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Top Women Owned Businesses a celebration of women entrepreneurs March 2, 2011

In recognition of the West Michigan women-owned businesses adding strength and diversity to the local economy.

SPONSORED BY:

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The Michigan Business & Professional Association supports Michigan women in business.

We salute the 2011 awardees of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Top Women Owned Businesses!

888.277.6464 • michbusiness.org MBPA is the largest business organization of small to medium-sized businesses in Michigan, representing more than 20,000 members who employ over 200,000 persons. Members include attorneys, physicians, architects, accountants, construction companies, banks, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and the like. Member businesses receive numerous benefits including free legal and financial consultations; discounted technology, automotive and office products; employee training and recruitment assistance; and competitive insurance rates. The MBPA is a sister association to the Michigan Food & Beverage Association.

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Ability to survive turmoil

gives emphasis to success

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he Grand Rapids region is home to more than 200 businesses owned by women. The definition of ownership is marked by a female controlling at least 51 percent of the business or as the sole proprietor. On a national scale, women own 48 percent of all businesses but receive only 4 percent of any private equity funds. Even while women are increasingly moving from under the glass ceilings of corporate America as owners of almost 50 percent of all businesses, study after study shows continued and greater difficulty in funding sources for these business owners. Grand Rapids Business Journal has committed the last 10 years to profiling these business leaders every other year in rotation with 50 Influential Women, offering their stories to encourage others and improve regional market integration. The Business Journal surveyed well more than 100 women-owned businesses this year; the 35 businesses profiled in this issue were selected as finalists for the honor of Top Women Owned Business in four revenue categories. The top business in each of the four revenue categories will be announced during a luncheon in honor of the finalists at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, 11:30 a.m., March 2. The keynote speaker this year is Bená Burda of Maggie’s Organics/Clean Clothes Inc. She is a passionate advocate for sustainable business, and a female business owner who emphasizes and embodies ethics as the bottom line in her worldwide business. The judges making the selections this year noted the perils of the ebbing recession and commented that any business, especially

those owned by women, should be lauded in surviving the difficult economy. Judges include “Mommy Millionaire” Kim Lavine, Grand Haven; Michigan Center for Empowerment & Economic Development President Michelle Richards, headquartered in Ann Arbor; and Eric Larson, CPA/ABV, Beene Garter accounting agency, Grand Rapids. Lavine in February opened a new HOME (Home Office for a Million Entrepreneurs) in Grand Haven and introduced women-owned business owners to not only “incubator” space but also Michigan private equity investors. In other news, the Small Business Administration in February announced a new Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program to provide those businesses with greater access to federal contracting opportunities. The program allows federal agencies to set aside specific contracts for certified women-owned businesses (which is the business of TWOB judge Michelle Richards). In announcing the program, the SBA noted women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy and that federal contracts can provide those small businesses “with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level.” The Business Journal anticipates such growth in this region and looks forward to the next opportunity to gather nominations for Top Women-Owned Businesses in 2012. Carole Valade Editor

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This year’s judges “Mommy Millionaire” Kim Lavine in February opened HOME (Home Office for a Million Entrepreneurs) in Grand Haven and introduced women-owned business owners to incubator space and Michigan private equity investors. In her latest book, “The Mommy Manifesto: How to Use Our Power to Think Big, Break Limitations, and Achieve Success,” she raised the question: Are women deliberately being denied money for their business ideas or are they just not Lavine asking? A study by the University of New Hampshire indicates that the correct answer is “a combination of both,” said Lavine. In 2001, Lavine began making and selling a grain-filled therapy pillow she called the Wuvit, which led to the formation of her first company, Green Daisy Inc., which has since enjoyed millions in sales. In 2007, she published “Mommy Millionaire: How I Turned My Kitchen Table Idea Into a Million Dollars and How You Can, Too!” Lavine has been interviewed on national television and radio programs including “The Today Show,” “Rachel Ray Show,” “Good Morning America” and others.

