Financial Literacy

Content provided by Isabella Bank

Isabella Bank offers several resources online to encourage kids and adults to save.  A good way to start is to identify your savings goal and talk about the importance of saving money with your family.  For example, if your child would like to purchase a special item, but it is currently out of their reach, this would be a great opportunity to talk about saving money and budgeting.  We recommend a 30/30/30/10 savings plan; 30% spend, 30% short-term savings, 30% long-term savings, and 10% donations.  You can download a copy of this savings plan on our website at

Our Kids Club account offers a Premium Credit to our young savers who grow their savings throughout the year.  Young savers are welcome to a piggy bank in the branch to help them save money at home.  Additionally, Isabella Bank hosts a drawing for kids to win a Melissa & Doug Lemonade Stand in the summer to encourage entrepreneurial savings.  Kids can use their stand to raise money to place in their savings.  Online tools are available at any time on our website.

There are many savings options to fit your need.  Traditional Savings, College Savings Programs, Investments, and Certificates of Deposits are all good options to help your child save for the future.  Each option offers different features and benefits to help the customer meet their goal.  If your teen is ready for the next step in budgeting, a checking account with  debit card, can be opened at age 16.  (A parent is required to be on the account as well.)

Call, click, or visit us today to learn more about saving money or request a presentation for your group.


Upcoming Webinar Opportunities

Webinars offered by the Michigan Small Business Development Center
Small Business Employment Eligibility – What You Need to Know About I-9 Forms
3/22 – 11:00am – 12:00pm
We know that as a small business you may have specific challenges and concerns related to legal employment eligibility of your staff and the Form I-9 can be daunting. Let us help take care of your questions and concerns during this 1-hour webinar. If any of the following questions have ever come to mind when completing the Form I-9 you will want to join us for these key lessons on what every employer should know about the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Form! · What should version of the Form I-9 should I use? · What if my employee’s documents are lost, stolen, or damaged? · How long must I keep the Form I-9? · What if I get audited? · Are Form I-9 and E-Verify the same? Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear directly from experts at the Department of Homeland Security on Form I-9 proper completion!
Speaker(s): Jenny Nelson and Joel Grauer – Management and Program Analysts on the Outreach and Training team at E-Verify. E-Verify is a division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service within the Department of Homeland Security.

Key Lessons About E-Verify for Small Business
3/29 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Have you ever wondered how you can reduce your risk of liability when hiring? As a small business it can be hard to find simple and cost effective ways to do just that. Join us to learn how you can enroll in the FREE E-Verify program so that you can quickly and easily reduce your risk of liability during employment verification. During the session you hear from the E-Verify experts about the benefits of this system for employers, the steps on how to enroll, simple use for new hires, as well as answers to any of your E-Verify questions!
Speaker(s): Jenny Nelson and Joel Grauer – Management and Program Analysts on the Outreach and Training team at E-Verify. E-Verify is a division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service within the Department of Homeland Security.
Technology Tips and Tricks for Small Business
3/27 – 11:00am – 12:00pm
Learn more about essential tips and tricks to help stay secure online. Join us as we discuss several tips and tricks that will help you stay more secure while online. We’ll walk you through a quick-paced webinar, ask a few poll questions of the audience, and give you time for question and answer with the Michigan SBDC’s Cyber Security Awareness Program Specialist, Scott Taber.

You’ll leave the webinar with:

1. Easy to understand examples of these tips and tricks
2. Explanations of why these topics matter for your small business
3. Key steps you can easily implement in your small business

Protect Your Non-Tech Business From Data Breach Disasters
4/24 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Do you have a technology plan to prepare for the worst? Join us as we discuss how to be prepared for a data breach and what to do after you experience one. We’ll walk you through a quick-paced webinar, ask a few poll questions of the audience, and give you time for question and answer with the Michigan SBDC’s Cyber Security Awareness Program Specialist, Scott Taber.

You’ll leave the webinar with:

1. Easy to understand examples of these tips and tricks
2. Explanations of why these topics matter for your small business
3. Key steps you can easily implement in your small business

What The Heck Are Data Protection Policies?
5/29 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Do you have essential data protection policies in place for your small business? Join us as we discuss the importance of data protection policies and how they protect your business. We’ll walk you through a quick-paced webinar, ask a few poll questions of the audience, and give you time for question and answer with the Michigan SBDC’s Cyber Security Awareness Program Specialist, Scott Taber.

