Archive for the ‘social entrepreneurs’ Category

Community Spotlight: Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids – Steil Club

December 3, 2019 Leave a comment

Today I visited with Patrick Placzkowski, Angie Stumpo and Taylor Crison with Boys & Girls Club Grand Rapids – Steil Club (B&G Club).

Patrick, Angie, & Taylor.

What really impacted me about my visit was touring the space on Straight Street in Grand Rapids where roughly 80 kids aged 6-18 meet every weekday after school.

These kids will receive snacks, dinner, and interaction with adults who care about them.

Many of these kids may not have positive interactions with adults.

The staff and volunteers of B&G Club are telling these kids on a consistent basis that they matter.

They have inherent value.

A Vision to Assure Kids That Success is Within Reach.

B&G Club states on its website that:

its Vision is “to provide a world class Camp and Club Experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle.”

Relationships Change lives.

I had originally met Patrick and Angie at a luncheon held at Mel Trotter Ministries, another community partner along with B&G Club serving the most vulnerable in our community.

I love this quote that is often spoken of at Mel Trotter Ministries – “People don’t become homeless when they run out of money. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

That is our job.

Being those relationships for the most vulnerable.

Not just “one-way relationships” but truly reaching out in community in a sustainable way.

Keep up the good work Patrick, Angie, Taylor and Team at B&G Club! B&G Club would love to partner with you if you want to learn more about the work they are doing in our community. I encourage you to check out their website.

Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

New Rent Control Law is Trending in Places like California & Oregon, but is it a Proper Response to an Affordable Housing Crisis?

November 25, 2019 Leave a comment

Last month California announced that in order to combat a staggering growth in homelessness it will implement rent control laws effective January 1, 2020.

Ghent, Belgium

According to Market Watch:

The law limits rent increases to 5% each year plus inflation until Jan. 1, 2030. It bans landlords from evicting people for no reason, meaning they could not kick people out so they can raise the rent for a new tenant. And while the law doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, it would apply to rent increases on or after March 15, 2019, to prevent landlords from raising rents just before the caps go into place.

Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis

California’s new law, as well as Oregon’s passage of the Rent Control Bill, and demands for other measures in Boston, is in response to an Affordable Housing Crisis that we have been experiencing across the U.S.

In fact, over two years ago a Rent Control Bill was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives- you can check out my post on that here

That Bill made no traction. It died in the Local Government Committee.

The Bill was most certainly a response to Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis.

It has been several yeas since the Grand Rapids Chamber hosted an Issue Summit on the Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from Grand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on the lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

Private and Public Community Stakeholders Doing Their Part

A few years have gone by since Kent County was first acknowledged to have an affordable housing crisis. The crisis is still present. There many community stakeholders that are actively playing a role in being part of the solution: providing housing for the most vulnerable. I think of a company like Urbaneer and Bruce Thompson and applaud Bruce for his work. We need more companies like Urbaneer – providing innovative solutions to a housing crisis.

I also think of the non-profit sector – organizations like ICCF and Mel Trotter Ministries finding unique ways through social enterprise to house the most vulnerable.

Kent County has provided several unique tools, including the Eviction Prevention Program.

I don’t think rent control is the answer.

I believe we all have a role to play.

We should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Fintech Charters No More?

November 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Good morning, all. It is Tuesday in Grand Rapids. Just last week I was in Belgium and snapped some photos of the beautiful city of Ghent, here is one of my favorite.

Ghent, Belgium

Last year I posted that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced it will begin accepting applications for national bank charters from fintech companies In July 2018.

Joseph M. Ottin, Comptroller of the Currency gave the following remarks concerning Fintech Companies:

“The federal banking system must continue to evolve and embrace innovation to meet the changing customer needs and serve as a source of strength for the nation’s economy,” 

Mr. Ottin also commented that accepting applications from Fintech Companies:

helps provide more choices to consumers and businesses, and creates greater opportunity for companies that want to provide banking services in America.”

