In May, the Consumers Energy Foundation donated $1.8 million to community organizations supporting small businesses across Michigan, focusing on helping female-and minority-owned companies.

Our foundation does not use funds generated from customers’ energy bills. Instead, it uses shareholder funds to support nonprofit organizations across Michigan.

Here is a look at a business that received a grant and how the funds are helping handle the operational challenges created by COVID-19.

Northern Michigan Native Keeps Passion Flowing

As the owner of a photography business in her hometown of Traverse City, Beth Price sees the world through her lens from all angles and preferably with freshwater as her theme.

She often snaps her shots while wearing a wetsuit, fins and swim mask in her beloved Lake Michigan.

But it was the figurative shot in the arm she received this spring from a local grant that kept her going through the economic challenges created by COVID-19.

Soon after the statewide shutdown began in March, Price received a grant from the Regional Resiliency Fund, administered by Venture North and supported by the Consumers Energy Foundation. Hers was one of 70 small businesses with nine employees or less in Benzie, Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties that received grant awards ranging from $1,500 to $5,000.

“Spring and summer are traditionally the busiest for wedding and portrait bookings,” said Price, a 1993 graduate of Traverse City Central High School. “This year it went from phone ringing to silence. There were a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. How long will this last? Are we going to be safe? What do I need to put in place that protects me and my clients?”

“My faith took over, and I told myself, ‘This will pass, and you’ll get through it because you always have.’ I was thrilled and humbled to receive the grant. It spoke to me in a dark, uncertain time that what I do really matters. My community was telling me, ‘We believe in your business and we believe in what you’re doing here in Northern Michigan. You’re part of us.'”

Surfing for New Images

While thoughtfully evaluating and re-opening her business, Price found her love of freshwater and Northern Michigan more-important-than-ever. It’s a part of her roots and who she is as a person.

“When I take my photographs, I’m trying to merge my landscapes with snippets of life to tell a story — like surfing,” said Price, who was raised on nearby Long Lake. “I love to showcase a combination of adventure and physical landscapes in the changing seasons and light throughout the year. September is my favorite month in Northern Michigan.”

She is often found out in the lineup surrounded by surfers — yes, surfing is popular on Lake Michigan — and capturing images of Mother Nature to help encourage thoughtful consumption and water conservation. Price has worked for several state and national clients, and her images are sourced direct or through her stock agency.

However, her path didn’t start behind a camera. She spent three years at Michigan State University on a political science and pre-law track before transferring to Brooks Institute of Photography in California.

Price is committed to protecting Michigan waterways and encouraging everyone to be better humans through her photography. She is quick to share facts about the Great Lakes and why we need to protect them.

Said Price: “An ideal assignment for me would be to craft an adventure on the Great Lakes that’s paddling based and challenging. It tells a good story, and it’s so important in protecting these spaces and places.”

Delivering Support for Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Crisis: Consumers Energy is committed to helping Michigan small businesses succeed. Find resources at our Business Solutions website or call 800-805-0490 to arrange a customized payment plan for your business energy bill.

Photo Credit: Image of Beth Price on surfboard with camera, courtesy of Liam Kaiser.

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