You’ll leave the webinar with:

1. Easy to understand examples of these tips and tricks
2. Explanations of why these topics matter for your small business

3. Key steps you can easily implement in your small business

The Impact of Literacy in a Community

By: Tirzah Price, Big Rapids Community Library

At Big Rapids Community Library, we believe that building thriving communities starts with literacy. Strong literacy skills are the gateway to future success in all fields and professions, but unfortunately, Michigan is failing in this regard. According to a report released by the State in 2017, 55.9% of third grade students were not reading proficiently. Students who can’t read proficiently in the third grade are four times more likely to not graduate from high school. The problem is so serious that beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the Michigan Third-grade Reading Law will hold back students who aren’t reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

The Big Rapids Community Library works to ensure that literacy practices are routine in children’s lives before they even reach elementary school. It begins with Catch ‘Em in the Cradle, a program giving every baby born in Big Rapids Spectrum Hospital a new board book, and their parents important information on how to start reading to their children. The 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program encourages parents to read at least 1,000 books with their children before they start kindergarten because reading, talking, writing, playing, and singing all foster early literacy skills that will help children succeed in school. The Library hosts Story Time programs twice a week, providing children and parents a fun, structured, and social outlet for reading fun.

To ensure access for all children in the community, the Big Rapids Let’s Read program allows every student enrolled in a Big Rapids school to obtain a library card, provides free resources for teachers, and helps to provide curated selections of excellent books in every classroom. The Summer Reading program is open to all kids and adults, incentivizing reading and making learning fun with reading challenges and free events to keep kids occupied all summer long. The 2018 Summer Reading program theme is Music and the program kick off is June 15th from 11am – 2pm at the Library.

Perhaps the most significant indicator of childhood literacy is parent literacy. Not only can parents read to and with their children, but they can set excellent examples by reading themselves. Using the Library resources demonstrates to children that literacy and the Library are important aspects of any community. Teens and adults are encouraged to check out books, utilize our research databases, join a book club, and attend programs and events. Literacy can also extend beyond the ability to read and write, and include computer, health, and food literacy. The Library offers weekly technology classes, a seed library, community gardens, and continuous free programming on a variety of events throughout the year.

Education and open access to information have a direct link to economic success and quality of life. Business owners should care about literacy because studies show that more than 36 million American adults lack the literacy skills to engage in the workforce, and 43% of adults with low-literacy skills live in poverty. As a result, low literacy costs businesses and taxpayers $225 billion each year in government assistance and unemployment. The Library is committed to offering free and equal access to information to all; ensuring citizens are healthier, happier, and civically engaged.

10 Reads for Business and Life

By: Jayna Wekenman, Administrative Assistant, Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

By Tom Kelley and David Kelley, 2013

You are creative, I am creative, we are all creative.  This book facilitates readers in discovery of creative potentials and embracing personal creativity.  Whether utilizing creativity for customer retention, design solutions, workplace dynamics, or personal projects – grab a notebook.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Answer to How Is Yes

By Peter Block, 2003

In many situations, questions like: How are you planning to do that? or How will this benefit us?  suggest doubt.  The person asking might doubt the outcome, doubt the process, doubt the idea person, or simply doubt their understanding of all the aspects of the idea.  How questions can simply get in the way if the parties asking the questions need to be convinced of the idea or competencies of the idea person.  Based on my personal experience, answering how questions quickly eats up ambition especially if how questions are followed by more how questions.  If how questions are intentionally used to dismiss ideas (i.e. it sounds great, but how…? or How are we going to find the time to …? ) a simple no with feedback is quicker and more confidence building.

Formulating an idea usually means the idea person already knows How.  Trust them, move forward with Yes answers, and re-frame the questions to get the answers you actually need.  i.e. What are the next steps?  What needs completed by the end of the week?  Who is responsible for… ?  Help me understand…  What do you need me to do?  etc.

How might we …? is an exception that moves ideas through phases of exploration.

Notes to Inspire

By Simon Sinek

 Daily inspirations through emailSign up at:  Videos of Sinek’s talks can be found on YouTube or

 Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

By Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, & Annie McKee, 2013

Backed with research and theory, readers are facilitated through reflections and insights on why they do what they do and ways in which they might change leadership strategies and outcomes.

Finding Flow

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1997

Have you ever been totally engaged in a project, looked at the clock, and realized an hour flew by?  If so, you may have experienced the state of “flow.”  This read conceptualizes Flow Theory by the relationship of challenge and skill, and suggests ways in which the state of flow can serve people in both their professional and personal lives.

The model described can also help with understanding engagement of employees based on that relationship of skill and challenge.  For instance, if employees are highly skilled yet experience boredom, perhaps increase the challenges they engage in.  Or, if an employee experiences high anxiety to tackle a project, employers might consider offering skill development that aligns with project challenges.

