Ready to Take the Leap?


Do you have an idea for a business that you’ve been itching to make a reality? Or maybe a product that needs to be created? Do you feel that with a little support and some brainstorming, you’d finally be able to launch your business? If this sounds like you, then First Path is the perfect fit!

Join Southwest Michigan First and program partner, Plywood People, for a ten-week journey to help you decide which direction you should take your idea. Not only will you be introduced to a community of support, but you’ll also get a chance to workshop your business idea.


Who Should Apply

We are looking for applicants who are willing to spend the time and put in the effort to see what their idea can become!

This program is for you if you fit at least one of the following descriptions:

  • I am someone who has a business ideaeither fully formed or just starting to take shapeand want to:
    • have accountability to get my idea launched.
    • brainstorm my idea and see if it is the path I should follow.
    • define and/or redefine my business idea.
  • I am someone who already has a business and want to:
    • take the next step in my start-up business journey.
    • pivot and shift my focus into other avenues.
    • expand my current offerings and try something new.

Special Note: In order for First Path to have maximum impact, we have set a minimum number of participants.


What You Can Expect

  • Learn from 24 leading social entrepreneurs. Each week starts with a short e-book from Jeff Shinabarger, founder of Plywood People, and includes video content, written articles, reflective challenges and group meetups.
  • Thoughtful questions to answer after each section, with the opportunity to give and receive feedback from your peers.
  • Weekly hour-long Zoom calls with other group participants, facilitated by Plywood People and Southwest Michigan First staff.
  • Participate in a growing entrepreneurial and program alumni network.
  • Partner with a local mentor to help support your growing business.
  • Leave the program with a community of other like-minded people from the region who can support each other’s entrepreneurial journey.


2022 Fall Session Dates (Wednesdays via Zoom)

  • September 21 | Kick-Off: Meet the Participants | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • September 28 | Section One: Potential of a Problem | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 5 | Section Two: Make the Project Personal | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 12 | Brainstorming Session | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 19 | Section Three: Attract People to the Purpose | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 26 | Section Four: From Clouds to Concrete | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • November 2 | Brainstorming Session | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • November 9 | Section Five: Progress on the Problem | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • November 16 | Section Six: Sustain the Solution | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • November 30 | End of Program Celebration | 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm (*In-Person)


Program Cost

The investment for the First Path program is $200. Scholarship funds for the program are available. Please indicate your interest in learning more in your application.



Download the First Path FAQ below.



The Application Process

Applications are now open for the Fall 2022 cohort. Once your application is received, Southwest Michigan First will reach out to schedule a phone interview to learn more about you and your idea.


Want to talk? To learn more about First Path, contact Kelsey McKague at 269.553.9588


Program Partners

Delivered in Partnership With
Plywood Process