You can read the full press release here.

Fintech recap…

The prior OCC, Thomas Curry announced in 2017 that OCC would move forward with considering applications from financial technology (fintech) companies to become special purpose national banks.

“The OCC published a paper discussing the issues and conditions that the agency will consider in granting special purpose national bank charters.” You can check that paper out here

What’s made clear from the press release is that “[e]very application will be evaluated on its unique facts and circumstances.

Fintech Charter: Praise, Debate, Criticism and a Lawsuit.

The propriety of a Fintech charter has been supported by the Fintech community in general.

As previously reported by Crowdfund InsiderBrian Peters, Executive Director of Financial Innovation Now  “a public policy coalition comprised of Amazon, Apple, Google, Intuit and PayPal” stated;

“FIN believes that payments and lending regulation needs streamlining for the modern era. We commend the

OCC’s leadership and vision in driving this regulatory discussion. The OCC has rightly concluded that its approach must evolve to ensure that all American consumers and small businesses are empowered with better access to the benefits of financial technology.”

According to Crowdfund Insider  “Fintech Charter could benefit innovative financial firms that can provide superior services at a lower cost for both consumers and businesses.”

That being said, the propriety of such action by the OCC has been questioned by others, and officially sued by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors as an “unprecedented, unlawful expansion of the chartering authority”- check out the Press Release from the CSBS back in April of last year.

Fintech Charters Overturned by Federal Court.

Well it appears a federal court recently sided with the CSBS. I recently read an article by Attorney Daniel S. Cohen from K&L Gates informing that a Federal Court struck down the Fintech Charter.

Why Fintech Intrigues me – Purpose Driven.

Regardless of how the appellate courts ultimately rule on Fintech Charters, I’ve previously talked about why fintech is so intriguing.

I’ve highlighted some fintech companies doing unique things in the past, like Lemonade.

a. taking a risk doing something different (being an innovator);

b. disrupting business as usual;

c. for the good of others (being mission driven).

That’s social entrepreneurship at its finest.

Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

For the benefit of all stakeholders – Pushing the Needle Forward on Business as a Force for Good.

August 22, 2019 Leave a comment

Good afternoon, all. I hope you all have been enjoying the summer. I took this photo this morning as the sun was rising over downtown Grand Rapids.

Just a few days ago Business Roundtable announced the release of a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”

Thanks to Jeff Van Winkle for bringing this to my attention. You can check out the link to the Business Roundtable webiste and the announcement:

It is exciting to see the general acknowledgment and support for the idea that business exists for a purpose more than simply profit.

This is not a new thing, particularly in West Michigan.

West Michigan is truly a unique place where business and philanthropy intersect unlike any other place.  Giving of time, talents and treasure to worthy causes is embedded in the culture of this community.

We know of many businesses that have established core mission statements of social good as something beyond profit for quite some time. I look to Cascade Engineering, as one example. Check out the Blog of Fred Keller, Founder of Cascade – titled “Purpose & Profit”

Some groups are skeptical that this statement will lead to any real change – case in point Corporate America Says “Sorry” via @npquarterly

However, I am hopeful that this statement pushes the ball forward on business for good in the State of Michigan.


Last year the State House tantalized social entrepreneurs, once again, with the possibility of benefit corporations (“Bcorps”) becoming a viable legal option to do business in the State of Michigan.

House Bills 5867, 5868 & 5869 were introduced on April 24, 2018, that would allow BCorps to be formed under Michigan Law.

There was never any movement on those bills and they died in committee.

Back almost two years ago the legislature proposed similar legislation which also died in committee (are you recognizing a pattern?). For a review of the Former BCorp Bills, the House Fiscal Agency issued a Fiscal Analysis, check it out here. 

The Analysis provides good background on what the legislation would do. This is helpful for those who are not overly familiar with BCorps in general.