  1. Anything Brene’ Browne. 

Period.  Like Sinek, Browne has videos and Ted Talks online also.

Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals

By Robert J Young, 2003

 This may seem far from relevant.  However, the research and techniques of Enrichment transfers to the human species as well.  Shop Class as Soulcraft (Matthew Crawford, 2009), Flow Theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (mentioned), and articles on employee engagement are the human-focused application of Enrichment theories addressing motivation, choice, stimuli, species-specific behaviors, etc.  Anyone responsible for creating space, engaging, or managing people (or animals) should invest in these reads.

Any bilingual children’s book you find

 Each page has the story in both English and another language so you main build familiarity or brush up on language skills while following the story line.

 A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess, 1962

This is my wild card.  However, it makes my list for the skills developed through reading.  Burgess used Nadsat, a slang invented for this book.  Words like droog (friend), rooker (hand), and malchick (boy) pepper every page, forcing the reader to use context clues to decipher the storyline.  I don’t know about you, but I use these skills of decoding, deciphering, and drawing together conclusions when tackling projects, understanding messages, and more.

And for all you out there moving things forward and submerged in tasks, I’ll leave you with this:

To Be of Use by Marge Percy

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest

and work in a row and pass the bags along,

who are not parlor generals and field deserters

but move in a common rhythm

when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

A Letter from the Director


As employees of the Chamber, we serve in jobs covering most of the disciplines found in other small businesses – communications, finance, marketing, customer service and event planning; additional responsibilities include advocacy, providing educational opportunities, serving as an information hub for the community, acting as Public Notaries, etc. Our mission is to “promote quality of life through the economic, educational and cultural development of Mecosta County”.

In general, we focus to some degree on five primary goals: building communities to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; promoting those communities; striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate; representing the unified voice of the employer community; and reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks. We share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of our communities, built on thriving employers.

With that being said, we often get involved in projects that may seem out of our wheelhouse but do, in fact, have a major impact on our members. We are currently working on initiatives involving childcare, robotics, manufacturing, and literacy in an effort to alleviate barriers to employment. We are focusing on literacy this month because March is Reading Month.

The Chamber, the Great Start Collaborative, SLD Read, the Big Rapids Community Library, the Mecosta County Development Corporation, the public schools, the MOISD, Ferris State University, and others, have joined together and created Mecosta County Reads, an initiative that aims to increase literacy in all sectors of our community. Along with providing information on available services and promoting literacy, this group aims to bring awareness to the depth of the problem in our area and create a safe space where people can seek assistance without social repercussions.

This group has been collecting and analyzing data, discussing ways to promote reading with young children, looking into alternatives for adults with literacy issues, and collecting information to be easily shared in one spot for all ages. Although we have a long road ahead of us, our goal is to change the culture that is currently allowing 50% of our kindergarteners to enter school below reading level in Mecosta County. According the West Michigan Regional Dashboard, that number increases to 56% below reading level by the third grade.  These statistics grow into far too many adults with literacy issues. By improving literacy at all ages, we will cover the gamut, changing the culture and creating a more literate community across the board, and, in turn, increasing the workforce.

A solid foundation in literacy can be an essential aspect of job attainment, career advancement, and potential successes. For safety reasons, literacy is essential in many manufacturing jobs, for example, employees need to be able to read warning signs and instructions. Individuals with literacy issues would have difficulty performing these types of jobs, if they were even offered the opportunity. For many office positions, a requirement of the application process is to write a cover letter along with submitting a resume; a solid literacy foundation would play a vital part in the successful composition and presentation of such materials.

If you or someone you know could benefit from one of the many services offered in Mecosta County aimed to help improve literacy, please contact the Chamber for more information or log on to the Big Rapids Public Library website to see a complete list of available options.

As always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask!

Annual Meeting


Chamber Annual Meeting
The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting Thursday, January 25, 2018 at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center, located at 1005 Perry Avenue in Big Rapids. Attendees to this meeting and awards banquet heard presentations from Big Rapids Mayor Tom Hogenson, former MCACC Board President Jeff Godfrey, and Kim Von Kronenberger, Community President of Chemical Bank, sponsor of this year’s event.  Programming and Events Coordinator Megan Eppley outlined the chamber’s new engagement initiative, and Executive Director Jennifer Heinzman discussed the coming year’s projects and goals for the chamber of commerce.
Several awards were presented to area businesses and community members. In honor of her hard work and dedication in expanding to create a second location, while also renovating her existing location, Nawal Braden-Swart was named Entrepreneur of the Year. Lee Johnson, of Johnson’s Automotive and Goodwell Automotive, was presented with the first ever Community and Business Leader of the Year award for his devotion to the community and integrity in his businesses. And finally, Lerner, Csernai, and Fath Financial Group received the distinction of being named Small Business of the Year, in recognition of their continued support of the community and consistent growth to meet the needs of an ever-changing financial market. Tammy Weaver, of Sears Appliance and Hardware, was presented with the Volunteer of the Year Award previously at the 2017 Holiday Gala on December 1, 2017.
The MCACC thanks all members and community members that were able to attend this year’s Annual Meeting and appreciate the support that Mecosta County provides to our Chamber.
We look forward to the coming year!

It’s National Mentoring Month: What 8 Experts Want You to Know About Mentoring

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From Julie Kantor of, in collaboration with Alice Stankovitch.

Most of us wouldn’t dream of starting a fitness program or learning a new language without an instructor to guide us.

So why brave our careers without a mentor?

A study by Gartner and Wharton found mentees were promoted five times more than colleagues who did not leverage a mentor’s guidance.

Mentors themselves were promoted six times more than colleagues who did not actively mentor.

The value of mentoring is both proven and intuitive. And yet, only 70% of Fortune 500s and a quarter of smaller companies offer mentoring programs (WSJ). Though most companies understand the importance of mentorship, they don’t know how to structure a framework they can count on for measurable results.

This deepened awareness of the importance of mentoring, issues of Millennial retention, and the predetermined structure required has given rise to a wave of leaders that help companies master mentoring with a high-touch or a high-tech approach.

In our work with top companies, we have found that fostering a pay-it-forward culture is crucial not just for employee growth, but the company’s overall employee retention, diversity, and revenue.

We reached out to some of our esteemed colleagues in the field, and are delighted to share these expert insights from 8 thought leaders we respect in the mentoring community. Whether you want to foster a culture of mentorship in your company or become a mentor yourself, don’t miss this chance to learn from some of the best in the business.

Twomentor Q1: Why does mentoring need to be ‘top of mind’ for corporations in 2018?

“Corporations that are not prioritizing mentoring for 2018 are at risk of falling behind in today’s battle for top talent. Boomers are exiting the workforce in droves and the incoming generation is more diverse than ever before, and this diversified, modern workforce is craving mentoring and making it known through employment surveys, exit interviews, and hallway chatter.”

Seena Mortazavi, CEO, Chronus

“Mentoring changes talent results. Mentoring results in more talent wanting to join YOUR corporation, school or organization. This is true for recruiting and retention. We salute the data that show women with mentors and sponsors have 4 times the likelihood to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) jobs. Not only are talent results impacted but so too is the passion for specific jobs, and the opportunity to grow and come close to pay equity in all STEM jobs– especially tech.”

Edie Fraser, Chairman and Founder, STEMconnector® and Million Women Mentors

“Mentoring is one of the best ways to upskill top performers, and those with top performing potential while ensuring you retain your current leadership.”

Janice Omadeke, CEO, The Mentor Method

“Millennials are already the largest population of US workforce and in 2018, a greater percentage of them will move into leadership roles replacing the baby boomers. Companies should, therefore, invest in peer-to-peer learning and mentoring as a smart and cost-effective way to accelerate technical and leadership skills of millennials, by tapping into the wisdom of domain experts and senior executives already available within the organization.”

Ravishankar Gundlapalli, Ph.D. , CEO, MentorCloud

“(Mentoring) initiatives dramatically increase the supports and opportunities for young people while also positively contributing to corporate culture, employee satisfaction, and brand experience.”

David Shapiro, CEO, Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership



Twomentor Q2: We have spoken to dozens of men who are concerned about mentoring women in the age of #MeToo. Any thoughts or advice?

“If people adhere to the trainings around what is appropriate based on workplace harassment training, they should be fine. My advice would be to ensure workplace harassment training, concepts, and/or policies are part of the program for mentors and mentees so people are up to speed.”

Daisy Hernandez, Global Vice President, Enterprise Collaboration at SAP

“I think this whole issue has gotten way out of hand. Men shouldn’t be afraid to work with women nor the other way around. All in all, things go extremely well. We’ve never had the first complaint from a woman being mentored by a man. A good written partnership agreement can make the difference between a great partnership and unmet expectations.”

Kim B Wise, CEO Mentor Resources

“Bring men into the mentoring programs at work. Ask men to sponsor women. Ask men to go to their kids’ schools and organizations. Don’t forget to recognize the male champions for mentoring and promote their commitment. ASK men to get involved.”