Michelle Richards has been the executive director of the Center for Empowerment & Economic Development for more than 20 years. CEED provides small business training, counseling, financing and other assistance to women and minorities. One program of CEED is the Michigan Women’s Business Council, which provides certification and procurement assistance to women-owned businesses. Richards has served as president of the Michigan Women’s Business Council and as a board member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. She has been honored with the Michigan Small Business Administration Women’s Business Advocate of the Richards Year Award. She was also a participant in the Women’s Economic Summit at the White House. The city of Ypsilanti and the Women’s Council of Washtenaw County selected Richards as its 2010 ATHENA Award Recipient. The judges said Richards “has achieved excellence in her business profession, has served the community in a meaningful way and has assisted women in their attainment of professional goals and leadership skills.”

Eric Larson, CPA/ABV, Beene Garter accounting agency in Grand Rapids, has extensive practical and theoretical experience in the field of financial valuation, transaction negotiation, merger/ acquisition representation and corporate financial analysis. His business valuation projects have been performed for estate and gift taxation, succession planning, employee stock ownership plans, purchase and sale advisement, purchase price allocation, fairness opinions, marital dissolution and other matters. Larson Larson has worked with a wide range of industries, including agriculture, general and specialty contracting, manufacturing, packaging and printing, transportation, finance and insurance, health care, professional and technical service. Larson graduated with a bachelor of science in economics and an MBA in finance from GVSU. He obtained the Certified Public Accountant and Accredited in Business Valuation in June 2006. He holds the designations of Accredited Senior Appraiser, Certified Business Appraiser, Certified Management Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner.

Website: www.grbj.com; General Editorial Inquiries: editorial@grbj.com; General Sales Inquiries: advertisingsales@grbj.com

PUBLISHER

STATE LEGISLATIVE REPORTER

EDITOR

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

John H. Zwarensteyn: jzwarensteyn@geminipub.com Carole Valade: cvalade@geminipub.com MANAGING EDITOR

Gary Pullano: gpullano@geminipub.com COPY EDITOR

Donna Ferraro: dferraro@geminipub.com STAFF REPORTERS

David Czurak: dczurak@geminipub.com Pete Daly: pdaly@geminipub.com Elizabeth Slowik: eslowik@geminipub.com RESEARCHER

Tim Gortsema: tgortsema@geminipub.com

Capital News Service: freedma5@msu.edu

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Melissa Brooks: mbrooks@geminipub.com Robin Vargo: rvargo@geminipub.com

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Johnny Quirin

GENERAL SALES MANAGER

Randy D. Prichard: rprichard@geminipub.com

ADVERTISING SALES CONSULTANTS

Christina McDonald Meister: cmeister@geminipub.com Craig R. Rich: crich@geminipub.com Julie VanGessel: jvangessel@geminipub.com ADVER. SALES ASSISTANT/ COORDINATOR

Karla Jeltema: kjeltema@geminipub.com

CIRCULATION & MARKETING MANAGER

Scott T. Miller: smiller@geminipub.com

CIRCULATION & MARKETING COORDINATOR

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FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION MANAGER

Pamela Brocato, CPA: pbrocato@geminipub.com

ACCOUNTING & CREDIT ASSISTANT

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RECEPTIONIST/CLERICAL ASSISTANT

General Inquiries: info@grbj.com Alyson Mabie TO ORDER REPRINTS

Karla Jeltema: kjeltema@geminipub.com, (616) 459-4545

Jocelyn Burkett: jburkett@geminipub.com

4 TOP WOMEN OWNED BUSINESSES GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL SUPPLEMENT

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Supporting Women in business. in the community. in their careers. Huntington’s “Women’s Initiative” is designed to help support and promote professional women and women business owners. It is our goal to offer networking, mentoring, and professional development opportunities to support your business and help you succeed.

Contact Lyda Wilcox for more details 616-771-6213 Member FDIC. Huntington® is a federally registered service mark of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated. Huntington.® Welcome.TM is a service mark of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated. ©2011 Huntington Bancshares Incorporated.