Education on the “why” for BCorps.

Interested groups and local politicians have been educating the public on why BCorp laws would be a good thing for our state.

State Rep Hank Vaupe gave a discussion to a local chamber group on B-Corps two Septembers ago:

As Rep. Vaupe indicated “benefit corporations provide an opportunity for businesses to use the markets, rather than traditional charity giving, to advance their philanthropic missions.”

Michigan is behind the ball.

Over the last several years Michigan legislators have repeatedly introduced BCorp legislation – to no avail.

Check out this handout from Rep Barnett almost 10 years ago in support of the BCorp legislation he proposed in September 2010.

I found particularly interesting the very last section – it provides some comment on why some Michigan businesses may have been averse to the introduction of BCorp legislation. Feel free to read it and reach your own conclusions.

Michigan now ranks as one of the vast minority of states that has not enacted benefit corporation legislation.

Check out the Benefit Corporation website for a state by state legislative analysis.

I hope Michigan can continue to make progress and recognize business as a force for good.

Questions? Comments?

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Real Estate Investors Bidding at Foreclosure Sale: What Happens to a “Surplus?”

January 28, 2019 1 comment

It is a snowy day today in Grand Rapids. If you are on the roads, drive safe!

snow day


Last week I read a  Court of Appeals decision that prompted me to write on the topic concerning real estate investors.


The market to purchase distressed real estate has become extremely competitive since 2008-09. Having multiple real estate investors bidding on properties can cause some serious problems. 

Some lenders/investors have tried some creative methods of recovery and made some interesting legal arguments in order to  maximize their profit at or after foreclosure sales. Complex legal issues can arise in a competitive market when there is money to be made.

For clients of mine that purchase investment real estate at foreclosure – an interesting situation can come up:

  1. Purchaser at foreclosure knows the bidding is competitive – is the highest bidder – overbids due to competitive bids.
  2. Purchaser, in order to “pocket” the overbid (and to extinguish the mortgagor’s right of redemption) – purchases the homeowner (mortgagor’s) interest via quitclaim deed prior to foreclosure and thereafter.
  3. The Sheriff conducting the sale receives and deposits the surplus with the County Treasurer.
  4. Purchaser seeks from the County Treasurer the overbid amount after the foreclosed debt is satisfied.



Facts of January 22 Decision in Trustlink Equities LLC v Dietech

That’s presumably what the Plaintiff, purchaser expected to happen in this case.

With real estate, however, things don’t always go how you expect.

Check out the January 22, 2019 unpublished case of Trustlink Equities, LLC

This case is helpful, because it provides some guidance to an area of the law that isn’t used very often and there simply isn’t a lot of case law about: what happens to surplus funds after foreclosure and who is entitled to those funds?

In the Trustlink case,  after foreclosure, there was a second mortgage with $162,497.12 remaining owed. Id.

After the proceeds from the sale of the Property to Purchaser satisfied the first mortgage the Sheriff received and deposited the $77,490.54 in surplus funds with the St. Clair County Treasurer.

Purchaser filed a document with the Treasurer, “document titled “Verified Claim for Turn-Over of Proceeds of Sale.” seeking payment of the $77,490.54 surplus funds.

Defendant, the junior mortgage servicer, filed a competing document titled “Verified Claim for Surplus Proceeds of Sale

The result was that the funds were turned over to the Circuit Court for the proper disposition. The Court found Defendant, as junior mortgage holder, the proper party. Plaintiff appealed. A few interesting points to discuss came out of this case.



There are a couple of particular laws that come into play here:

I. Full Credit Bid

One general one to be aware of – the Full Credit Bid Rule – it basically stands for the proposition that: “An overbid at a Sheriff’s sale extinguishes the entire debt.” Pulleyblank v. Cape, 179 Mich.App. 690, 446 N.W.2d 345 (1989) (per curiam).

