563531_391180014313509_1364912815_nby Nic Custer

Our Home Transitional, a housing and social services business for female veterans located in the University of Michigan-Flint’s Innovation Incubator, has won the 2013 eTEAM Spark Award.

The eTEAM Spark award recognizes the “determination, vision, identified market, growth potential, and setting and achieving business goals” by a newer business.

To qualify for a eTEAM Spark award a business must be less than two years old and have partnered with an eTEAM member organization among other criteria.

The award, which includes a plaque, was given to ten start-up businesses around Flint and Genesee County. These included Consolidated Barber Shop, 107 W. Kearsley St., Healthy Dollar, 138 W. First St., New Thought Movement of Davison, and Our Home Transitional, 432 N. Saginaw St., Suite 207.

Joyce Hitchye, OHT volunteer grant writer, accepted the award on behalf of Executive Director Carrie Miller.

She said, “I have just recently met Carrie through our BEST Project Leadership Program, but her energy and her honest vigor to see the single female homeless veteran housing come to fruition has greatly inspired me.”

Our Home Transitional was presented the award Feb. 28 at the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce 2013 Jumpstart Entrepreneur Conference.

The conference was held at the Holiday Inn Gateway Center in Grand Blanc. Dave Zilko, vice chairman of Garden Fresh Gourmet, was the keynote speaker. There were two breakout sessions where attendees could choose between subjects like tax planning, government contracts vs. grants, 21st century marketing and legal structures.

Sherry Hayden, of the Innovation Incubator, originally nominated the start-up business for the award.

by Nic Custer

Carrie Miller, founder and executive director of Our Home Transitional, didn’t have answers for the “20 questions about your business” online form when she applied for a space in UM-Flint’s Innovation Incubator.

But Miller, a senior studying psychology, and her business have come a long way in the past year.

Her business offers female veterans housing assistance and connects them with social services like job training. She returned home to Flint in 2010 with a strong desire to work with struggling women and children.

After sending in her 20 questions to the Incubator, she met with Danny Bledsoe, a military veteran and business coach who was working with [IN]. He suggested she serve returning veterans as they transition to civilian life. She agreed and Bledsoe has since joined Our Home Transitional’s five-person board of directors. The board is made up of UM-Flint students and faculty.

Our Home Transitional is in the process of purchasing their first home for veterans. It is a 3-storey, ten-bedroom house, north of campus, which is owned by another nonprofit. Besides cosmetic repairs, the house is ready to be lived in. Miller needs to raise $20,000, which is more than 35% of the house’s cost in order to qualify for a Veterans Administration grant, which could cover the other 65% of the price. Our Home is working directly with the Detroit Veterans Administration on the project.

In addition to a GoFundMe page, Our Home has a couple of grant writers applying to both the C.S. Mott and Ruth Mott foundations in order to raise the $20,000 down payment. One of the grant writers is a female veteran.

The house will be a large space to fill so the business is also looking for donations of furniture in addition to money. In the mean time, Our Home could also use a donated storage unit for the furniture it already has.

The Genesee County Land Bank has told Our Home Transitional that they would be willing to donate future homes that aren’t being planned for rehabilitation.

Miller is appreciative of the support she gets from the Incubator. She said that the workshops, business coaching and office space in NBK 206 have been huge helps.

“The Incubator’s been a huge support system for me. We have board meetings in the co-working space every month,” she said.

Miller has had family members serve in the armed forces including her sister who in Desert Storm. She said Michigan is 53rd in providing benefits to veterans, dead last behind other states and U.S. territories. This is because most veterans who returned to the state used to just get a job at GM, now without any substantial jobs, many more people are applying for their benefits including current service men and women but also Vietnam and even Korean war vets. Miller said the current backlog of 375,000 applications takes two years to process.

The business is very rewarding for Miller who has two daughters, 6 and 16 years old. She said her teenager is very proud of her and has even written reports for school about what her mom is doing.

Visit www.ourhometransitional.org or http://www.facebook.com/OurHomeTransitional for more information.

Working on your own business at home sounds great, doesn’t it? Work in your PJs if you like, play your favorite tunes, set your own hours, do exactly what you want when you want to!

But after a few months distractions conspire to undermine your good intentions. You start noticing that a certain neighbor drops in unannounced “because you’re not working anyway!” Your dog has increased his frequency of showing up at your side, with leash-in-mouth, lobbying you for a walk. That weird noise coming from the clothes dryer — you should probably have that looked at – and you really should fold that load before it gets all wrinkly. And it might be nice to get away from the blank screen document that has been plaguing you for the last half-hour. Except you need to get this done by Thursday.

Think it might be time to consider a change of scenery?

University Outreach’s Innovation Incubator [IN] offers a co-working space for anyone in the community who is getting weary of working alone at home, or needs to escape an office, or just needs a professional place to meet a client. Located in Flint’s Northbank Center Room 207, [IN] offers a comfortable, professional environment for visitors to escape distractions and work in peace. [IN] is open to students and the community from 9 am- 5 pm Monday through Friday. Best of all, the space is available at no charge, including free Wi-Fi access!

[IN] is a great environment for collaboration where natural networking arises. The co-working space is a good “neutral ground” to meet with perspective clients or business partners. Freelancers can have face-to-face meetings with clients in an environment that makes a good, professional impression. [IN] also has meeting space for up to 24 people that can be reserved, with some restrictions.  There are many business and non-profit resources available for your use as well.

Whether you’re trying to keep a deadline, write a novel, or meet a client, [IN] gives you a place to work free of needy dogs, laundry and that one pesky neighbor. Bring your laptop, and stop by sometime to take advantage of this free service!