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Congratulations Jamie R. Mills, CEBS

ng 25 i t a r b e l e C

Years

Your team at Mills Benefit Group extends our sincere congratulations to you as being honored as one of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s, 2011 Top Women Owned Businesses. “Your commitment to your clients and community is outstanding”

MILLS BENEFIT GROUP, LLC INNOVATION | STRATEGY | EXCELLENCE

Independent Employee Benefit Agency serving the greater West Michigan Area for 25 years. 801 BROADWAY NW, SUITE 203 | GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN 616-459-1069 | TOLL FREE 888-823-0334 | FAX 616-459-7492

Better because we are Different. Different because we are Better. Zip Xpress, Inc. 867 Interchange Drive Holland, MI 49423 616-879-0086 800-889-8583 Fax: 616-879-0098 www.zipxpress.net Type of Business: LTL Transportation Services Offered: LTL, blanketwrap, refrigerated service, High value, time sensitive, job site deliveries, Direct deliveries, Partial loads. Years in Business: 9 Number of staff: 50+ Zip Xpress is a premier LTL carrier in the Holland area servicing 11 Western States, Southwest, Southeast and now servicing The New England States.

Safe, fast, reasonably-priced transportation, delivered in a friendly consistent manner will generate more sales for your company. Just ask our customers. WWW.ZIPXPRESS.NET 6 Top Women Owned Businesses Grand Rapids Business Journal supplement

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TOP WOMEN OWNED BUSINESSES

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Doreen Bolhuis Gymco inc. president and Ceo

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oreen Bolhuis turned her passion for athletics into a successful business venture that turns 31 years old this

year. Bolhuis earned a degree in education from Central Michigan University, where she majored in physical education and minored in recreation. She then taught and coached gymnastics in the East Grand Rapids school system. In 1977, she founded OAK Gymnastics. Just three years later, she started Gymco Inc. Today, her company has 18 employees and sports-and-fitness sales that reach nearly $1.5 million each year. Bolhuis has been so successful with Gymco that she started two spinoffs related to her core enterprise: Fitsmart Productions and Motion Evolution.

The Centerline, Mich., native is a wellknown businesswoman in the region, with a commitment to volunteer activity. Her board memberships include the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, Inforum, the Huntington Bank Women’s Advisory Board and the East Paris Business Association. The GR Chamber chose Bolhuis as its Small Business Person of the Year in 2004, and she was a finalist for the same honor at the state level that year. Her firm has been named one of the region’s Best and Brightest to Work For for five consecutive years. This year marks the third time Bolhuis has been honored by the Business Journal for her business acumen. Her first award came in 2005.

Kimberly L. Downey Complete investigations LLC Admirroration LLC and Admirroration Franchise management president

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imberly Downey is on the case. The founder of Complete Investigations LLC in 2004 and licensed private investigator operates a business that offers services in insurance fraud investigations, pre-trail investigations, surveillance, background profiling, interviews, missing persons, witness location and cellular phone forensics. The Central Michigan University graduate has majors in sociology and criminal justice — with a social work emphasis — and has shown her entrepreneurial versatility by operating Admirroration LLC and Admirroration Franchise Management. Founder of both companies in 2008, Complete Investigations was generating

more than $500,000 in revenue within its first three years, becoming a WBENC certified minority business owner in 2007. Admirroration LLC operates as a local multi-level advertising forum for Grand Rapids businesses. The franchise management function was created on the same business model. Franchises are sold and

managed within the company. Admirroration has successfully created multimedia advertising networks within communities by installing “smart” advertising mirrors within high-traffic businesses. Once the mirrors are installed throughout a community, Admirroration enables local businesses, advertisers and brands to target millions of consumers daily with a 65 percent recall rate. Admirroration manages eight franchises in five states. The franchises were sold in less than two years from inception while Downey continued to operate her two other businesses. She has been featured in publications nationally and in Europe.

