabriela, her dog Yoda, and her heart full of ambition and desire to live the American Dream. She started her business 3 years ago after a few years of not being able to get a job due to language barriers. And what started as a hobby has transformed into a successful business that employees over 10 people now!
Her business Pochis Sweet Designs started as a hobby decorating bottles and making chocolate covered strawberries and selling online and at local fairs and festivals. In 2021 she won the Start Garden 5x5 in Spanish, and was the only Hispanic entrepreneur to win the Start Garden 100 that year that enabled her to expand her business into importing coffee products from Colombia. In 2022 she was able to enter her Colombian Coffee products into all 258 Meijer stores. And now In 2023 she opened the only Colombian Restaurant in Downtown Grand Rapids, known as Pochis Sweet Designs Colombian Restaurant & Café.
Her company motto is “We love what we do” and her mission statement is “If you cannot go to Colombia, we will bring Colombia to you!”.
Husband, father, and business owner. Jovan was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI, graduated from East Kentwood in 09’, and went on to get a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design from Wayne State University. While at Wayne State, he started the clothing line Bare All Clothing and grew it from there. After graduating, Jovan apprenticed at a Detroit-based screen printing studio and in 2016, moved back to Grand Rapids where he went on to open his own screen printing company (BAC Print).
Bare All is the clothing line of the PEOPLE. We offer comfortable, fashionable, yet affordable pieces. In addition, we give our customers a voice by listening to their input in the creation of our products. Based out of Michigan, we are unlike most of the competition where we not only design, but also print our own clothing and have actually expanded into owning our very own screen printing studio: BAC Print (BACPrint.com).
Currently, our brand is only available online or through local pop-ups that we do from time to time. Along with the clothing line, we have a community aspect to the business where we go speak in schools as well as mentor the youth.