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First Path

There is no better time than now to get your business idea off the ground!

Do you have an idea or a problem that needs to be solved? A product that needs to be created? Have you had an idea for a business that you’ve been itching to make a reality? Do you feel that with a little guidance, you’d be able to finally launch your concept? If this sounds like you, then First Path is the perfect fit!

Join Southwest Michigan First and program partner Plywood People for a nine-week journey to help you decide in which direction you should take your idea. This course will give insight into the “who, why and how” to build your business. Designed to help problem solvers and entrepreneurs, you will not only be introduced to a community of support, but you’ll also get a chance to workshop your business idea.

This program has been intentionally created to cultivate a diverse ecosystem that reflects our community. We encourage anyone and everyone with an idea to take the leap to apply.

Are you ready to take the leap? Let’s find out together.

By participating in First Path, you can expect:

  • To follow a proven problem-solving method that has been implemented by hundreds of people before you.
  • To 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.
  • A weekly hour-long video call with the other group participants, led by a Plywood People facilitator and with Southwest Michigan First staff.
  • To leave the program with a community of other like-minded people from the region who can support each other’s entrepreneurial journey.
  • To participate in a growing entrepreneurial and program alumni network.
  • To partner with a local mentor to help support your growing business.

Ideal Candidate

Whether your business idea is fully formed or just starting to take shape, we are looking for applicants who are willing to spend the time and put in the effort to see what their idea can become! We are looking to intentionally cultivate a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem that truly reflects our community. We encourage anyone and everyone to take that leap and apply.

2021 Fall Session Dates

Date Session Focus Time
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

How to Apply

  1. Step 1: Fill out the application here. Applications are now open for Fall 2021 cohort.
  2. Step 2: If we think you are a good fit for the program, we will reach out to schedule a phone interview to learn more about you and your idea.
  3. Step 3: If you are accepted into the program, you will be notified by September 10, 2021.


  • The investment for the First Path program is $150.
  • Scholarships are available. Please indicate your interest on learning more in your application.
  • Upon acceptance into the program, you will be invoiced.

Information Sheet

Want to Talk?

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Southwest Michigan First

map-icon2700 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49008