Practically speaking, if the bank bid the entire amount that was owed, regardless of whether or not the fair market value of the property is worth less than what is owed, the bank cannot come after the borrower for a deficiency.


II. MCL 600.3252 – Surplus Funds After Foreclosure. 

That statute states in relevant part:

If after any sale of real estate…there shall remain in the hands of the officer…making the sale, any surplus money after satisfying the mortgage on which the real estate was sold, and payment of the costs and expenses of the foreclosure and sale, the surplus shall be paid over by the officer…to the mortgagor…or assigns, unless at the time of the sale, or before the surplus shall be so paid over, some claimant or claimants, shall file with the person so making the sale, a claim…in which case the person so making the sale, shall forthwith upon receiving the claim, pay the surplus to, and file the written claim with the clerk of the circuit court of the county in which the sale is so made…


So, the mortgagor is entitled to receive the funds from the Sheriff – or if sent to the Court, an interested party making a “claim” to the funds may make a claim to the Court.

“The statute allows both (1) parties who filed a “claim” with the person making the sale, and (2) any person or persons interested in the surplus, to apply to the circuit court for distribution of the surplus funds after a foreclosure sale.” Id. page 10.


a. Mortgagor – “demand” v.s “claim” – all the same?

One of the primary issues on appeal concerns whether the Purchaser’s filing qualified as a “demand” or as a “claim” under MCL 600.3252. Plaintiff filed with the Treasurer a  document and did not use the word “demand.”

The Court held that, “because plaintiff conveyed to the Treasurer its assertion of its right to disbursement of the surplus funds, we conclude that plaintiff made a “demand” for purposes of MCL 600.3252.” Id. page 7


b.  Mortgagor’s demand needs to be “immediately” paid?

Purchaser argued that the Sheriff should have paid “immediately upon demand” and disregarded the junior mortgage holder. Basically a “you snooze you lose” argument.

The Court was not convinced, holding:

“Although plaintiff makes a valid point that an obligation to make payment “on demand”
generally requires immediacy, the specific facts of this case support the trial court’s ruling that the Treasurer was justified in delaying payment for seven days while it conducted its due diligence in evaluating plaintiff’s filing.” Id. Page 10.


In summary – if you are a Purchaser at foreclosure and have obtained the “mortgagor’s” rights – be careful to search the title for competing claims to that money.

You can’t rely on the fact that you immediately demand the funds to ultimately entitle you to them.


Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Grand Rapids Social Enterprise, L3Cs and a Call to Community Partnership.

November 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday I visited with Dr. Justin Beene – Founder of Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation  (GRCCT) – a collective of non-profit/for-profits working to see flourishing in Grand Rapids for all.  GCCT is essentially a hub for social enterprise, for the common good of the Greater Grand Rapids Area.

Justin Beene

Dr. Justin Beene, the future expansion of GRCCT

GRCCT states on its website that Grand Rapids was ranked the number one city in the United States to raise kids by Forbes Magazine (Van Riper, 2012).

Even more, the city has been ranked as one of the most philanthropic areas in the United States (Raghaven, 2013).

GRCCT mentions the powerful presence of the institution of the Church in Grand Rapids, and over 2,800 nonprofits.

This all sounds good, but there is much work to be done. There is still great need in the Grand Rapids Community.



despite the affluence, giving, and nonprofit services in West Michigan, the outlook in education, employment, and long-term quality of life for many urban citizens looks bleak. 

Forbes Magazine just recently released a study of 52 metropolitan cities in the United States and found Grand Rapids to be the second worst city in the country for African-Americans to live based on business ownership/entrepreneurship, median income, and home ownership (Kotkin, 2014)…

Youth living in the urban center of Grand Rapids are among the most impoverished young people in the country.”


In response to the great need in our city, particularly for youths struggling with poverty,  GRCCT supports several social enterprises (Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges) that not only provide skills/job training but also provides revenue for the long-term sustainability of these programs.


