HOW WE GOT STARTED
The Grand Rapids Collaborative is a project lead by Craig Hall, a serial entrepreneur with roots in West Michigan. Throughout his technology-focused ventures, one of the things that Craig learned as an entrepreneur was that the best council or advice you can receive is often from your peers - and “it is better to learn from other peoples mistakes than your own”. But locally, entrepreneurs and their resources were pretty dispersed, making it difficult to come together. There are many obstacles to entrepreneurs following their dream and it can be a very lonely endeavor. Craig saw an opportunity to lend a hand by creating the Grand Rapids Collaborative, a place where entrepreneurs and their supporters could connect with each other to share experiences and learn from one another and “help break down the barriers to success”.
The Grand Rapids Collaborative's home is the Leonard Building, which has always had its roots in entrepreneurship and innovation. Located at 38 West Fulton in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the building was originally built in 1883 by Charles H Leonard, a pioneer refrigerator manufacturer who made an innovative design that improved the refrigerator's interior so it was easy to clean. He began using the space first as a modest grocery store, then as a wholesale establishment selling crockery and many of Leonard's other creations.
In 1951, the Leonard Building was sold to Dykstra Wholesale Distributing that supplied local merchants with everything from dry goods and baby diapers to men's and women's apparel. Dykstra Wholesale occupied the Leonard building until they closed in 1985.