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Sue Drolema Taco Boy owner

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he popularity of ethnic food is no more evident than in the growth of Taco Boy Mexican restaurant operations in the area. Sue Drolema of Belmont has opened four locations on her own and is in the process of opening five more stores in metro Grand Rapids in 2011. Starting the business from scratch in 2004, the organization now has more than 60 employees. The most recent Taco Boy to open was at 180 Monroe Ave. NW in downtown Grand Rapids in December. The other stores are in Wyoming on 44th Street, in Walker on Alpine and in Cascade on 28th Street. Having also branched out into catering, Drolema chose a downtown location because it’s “in the heart of everything.” Having been on a path to become an occupational therapist and then a fashion designer, the 24-year-old Drolema sought a more determined path as an

entrepreneur. Her grandfather, Robert Baltierrez, started the first Taco Boy restaurant in 1967 at 3475 Plainfield Ave. NE. He is credited with giving away free

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Floriza Genautis management Business solutions Founder and Ceo

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taffing and recruiting for the technology business is the specialty of Floriza Genautis’ Management Business Solutions. Genautis founded MBS in 2006 after starting her career in accounting. A native The Philippines, she worked in California for many years, where her work morphed from cutting payroll checks to recruitment. In 2003, she became a human resources manager for a Grand Rapids company, then launched her own business in 2006. MBS finds job candidates for positions in accounting, finance, human resources, information technology, sales, marketing and engineering. Certified as both woman- and minority-owned business enterprises, Genautis is proud to say her roster of seven employees includes both. “I experienced growth of business from being a sole employee in 2006 and hiring two employees in 2007 and two in 2008,” Genautis noted. In March, Genautis will receive

food to help introduce Mexican food to the Grand Rapids area, and as being responsible for introducing one of the first wet burritos. Later, her mother, Anita, took over as owner. Drolema now works with her mother, and her father, Doug, is the head cook. The restaurants are known for cooking all of the food individually, giving it a homemade flavor.

an award from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council at its annual Salute to Women’s Business Enterprises in Maryland. She was selected from among 10,000 certified women business owners and was recognized for her leadership, her role in inspiring other women entrepreneurs and her work at MBS. Her board involvement includes Women in Successful Enterprises, which provides advice to second-stage companies; Business Leaders Linked to Encourage New Directions, a group of young minority professionals; Fair Housing Center of West Michigan; the WBEC Great Lakes Certification Council; Women’s Resource Center; Diversity Advisory Council at Varnum LLP; Davenport University Employer Advisory Board; and Multicultural Advisory Council, Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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Diane M. Jones

Cynthia Kay

Denise Kolesar

professional marketing president

CK & Co. president and Ceo

Kohler expos inc. owner and president

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iane M. Jones, a former high school English teacher, takes pride in the growth of her public relations and marketing firm, which specializes in the gift, home décor, nonprofit, manufacturing and technology industries. In the past three years, the 29-yearold firm has assumed a leadership role in the gift and home industry by providing clients with techniques to market their companies and products through social media programs. Having been executive director of the Gift and Home Trade Organization for several years, she has rebranded the organization through its website, created a program to provide health insurance to the industry, and assembled the Gift and Home Trade Index that provides the profession with data-backed sales information never before available. Jones has been recognized as an expert in the field of collectibles, gifts and home accessories. The multiple award-winning company has had among its client list Brandwise, Mel Trotter Ministries, Ganz/ WebKinz, Surefil LLC, Swarovski and Woodland Mall. Jones hasn’t been shy about promoting her clients on a national stage, including the Associated Press, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “ER,” USA Today, on talk radio and in cameos at the White House. Active with Hospice of Michigan, Jones was presented that organization’s Crystal Rose Award for Outstanding Community Partner in 2009. In 2010, Jones was retained to promote the Stories at Sunset program, which featured patient, employee and volunteer stories aired on the radio. She also provided public relations and Facebook support.

