After a straight-line windstorm carrying up to 100 miles per hour winds devastated Northern Michigan on Aug. 2, 2015, Ann Arbor siblings Bella and Zack Pryor felt inspired to take action. They started making wooden signs out of the old fences, broken docks and scraps of wood found in Glen Arbor and selling them — thus creating MichAgain Signery.
Bella, a Business sophomore at the University of Michigan, and her younger brother Zach, a junior at Pioneer High School, spend about three months each summer in Glen Arbor with their family. When the windstorm hit, they felt its impacts first-hand.
“We’ve been coming up to Glen Arbor, Michigan since we were born basically,” Bella Pryor said. “After the storm, there were a lot of trees down and just a lot of general devastation on the hiking trails and bike trails.”
Bella Pryor said wood such as docks, fences and farm structures had been damaged during the storm, and they did not want to let it all go to waste.
“We just decided to get a trailer and just load up some wood and bring it home,” she said.
The Pryor siblings had an idea to use the wood from the storm to make wood signs representing the parts of Glen Arbor most special to them using design and art.
“What inspired us to make the signs in particular rather than other wood products was so that we could use art as a way to also express the beautiful areas that are in Northern Michigan,” Bella Pryor said. “What better way than using wood from a negative storm and trying to turn it into a positive impact?”
Business sophomore Maggie Dahlmann said her coursework at the Business School involved researching “b-corporations,” which are businesses that strive to make a positive impact on their community while balancing profit. She believes MichAgain Signery is an exemplary business in this sense.
“These students took a problem and created a solution from it while at the same time reducing waste and giving back to the devastated community,” Dahlmann said.
MichAgain Signery donates their proceeds to the Empire Area Food Pantry, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and Preserve Port Oneida Farm District. Bella Pryor explained these three organizations are all involved in restoration and preservation efforts following the storm.
She said starting MichAgain Signery taught her how important it is to have a positive impact in one’s local community.
“Running a business isn’t just about the financial aspect, it’s also about making an impact on your community whether that’s through donations or just making amicable relationships with other vendors in the markets and art fairs,” Bella Pryor said.
Since she was interested in business throughout high school, Bella Pryor connected her business to what she has learned as a University Business student.
“Something we really focused on in Ross was having a positive impact and positive business,” Bella Pryor said. “I was very lucky to be able to experience that firsthand in high school.”
Zach Pryor was able to use MichAgain Signery in his school chapter of DECA. He was chosen as the first place winner of the Business Growth Plan Event at the International Career Development Conference.
“It was pretty cool just to get the word out about my business and show its potential and use the previous year’s numbers to project growth,” Zach Pryor said. “That was definitely my coolest experience related to our business.”
Zach Pryor said they were not very confident their first year and they did not know how things would go, but have been excited to see their business grow.
“Over the next few years, we continued to grow and expand and just keep throwing out more ideas until we got to where we are today,” Zach Pryor said. “Our sales and our customer impact have increased.”
As they sell more signs, Zach Pryor said more people hear about the business.
“Every sign we sell is an advertisement piece because when they hang it up," Zach Pryor said. "People ask about it and they can tell them about it and then people know about MichAgain Signery."
Reflecting on the successful journey of MichAgain Signery, Bella Pryor said she hopes to stay with the business as long as she can over the next few summers.
“As each summer goes by, we just realize how much more we are making relationships with other people and how much they rely on us and we rely on them,” Bella Pryor said. “We’re hoping to just keep it going as long as we can.”