Low-Profit Limited Liability Companies.

Both Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges are Michigan Low-profit Limited Liability Companies (L3Cs)

Back in 2009 the Michigan legislature authorized the formation of these “hybrid” business entities.

L3Cs are formed fundamentally for a charitable/socially beneficial purpose, but unlike non-profit corporations, members can own equity in these L3Cs.
L3Cs – Viable Tools for Social Entrepreneurs…

I’ve said this before- L3Cs are a viable tool for social entrepreneurs – they tell the whole world that your company exists, fundamentally to do good.

Certainly, that is the purpose of both Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges –  they exist for the common good.


Doing our Part – Being a Good Community Partner.

Grand Rapids is taking deliberate steps to help those most in need, particularly in the area of affordable housing

Recent national headlines demonstrate that there is a lot of mixed feelings about the proper solutions to the affordable housing crisis facing many cities across the U.S.


One key take point that GRCCT inherently understands:


Creating real change requires an entire community’s involvement.


GRCCT is looking for individuals, businesses, organizations


who will partner for the common good of the Greater Grand Rapids Area.

I love this quote that is often spoken of at Mel Trotter Ministries – “People don’t become homeless when they run out of money. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

That is our job. Being those relationships for the most vulnerable.

Not just “one-way relationships” but truly reaching out in community in a sustainable way.

Keep up the good work Justin and all at GRCCT.













A Cautionary Tale for Leaders on National Philanthropy Day. A Call to Humble, Authentic Leadership.

November 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Good afternoon, all.

It has been a month since my last post – a lot has happened in a month. I wanted to sent a quick post.



Today is the first day of some serious snow – check it out. I am looking forward to ice skating beginning at Rosa Parks Circle.


Yesterday, I read a press release from the Department of Justice: Former Charity CEO Pleads Guilty to Multi-Million Dollar Political Corruption Scheme




The Press Release goes on to summarize the allegations:

Marilyn Luann Nolan, 68, of Springfield, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush on Friday, Nov. 9, to one count of conspiracy to embezzle and misapply the funds of a charitable organization that received federal funds.

By pleading guilty, Nolan admitted that she conspired with others from 2008 to June 30, 2017, to misapply millions of dollars of the charity’s funds for substantial, undisclosed payments to lobbying firms and political advocates, monetary and in-kind contributions to the campaigns of candidates for public office, and to bribe public officials.  Nolan also admitted that she knew her co-conspirators defrauded the charity in order to enrich themselves, and her.



In a prior post I wrote about the need to be authentic as leaders.  It is true, that, we all get to choose what parts of our story we reveal to other people.

It is a tremendous temptation to only reveal to others what looks favorable about ourselves – to shine the light on our achievements, awards, skills, and the things that we can so easily take pride in.

You know what I am talking about.

The things that fall into the  “look at me, I am important.”  category.

This is especially true for those in key leadership positions.

Last month, in my 40 Second Story  I hoped to convey authenticity. Being real.

That is not a comfortable thing to do, particularly if you are like me and don’t have it all together. (none of us do).

In fact, when my story was displayed in front of 500+ people last month, I was extremely anxious. It was not a comfortable feeling. But, I know that it is OK not to have it all together.

Applying this concept of Authenticity to Ms. Nolan’s story – I am sure she that she did not set out running a multi-million dollar non-profit organization with the goal of breaking the law and the public trust.

But at some point, I imagine that the lie she was living became too big in her mind to disclose to others until it was too late.

In light of National Philanthropy Day I wanted to highlight this point:

There is a desperate need for leaders who are willing, in humility, to be authentic.

Humble authentic Leadership.


I’ve heard it said by Craig Groeschel

Be yourself.

“People would rather follow a leader who is always REAL than one who is always RIGHT.”


As for me, I’m striving to be a leader who is real.

In order that God might be made powerful in my weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9


Questions? Comments?

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka