Melody BaetensThe Detroit News
Olga Loizon was a pioneering business woman and restaurateur in Metro Detroit, opening her first restaurant in Birmingham in the 1970s when few women did such things, and growing it into the expansive chain that Olga's Kitchen is today. So when Loizon died at age 92 in 2019, her family and company launched the Olga Loizon Memorial Foundation to help women entrepreneurs based in Michigan. This week the restaurant group's owner, Team Schostak Family Restaurants, announced the fund's first two recipients. Sticky Spoons Jam of Niles and U-Plant Landscape Designs of Greater Grand Rapids have each won a $10,000 grant from the foundation to help them further their independent businesses.
"It's going to fully impact my business in a positive way, especially since we're in the process of moving from a cottage food (industry) to a licensed kitchen," said Sticky Spoons Jam founder Aiyenede Akhigbe. "I started reading up on Olga and I'm super impressed. She was one heck of a woman. To be told 'no' — which, we still get told 'no' a lot as women when you want to start a business — but to be told 'no' and still go, 'well I'll find a way around this and make it happen' in such a tremendous way, I bow." A former Third Class Petty Officer Engineman in the United States Navy, Akhigbe started her company of more than 150 unique flavors of jams in 2016 so her kids would have delicious, preservative-free food to eat. "Our best sellers are the apple pie jam," she said. "We hear a lot of expletives when people sample it at markets." Sandy Jonick founded U-Plant Landscape Designs in 2019 to help homeowners beautify their properties themselves. She provides digital landscape designs, detailed plant lists and labeled images to help residents realize their landscape dreams. As a relatively new business, Jonick can use the $10,000 from Loizon's grant to fund her marketing program, and eventually expand the business into other markets.
“We’re elated to honor the legacy of our founder by providing two women entrepreneurs with grants to take their Michigan-based businesses to the next level,” said Olga Loizon Memorial Foundation president Loredana Gianino in a media alert. “Perseverance and innovation were central to Olga’s spirit and her success as she left an impact on this community. The grant awardees embody the same qualities as women entrepreneurs who are trailblazing in their own fields. We look forward to seeing how these grants will fuel the growth and success of these businesses.” More information on donating to or applying for the Olga Loizon Memorial Foundation can be found at olgas.com/foundation.