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.
  • Determine if the lifestyle of an entrepreneur is right for you.
  • Leave the program with a community of other like-minded people from the region who can support each other’s entrepreneurial journey.


2023 Fall Session Dates (Tuesdays via Zoom)

  • September 19 | Kick-Off: Meet the Participants | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • September 26 | Section One: Potential of a Problem | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 3 | Section Two: Make the Project Personal | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 10 | Brainstorming Session | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 17 | Section Three: Attract People to the Purpose | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 24 | Section Four: From Clouds to Concrete | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • October 31 | Brainstorming Session | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • November 7 | Section Five: Progress on the Problem | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • November 14 | Section Six: Sustain the Solution | 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • November 28 | End of Program Celebration | 4:30 pm to 6:30 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.


Informational One-Pager

Download the First Path one-pager below.

First Path One-Pager


The Application Process

The application for the 2023 cohort is now closed. If you have additional questions, contact our team at 269.553.9588.


Program Partners

Delivered in Partnership With
StrykerWNJPlywood Process