No baby steps for creator of map business

TRAVERSE CITY – Nine-month-old Everett Elkins is known by name to more Traverse City shopkeepers than residents many times his age. From February to April, he accompanied his mother, Karley Elkins, as she solicited locally-owned businesses for her new children's map project.

"Everett and I hit the streets," Karley said. "He was my little business partner."

Forty-six merchants in the greater Grand Traverse area, some offering free children's activities, are included in a colorful, 12 inch x 18 inch map designed and printed by Elkins' company, Expedition Traverse, LLC.

In June, the map and two discount punch cards, one for food and one for children's fun and adventure activities, will be sold at area stores, restaurants and hotels for $30 and can be used from June 1, 2007 through May 31, 2008.

"So many families and kids in northern Michigan don't do the things that vacationers do," she said. "All children living here should be able to feel the wind on their faces while sailing on a Tall Ship and have the chance to learn to kite board with Broneah (owned by brothers Matt and Keegan Myers)."

The idea for the map project unfolded as Elkins sought work that would allow her to stay at home with her newborn son. His susceptibility to illness and infection after corrective heart surgeries for a serious condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, left him unable to attend daycare during his recuperation.

Elkins met for brainstorming sessions with three acquaintances before inspiration hit. Expedition Traverse, LLC, is her second "baby" and combines her education in advertising and communications and sales experience, with her vision to build closer, more active families.

"I wanted to stay true to myself and make a difference in my community," she said. "Because of this, I chose to only allow local businesses to be a part of Expedition Traverse. I am all about promoting locally-owned, unique-to-Traverse City places."

Elkins said the map and cards are initially being offered as fund-raising tools for Traverse City Area Public Schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations. Children and teens receive 10 free maps and sets of discount cards for every 30 they sell, and proceeds may be used toward field or mission trips.

"Having Everett and having so many people be so generous and so kind…I just feel the need to give back."

Plans are underway to offer a similar map in the Petoskey area.

For information about the map, call 883-1383. BN