West Michigan investment fund secures $21 million for local business community

Contact: Stacey Anderson
Drs. Doug Lepisto and Derrick McIver stand in front of WMU Haworth

From left, Drs. Doug Lepisto and Derrick McIver stand in front of Western's Haworth College of Business.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Sleeping Giant Capital, a private investment firm with ties to Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business, has secured commitments now totaling $21 million with the first close of the fund.

Launched in August 2020, the fund is targeting $50 million with the aim of generating economic, social and educational returns in West Michigan through acquisition of small businesses. Sleeping Giant Capital will take equity positions in companies generating $3 million to $30 million in revenue and transition a new owner-operator into leadership of the company.

Managed by Drs. Derrick McIver and Doug Lepisto, co-directors of the Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy at the Haworth College of Business, the fund will pursue at least two acquisitions per year, with 80% of acquisitions located in West Michigan.   

The critical issue the fund addresses is that the transition of ownership requires a pipeline of talented future owner-operators. To solve this, the Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy has established a training program, Acquire, which is open to MBA students as well as experienced professionals. This innovative, digitally enhanced program educates aspiring owner-operators on sourcing, analyzing, acquiring and leading small businesses.

Graduates of this training program are eligible to apply for a competitive process where they are personally mentored by executives and backed by capital to source and acquire a company. A new cohort of the Acquire program begins this fall.

"Whether it's sellers, investors, alumni, business executives or community partners, we have been amazed by the enthusiasm for the innovative and purpose-driven approach of this fund," says McIver. "Investors today require both attractive returns and true social impact. We see these two elements of our approach as mutually reinforcing. This first close demonstrates investor confidence in our vision and ability to execute."

With several candidates who have now applied for funding, Sleeping Giant Capital looks forward to announcing its investments in the local community.

"We are excited to deliver financial returns to our investors but to do so with purpose," says Lepisto. "Sellers see our commitment and are reaching out because they want to engage with a partner that is committed to their companies and West Michigan for the long term, is capable and is collaborative. We engage authentically and with a big win mentality."

A portion of the profits from acquired companies will be distributed by Sleeping Giant Capital back to the Haworth College of Business to maintain and expand the Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy's impact.

“Sleeping Giant Capital is a wonderful resource in our community,” says Dr. Satish Deshpande, Haworth College of Business dean. "For those deeply committed to being the next generation of owner-operators of small businesses in West Michigan, the fund provides incredible opportunities to invest in an existing successful company. Developing talent within the community is one of the core goals of the college, and this partnership with our center helps us to support those efforts. The access to capital the fund provides will greatly enhance options for MBA students, professionals and alumni as well as those owners looking to sell their companies. We are proud to be a part of sustaining a great business environment in our community."

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