Edie Fraser, Chairman and Founder, STEMconnector® and Million Women Mentors

“For many men, the concern is that their well-intentioned appropriate conduct in a mentoring relationship would be misconstrued as offensive. In fact, #MeToo should have no relevance, because it is not about appropriate conduct – it’s about calling out inappropriate conduct as no longer acceptable. The foundation of a good mentoring relationship is building trust and defining boundaries, so the implication of #MeToo on mentoring is that these elements are more important than ever.”

Lisa Fain, CEO, Center for Mentoring Excellence

Note: Twomentor recently published: 8 Healthy Boundaries in the Age of #MeToo
Twomentor Q3: As a builder in the mentoring space, what are some observations you have about building long-term sustainable programs?

“Companies often force mentoring relationships onto Mentors without fully getting their buy-in and also fail to communicate the true value for Mentors. By leveraging resources such as The Art of Mentoring, companies can first inspire its mentors and mentees on the value of mentoring, and follow with adequate training on best practices.”

Ravishankar Gundlapalli,Ph.D. ,CEO, MentorCloud

“Sharing the outcomes of mentoring programs to generate continued interest is a key part of making sure the program is sustainable. Another important strategy is to have people who are running the program continually seek feedback and evolve to meet current needs, as requirements may grow or change as the participants do.”

– Daisy Hernandez, Global Vice President, Enterprise Collaboration at SAP

  • Offer training
  • Engage HR and Talent team
  • Salute success and recognize those engaged
  • Have company leadership endorse a program
  • Insure diversity and women and girls of color are part of the program
  • Have an executive champion, a committee, and responsible staff person.
  • Host events and celebrate Mentoring Month and Women’s History Month
  • Build a communications and social media program to support mentoring program

Edie Fraser, Chairman and Founder, STEMconnector® and Million Women Mentors
Twomentor Q4. How do you help a company prioritize different models of mentoring to maximize impact?

“The Chronus process always starts with understanding the root cause of why an organization is launching a mentoring program in the first place. Mentoring can be used for a number of different business objectives (retention, engagement, knowledge transfer, etc.), so identifying business objectives is the first step and guiding light in determining which model would be the best fit.

Seena Mortazavi, CEO, Chronus

“At MENTOR, we facilitate Design Lab– an interactive strategy development session– with cross functional teams at companies interested in developing, enhancing and/or scaling mentoring initiatives. We work with them closely to identify a mentoring model or a combination of models that align with both business and community goals. We factor in company culture, existing employee engagement, HR initiatives and their assets to maximize impact and support the sustainability of mentoring initiatives.”
David Shapiro, CEO, Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership

  • Ask the company to select the kind of mentoring option– counseling, online, etc
  • Ask the ERGs and Talent folks what are the options and build a program
  • Define the types of mentoring and offer options to those in the organization
  • Produce in a play book or plan

Edie Fraser, Chairman and Founder, STEMconnector® and Million Women Mentors
Twomentor Q5. What are the biggest mistakes you see companies making in building these initiatives?

“Thinking that a mentoring program is “one size fits all”. You need to take the time to listen to your team’s needs and create a program tailored to your company’s specific needs and growth goals. Whether it’s tailoring the model (peer-to-peer, reverse mentoring, diverse mentoring, etc), structure, and goals, it’s important that the mentee, mentor, and your company get value from the program.”

Janice Omadeke, CEO, The Mentor Method

“So often, companies begin a mentoring initiative with great fanfare, then fail to check in with the mentoring pairs during the course of the mentoring year. Mentoring pairs can benefit from learning best practices, or from coaching that might get them on track. The fewer touch points an organization has with its mentoring pairs, the more likely that the pairs will fizzle out during the course of the year.”
Lisa Fain, CEO, Center for Mentoring Excellence

“Largely, mistakes in building a mentoring program stem from underestimating the importance of engagement. Too many companies launch their mentoring program as a check box, and leave it without continuously improving to ensure participant engagement and progress.”
Seena Mortazavi, CEO, Chronus


Julie Silard Kantor helps leaders build their living legacies through mentorship and sponsorship. She and her team at Twomentor, LLC are helping to build a much-needed mentoring revolution through thought living-legacy leadership work, mentor training, mentor culture building, Mentor Road Trip™ flash mentoring web sessions and more in many sectors. Two adages that drive us are: 1] The people who mentor at your company are the people who drive retention at your company and 2] If you want more diversity (i.e. women in STEM), mentor and sponsor more diversely.