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Our Strength is UNSTOPPABLE

July 28, 2020

By Lorri Rishar, co-owner and CEO of Edge Partnerships and Board Chair of SBAM

Leaders are defined by their courage, their successes and, perhaps, their hearts. As I begin my service as board chair of the Small Business Association of Michigan, I know that it will be my heart that leads this organization as we emerge from one of the most devastating times in recent history.

I have watched my SBAM colleagues suffer, endure and persevere through shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some businesses have not survived, and my heart goes out to the owners. My support is with them as I believe that their entrepreneurial spirit will re-emerge with renewed vigor in the days and months ahead.

As I look toward my chairmanship, know that this is not about me. As chair, I represent something much more significant than an individual or a single business. I speak for the voices of nearly 29,000 members who are the lifeblood of Michigan.

And while my solo voice at times may quiver, know that the spirit is strong and the small business owners for whom I speak represent an unwavering strength. We are formidable and have persevered through unimaginable times.

Since I adhere to the philosophy of servant leadership, I will not take this space or your valuable time to boast about the many accolades of my business, Edge Partnerships, or my personal successes. Suffice it to say that my company’s values—committed leadership, passionate integrity, excellence and accountability—are the way I live my life and run the business I share with co-owner and dear friend, State Rep. Angela Witwer. These values, too, will also guide me as board chair.

I did not reach this point in life without sage advice and significant support from an amazingly diverse group of people. As I embark on this year as SBAM’s board chair, I asked some of those I most admire to share their visions, hopes and dreams for small business over the next year:

“It is my greatest hope that businesses prosper and Michigan’s economy bounces back strong so that we can expand programs to further help the state’s small business owners. I remain steadfast in my support and know we can accomplish great things with civility and open dialogue.”

State Rep. Angela Witwer, Edge Partnerships, co-owner

“SBAM has always meant families to me because families are the ones who own small businesses. These are synonymous terms for me because I think the most effective path to self-sufficiency is through entrepreneurship.

The people we serve don’t often have a helping of hope in their emotional diets. Dreams are often scarcer than food. Dreaming of better days—self-sufficient of not needing dependence—is what people with hope do. They dream of a better tomorrow. Families who build small businesses were once dreamers.

SBAM stands in the gap for those dreams. They are the preservers of hope for Michigan’s families and their dreams. That kind of leadership doesn’t start in your head; it starts in your heart.”

Dr. Phil Knight, Food Bank Council of Michigan

“As the world’s most talented labor force gradually returns to work, I hope small businesses here and everywhere will be bountifully rewarded for their resolve.”

Paula Cunningham, AARP Michigan State Director

“My hope for small businesses in Michigan for the next year brings this quote from Kino MacGregor to mind: ‘Change only happens in the present moment. The past is already done. The future is just energy and intention.’

The small business community in Michigan has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we need SBAM’s platforms to create a roadmap to unite and bring back a business resurgence to restore our small businesses back to prosperity and strength in 2020-21 with business supporting business.”

Anita Abrol, Lewis & Knopf, CPAs, P.C.

“The biggest thing on my mind in terms of business is how we get back to ‘normal.’ And is it even possible? If we can’t get back to normal, how do we as businesses survive whatever the future holds…like protecting businesses from things like pandemics and terrorist attacks…raising the critical role small businesses play in communities…and watching out for future state tax increases and the impact to small business.

Business owners need each other…need the support of each other.”

Gina Jacquart Thorsen, Stormy Kromer

“The main thing I would like to see from small businesses in Michigan next year is a more conscious effort toward diversity and inclusion…Seeing the value of having a diverse team…and being willing to put in the effort to recruit and include them in talent searches. Small businesses in Michigan could open the eyes and lead the way for small business across the country.”

Justin Caine, Good Fruit Video

 “As small businesses awaken from the vacuum that COVID-19 created, we must realize that we are facing a new standard in a changed world. We need to make sure our businesses are on par with the requirements of MIOSHA; we need to make sure that our employees have access to PPE; and we need to make sure that we have all the guidelines listed on posters for our employees to read. At the same time, we must make sure that we are creating an environment that not only is safe, but also feels safe for our employees. 

  As entrepreneurs, we are used to thinking outside of the box. We are used to seeing opportunities where others may not. And we are used to acting on opportunities that come our way. In the case of our business, we were able to pivot to make something that there was and is a massive need for—face shields. The manufacturing of these will be incorporated into the rest of our production for the unforeseeable future.

My hope for the coming year is to not only adjust to the new normal, but to lead the way for my team in the new normal. We, as business owners, all have to do this. And hopefully in hindsight, we are able to see that it was all for the better.”

Sassa Akervall, Akervall Technologies, Inc.

I could not have said it better. Thank you, my friends and colleagues, for your passion and belief in the critical role of small business. I believe that, together, we can and do move mountains every day. This strength, coupled with the heart of a lion, is unstoppable.


Lorri Rishar is co-owner and CEO of Edge Partnerships, a full-service marketing, public relations and design agency, with offices in Lansing and Chicago. Rishar is SBAM’s 2020-21 board chair.

*Originally featured in Focus Magazine

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