West Michigan’s startup ecosystem came alive last month at the first StartupZoo Demo Day presented by Pure VC, StartupZoo, Microsoft for Startups, Google for Startups, and WeFunder.

This landmark event highlighted the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit in the region with bold pitches, local entrepreneurship ecosystem partners, and national investors.

The event kicked off with an electric atmosphere as entrepreneurs, investors, and enthusiasts gathered to connect with four resident companies that have participated in StartupZoo’s year-long residency program. StartupZoo’s Entrepreneur in Residence and now founder of PureVC, Sydney Davis, introduced our resident companies Zero to Wear, Samson’s Haircare, Coordinista, and Royal Clothing Brand, as each of them pitched to a panel of investors. Panelists included Phil Swanson of Centrepolis Accelerator—Serg Rodenzuela of WeFunder and Stealth Startup, as well as StartupZoo CoFounder and Executive Director Carl Brown.

Highlights from the Presentations:

Zero to Wear:
Kaleena Eugene Lewis, founder of Zero to Wear, shared the company’s pivot from a consumer-facing mobile app for fashion styling to a CRM for stylists. Zero to Wear offers a three-sided marketplace for stylists to connect with customers and for fashionistas to organize their looks with professional support. With 4,200 downloads and 1,800 user-created closets, Zero to Wear is set to launch its paid platform for stylists to 50 beta users this month.

Samson’s Haircare:
Adam Muncy and Jake Hamlet reported an impressive 89% year-over-year sales expansion for Samson’s Haircare. The company expanded its production facility to a 15,000-square-foot space in Kalamazoo County, driven by pivoting from a men’s haircare brand to a micro beauty manufacturer. Samson’s Haircare’s best seller, Dead Sea Clay, has become Amazon’s pick for styling clay and the best new styling clay. Along with increasing DTC sales online, Samson’s has expanded their retail network to include over 400 stores. IN 2024, Samsons will add a new Global Director of Sales, previously at Proctor and Gamble and L’oreal Paris, and add three new brands to its contract manufacturing portfolio, massively expanding total sales and production volume. 

Cindy Bauer presented Coordinista, the first nurse-founded, AI-powered caseload management platform. Over the past year, the platform raised $148,000 in pre-seed and non-dilutive capital and completed a proof-of-concept market trial. Cindy shared Coordinistas robust go-to-market strategy, six strategic partners, and massive market opportunity to showcase how Coordinista is poised for significant growth.

Royal Clothing Brand:
Aaron Gipson of Royal Clothing Brand shared his vision to disrupt the custom luxury athletic apparel market. His platform connects small sports teams, brand owners, influencers, and designers with technical design support and access to pre-vetted manufacturers, enabling them to create custom designs easily. RoyalApparell has secured relationships with 12 contract athletic wear manufacturers and aims to generate up to $28 million in annual revenue through partnerships with 1,000 small makers.

It’s great to see people coming together to show entrepreneurs that their businesses can be big and that there is support in the ecosystem to help them grow beyond being just a local operation.

Panelist Phil Swanson from Centrepolis Accelerator

South West Michigan’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Community

This demo day marks a significant milestone for Southwest Michigan’s growing entrepreneurship ecosystem. As attendees from WeFunder, PureVC, Centrepolis Accelerator, LISC, Houtrouw Consulting, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Center, the City Of Kalamazoo Economic Development Department, Black Wall Street Kalamazoo, Room 35, and Western Michigan University Haworth College of Business were all in the room to support founders.