Business spotlight – Good Fruit Video
LANSING, Michigan, December 16, 2021 – Do good, be fruitful. Though the message may be simple, Good Fruit Video’s investment in doing good is anything but. Co-owner and Sault Tribe member, Justin Caine’s philosophy begins with his approach to doing good by his team. “We’re not some huge team, after twelve years in, there’s still just the five of us. We keep it simple and focused on the quality of the content we create,” offers Caine. This allows Caine to price services competitively while offering his team compensation that provides for a higher quality of life. Caine adds, “We ask the client to pay a fair value for our services, and in turn we’re able to provide a fair value to our employees for their work.” When we do good, we are all fruitful. And after being named the 2021 Small Business of the Year by the Michigan Diversity Council back in October, the approach continues to pay off.
Following the completion of media technology and video production studies at Lansing Community College in 2007, Caine says he struggled to immediately find work that matched his drive and experiences. “Often times, there’s a stigma surrounding hiring people with disabilities,” remarks Caine. Although the majority of his family grew up in Manistique, Michigan, Caine was living in Haslett with his parents as a ten year old just entering the fourth grade. “One day I bent down to tie my shoe, and that’s when it happened.” Unbeknownst to him, his family, and his doctors, a tumor had been growing on Caine’s brainstem since birth. It hemorrhaged that day and Caine almost lost his life. After spending months recovering and relearning mobility and speech, Caine returned home with a newfound determination to succeed, no matter the challenges.
Many people doubted Caine’s abilities. “I’m a walking diversity and inclusion case,” jokes Caine as he recalls the spark that ignited his path toward entrepreneurship. “No one wanted to give me a chance.” At one point Caine was all set to commit to work with the Peace Corps, with completed application in hand. But Caine continued to soak up knowledge from a vast network of self-starters in mid-Michigan, and began to envision what a company built by folks who matched his drive and experiences might look like. Caine quickly became an advocate for expanded diversity and inclusion policy in the workplace.
In response to the lack of available opportunities, Justin Caine decided to create his own work by starting Good Time Productions in 2008. Leaning on business resources available in his region, Caine’s business reached out to the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center (TIC). He had the drive, knowledge, and backing of a successful network, all he needed was to get in the door with the right client. And then it happened. A client, whom Justin had known and trusted for some time, took an interest in his work. Caine already owed his life to the people at Sparrow Health System. The team at Sparrow had been there in 1993 when Caine needed them the most. And now here they were, some 15 years later, helping Caine through seemingly insurmountable odds, breaking into the video production industry as a small business.
Work was difficult on his own, and Caine couldn’t help but feel that there might be a better way. Caine met Kraig Westfall through his work in video production in the Lansing area. Westfall owned his own fledgling production company, KiWe Productions. The two worked together on several projects, but with two separate companies, clients were becoming confused on who they were working with. With Westfall’s technical expertise, and Caine’s networking prowess, the two joined forces to form Good Fruit Video in March 2009. As champions of diversity and inclusion, over 50% of Good Fruit Video’s team is disabled. “We were looking for ways to differentiate our company, we needed an x-factor,” remarks Caine.
The arrangement has worked out by all accounts, as Good Fruit gained exposure, more and more regional clients signed on with the company as the quality of work and level customer service created a ‘buzz’ around Good Fruit’s service offerings. Whether it was documentary-styled videos, product testimonials, or live events, the business has always challenged itself to do good in the community. Caine was veracious in his research discerning the latest fads from true disruptors in the video production industry, getting better has been the impetus to his research and development activities. “If you’re not constantly trying to get better, you’re going to get left behind. This industry isn’t one where you can rest on your laurels,” adds Caine.
Looking to his cultural past for insight and inspiration, Caine visited the Sault Tribe website often, until one day in the summer of 2021 he stumbled across a link for the Sault Tribe Thrive program. “I had no idea this kind of support existed for Tribal members,” says Caine. Good Fruit Video reached out to the Sault Tribe Thrive and the relationship has been a positive one. “Find every avenue of support to grow your business that you can,” suggests Caine. Good Fruit Video has taken advantage of support resources on the Payment Protection Program and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans, but has found the Ponca Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO) Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to be most fruitful. “Sheila is great. She keeps me busy with all kinds of homework to get Good Fruit registered to become a government contractor,” Caine responded referring to PEDCO PTAC Procurement Specialist, Sheila Kreason who has experience working with a number of Sault Tribe member owned businesses.
It hasn’t been an all rosy outlook for Good Fruit Video throughout the last couple of years of the pandemic, which has made economic resources, like the East Lansing TIC, Sault Tribe Thrive program and PEDCO PTAC all the more valuable. “We’ve had the same challenges as everyone else, but we were lucky to be able to keep all of our staff on board,” remarks Caine. Caine revealed that revenues were in fact down year over year, but the resources have allowed for his business to bridge the gap of lost revenue. In a lot of ways, businesses could be forgiven for calling it quits during these tough economic times, with a record 29.7% of small business shutting their doors in 2020 according to a Harvard study. Business ownership is not without its own set of risks.
At the same time, interest in entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, with 4.4 million more new businesses opening in 2020 alone according to the Census Bureau. The numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics say a significant percentage of new business ventures will not make it past their first year, with 20% failing, and that number climbing to 50% after just 5 years. But it is encouraging to see, against all odds, some businesses approach the challenge as an opportunity for innovation, and creative problem-solving strategies are now on center stage. “The help goes as far as the work you’re willing to put in as a business,” a parting piece of advice that we think sums up what Sault Tribe Thrive is all about.
Justin Caine, Visionary, Co-owner of Good Fruit Video credits many mentors, but would especially like to thank Kraig Westfall, Mike McFall, Bob Fish, and John Gilkey, and Kellie Dean. Sault Tribe Thrive would like to thank Justin Caine for taking the time sit down with us and share his story and vision for Good Fruit Video. To learn more about utilizing video to market your business or organization, head over to www.goodfruitvideo.com. For more business resources or the latest Sault Tribe business news, check us out on the web at www.saulttribethrive.com or give us a follow on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.