Unfiltered: Neil Yaremchuk on being a Michigan Man
Buy local, and your money stays local. I'm a big believer in it, but Neil Yaremchuk is the keeper of the flame.
Yaremchuk is founder of the Made in Michigan Movement and The Michigan Experience. Based in Farmington Hills, the Made in Michigan Movement is an action-oriented grassroots network of businesses producing high quality goods and services in Michigan, and the consumers who feel purchasing from those companies is in the best interest of the state's economic future. With more than 14,000 members, the organization's motto for Michigan consumers is "Earn it here. Spend it here. Keep it here!"
The Michigan Experience will be a two-day celebration in October of the wide variety of high quality consumer products, services and foods produced by companies across all Michigan geographies.
Neil's story -- and how he came to start these groups -- says a lot about the man, his mission and his commitment to the Mitten. Check it out.
By Neil Yaremchuk
Founder, Made in Michigan Movement and The Michigan Experience
When asked the quintessential question of who I am, I can only respond that I am many things. I am a father to a handsome and healthy son and, soon, to a baby girl; a husband to a beautiful wife; a son to very loving and understanding parents; a brother; a neighbor; a wanna-be farmer; a guy who lost his job; a budding entrepreneur; and founder of The Made in Michigan Movement. Every day I wake up, I wake up a Michigan man.
What makes me a Michigan man? I was born here, raised here and educated here. I have spent many summers and weekends "Up North" and comfortably call Mullett Lake my second home. I have hit the Southeast Michigan trifecta by living in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. I have waited patiently for an NFL Championship and I "Roared in '84," but being a Michigan man isn't always fish-frys on Friday.
I have struggled during these lean times and understand first-hand what nearly 1,000,000 Michigan people are going through. My wife and I both lost our jobs. We short-sold a house that we called home. We downsized and got rid of the "stuff." However, despite shortfalls and disappointments, we have managed to see the beauty that often lies at the center of the storm. We found strength in each other and a renewed sense of purpose, one that would make me a better Michigan man.
First and foremost, I know I have the unending support of a phenomenal family. December 2008 was when I first found out I was going to be laid off. My wife, Lynn, gave me 24 hours to be frustrated and told me every minute afterward needed to be focused on a solution. I knew finding a solution for just us was too narrow a thought. My vision had to be much bigger than the immediate problem.
So, I set goal – a really big goal. I was going to be instrumental in the redevelopment of Michigan's purchasing culture and ultimately the resurrection of this state's economy.
The plan had to be simple and attainable. To make a difference, it had to empower people, be without politics and bailouts. All I had to do was get nearly 9.6 million people to change their ways. An early critic told me that I would, at best, get only 10 percent of the state to change. That moment was more sweet than bitter. My work, in his opinion, would only impact 960,000 people. I could live with that.
The solution my wife and I devised was the creation of the Made in Michigan Movement, a business we started with our last $53. We knew we would have to bootstrap every step of the way and lead by example. We also knew we were blessed with the guidance and leadership of an incredible group of advisers and that we would need their support.
Within a year, more than 15,000 people decided to join the online community we created at our Web site and Facebook site. Our message reached Michigan transplants in 43 states and 17 foreign countries. We were a long shot no more, and we were just getting started.
With the online community growing rapidly, we determined it was time to take The Made in Michigan Movement to the next level. We needed a truly statewide event unlike anything Michigan had ever seen – The Michigan Experience.
Lynn and I are pleased to bring The Michigan Experience celebration to every person and every business in the state of Michigan. This is more than just another expo. It is the start of a movement toward a brighter future for an entire state.
The Michigan Experience will be a celebration of Michigan businesses uniting with Michigan consumers for the good of the state, the perfect blend of capitalism and fellowship. We expect businesses from all Michigan geographies to gather this fall to reintroduce themselves to more than 10,000 Michigan residents who want to support Michigan businesses. Beyond that, businesses will spend two full days making the connections within the Michigan business community and gaining the knowledge from Michigan experts that they'll need to weather the storm and lead this economy to that new brighter future.
Consumers will enjoy a friendly, hands-on experience while learning how they can take the money they already spend on groceries, home improvements, entertainment and everything else and apply it to a Michigan solution. By purchasing more goods and services from Michigan businesses, we will keep more money in circulation locally and, ultimately, we'll keep more local people employed.
To ensure the entire state benefits from The Michigan Experience, we're encouraging businesses, small and large, from across our entire great state to join us in October.We've even added an evening charity event to kick-off the celebration. All the evening's proceeds will go to Michigan-based nonprofit organizations that provide support for our communities statewide.
Emerson notes that our thoughts and actions become habits and character, which in turn produces our destiny. Our dreams and the action we take on those dreams therefore determines our destinies.
Quality of life for Michigan residents is tied directly to how much money stays here in Michigan. We cannot pretend it doesn't. Our future is not determined by Lansing or Washington – the power lies within us as the people of this state. Change is necessary and never without inconvenience, but regret is far more painful.
For me, at the end of the day, it's less about money or recognition and more about knowing I've stepped outside my comfort zone to put action behind a dream that will benefit an entire state. Somewhere down the road, my family will be better off for it and my success will be measured in knowing my son will have the opportunity to say with pride that he too is a Michigan man.