Brian Rumohr, treasurer of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, asked attendees of the chamber’s annual membership dinner to think back on their early days in business, asking them collectively what made them take that first step.
“Passion,” he said, answering for them. “All of you would say that one word. Business owners are the most passionate about what they do every day.”
In celebration of the passion that inspires new businesses, the chamber presented its first Youth Entrepreneur Scholarships, honoring three high school students for their business models and aspirations. Grosse Pointe South High School senior Andrew Kolojeski and juniors Jack Ryan and Madison Turnbull each received $2,500 scholarships during the chamber’s annual dinner Feb. 2, at The War Memorial.
Students were asked to apply for the scholarships, which were reviewed by chamber staff and board members.
“Don’t lose that passion,” Rumohr told the recipients. “It’s one of the most valuable things you’ll ever own and something no one can take away from you.”
Kolojeski built his business, Michigan Used Bricks, one plastic brick at a time. The idea for it was sparked during a yard sale visit with his grandmother in 2019, where he purchased a LEGO Statue of Liberty kit for $10.
“Being a LEGO fanatic, I knew the value of the set,” he said, explaining he then posted it on eBay, “and sold it for $1,300 within five minutes.”
He started local, asking the community for donations of unwanted LEGOs, then moved to online auctions to grow his collection. Today, Kolojeski’s business — stationed in his parents’ basement — offers hundreds of thousands of LEGO parts from which to choose, along with thousands of LEGO Minifigures and sets. His gross revenue is $150,000 and profit is $70,000, he said.
“I know the market,” he told chamber members. “Risk is only risk if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Kolojeski said he works 10 to 12 hours a week and has learned businesses skills such as time management and communication. He would like to pursue entrepreneurship and plans to attend either Indiana University or the University of Kentucky.
“I’m glad my hard work has paid off,” he said. “… I don’t plan on running my business after high school, so let me know if anyone is interested in buying a half-million-dollar business.”
Turnbull was awarded for her business, Mad Organized, the timeline for which which she admitted is a little disorganized.
“Since a young age, I was always known as an organized person,” she said, recalling organizing friends’ desks in elementary school, then later organizing her mother’s store and father’s home office. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”
While taking a business class last year at South, she was encouraged to try entrepreneurship.
“All you need is passion,” she said. “I might be a little young, but whatever. … As a 17-year-old, having something like this is crazy. But it’s something I’m fortunate to experience.”
Through Mad Organized, Turnbull works closely with clients to create functional home and office spaces.
“Having Mad Organized out there is the main event, but staying with it, having the passion and drive for it, is also important,” she said. “Mad Organized is out there and I’m ‘mad’ about it.”
To start SkyView Creations, Ryan took his two favorite hobbies — flying drones and videography — to a higher level. He captured his first fuzzy images above Defer Elementary School with a toy drone, but got a taste for the potential of drone videography when he received a professional drone for Christmas and began capturing high-quality images. He was 11, and immediately began logging flight time. His grandfather suggested he start a business.
Since then, Ryan has done work for 25 clients, including car dealerships, businesses, corporations and nonprofits — among them the Grosse Pointe News. He starts each day taking inspiration from reading his favorite quote, from MLB great Derek Jeter: “There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”
“I’ve been blessed with so many great opportunities,” Ryan said. “I’m fortunate to love what I do.
“We all have challenges in everyday life, but we grow smarter because of them,” he added.
Believing that “an important part in any business is the ability to give back to the community,” Ryan provides his services free to the Grosse Pointe Public School System, as well as donates to several charities.
In addition to the Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship awards, the chamber dinner included a welcome from President and Executive Director Jennifer Boettcher and members of her staff, as well as remarks from past Chairman Rob Lubera and current Chairman Mark Heppner.
In 2022, chamber membership grew to 667 members, including 62 new members, and the chamber hosted 16 ribbon-cutting events.
“There is so much going on that’s amazing about this community, including the people,” Heppner said. “This stuff does not happen without the people who make it happen. … I’m excited to see what happens in 2023.”
Heppner shared a few details of what to expect this year, including revisiting the chamber’s strategic plan to make sure it’s still viable and members are getting what they expect out of membership. He encouraged chamber members to communicate their expectations with the board and staff.
“I can also tell you it’s going to be a fun year,” he added. “You work hard. You should play hard. I encourage you to participate, show up for our events. There are so many wonderful events.”
Among them, he noted, is the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade, which annually takes place the day after Thanksgiving. Guests to the parade this year will be overjoyed — judging by the applause Heppner’s announcement received — to see Santa being led down Kercheval in a new sleigh, which will be designed and built by Grosse Pointe Park artist Alex Fedirko.
“It’s going to be an exciting year,” Heppner added. “I hope to see you at all of our events.”