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ynthia Kay’s name is nearly synonymous with the words “media” and “production” and has been since 1987, the year she started CK & Co. Since then, Kay, the company’s founder, president and CEO, has captured nearly every business honor that is awarded, including the 2005 Small Business of the Year Award from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and a trio of Telly Awards. Kay has been honored three times as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Business Journal and has earned more than 30 press association broadcasting awards from her days as a TV news reporter. Her media production company has twice been listed as one of the region’s 101 Best and Brightest firms, and this is the second time CK & Co. has made the Top Women Owned Business list. Having made her mark regionally, Kay is now pursuing national recognition. “This year alone we were able to work with Wiley Publishing on significant and high-profile projects. Our video work for Wiley’s release of Windows 7, Office 2010, and Facebook for Dummies is in every major retail bookseller outlet in the country,” said Kay, who added that her firm’s sales rose by 21 percent last year. “In addition, we are working with global companies like Siemens Industry to create marketing communications for high-profile businesses like high-speed rail and building technologies.”

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s owner and president of Kohler Expos Inc., Denise Kolesar has helped women to find their career paths, pointed their skills in the right direction, and inspired them to successfully go out on their own. Kolesar has accomplished all that through her expos dedicated to women, and holding those events has clearly been a delight in her life. “Continuing to fulfill my passion about women and business is my most significant business achievement. My support for women-owned and women-focused businesses is highlighted in mid- and West Michigan through the production of public shows encouraging women to put their product and services in front of thousands of consumers,” she said. Kolesar started producing the West Michigan Women’s Expo as a small show in 1997. Today, more than 17,000 women and business owners attend the three-day expo held in Grand Rapids. “I have personally given assistance to enable a number of women-owned businesses to get their feet off the ground without increasing their start-up debt,” she said. “Our events have also been incubators for women-owned and womenfocused businesses.” Kolesar was a 2010 ATHENA Award nominee and a 2009 finalist for the Top Women Owned Businesses. Kohler Expo employs 3.5 full-time workers and 50 part-time employees during the show season. The company produces five shows annually. “Additionally, we have donated more than $270,000 to women- and familyfocused nonprofits since our inception,” Kolesar said.

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Catherine Lazarock

Ping Liang

Julie Lough

symplicity Communications inc. president

Alphamax Advisors LLC managing director

micro Visions inc. president

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elecommunications entrepreneur Catherine Lazarock and her six-person company work with businesses to help them analyze and save money on their telephone and cell phone services. “Staying on top of technology and the latest carrier offerings can be a full-time job in itself,” Lazarock stated. “Symplicity Communications Inc. represents all the major telecom carriers and partners with the top hardware and IT vendors in West Michigan.” The firm, which Lazarock founded in 2007, helps companies with decisions about hardware, services and implementation and provides ongoing bill monitoring. Lazarock obtained a bachelor’s degree in international relations at Grand Valley State University. She started her career at Amway Corp. in international public relations. Several years later, she took on sales and marketing duties for an Israeli computer manufacturer. Then she joined a telecommunications management company, and about three years later launched Symplicity. “My company has been growing in a struggling economy and that to me is my most significant business achievement,” Lazarock stated. “I have had triple digit growth in residual income and double digit growth in upfront income.” Lazarock also offers a hand to other women interested in starting businesses. A regional council member for Inforum, Lazarock is on the program committee and nominating council, and coordinates monthly networking dinners. She also is active with Grand Rapids Opportunity for Women and the Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs, the West Michigan Technology Association and Local First.

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ince 2003, Ping Liang has been speaking the language of business. With more than 30 years in American banking, consulting, investment and trade, Liang founded AlphaMax Advisors LLC to help businesses succeed in China. “My company helps U.S. businesses enter China successfully and helps to get U.S. companies who have invested in China and in trouble, out of trouble. Our latest achievement was helping a manufacturer who was losing over $1 million a year achieve break-even, in one year,” explained Liang, who holds a master’s degree in public and private management from the School of Management at Yale University. In addition, AlphaMax works with regional economic development agencies in West Michigan to identify, attract and recruit Chinese investment here. AlphaMax has a presence in Beijing and Shanghai through a joint venture with JPIStrategies, a member of the JPI Group in China. Liang said support of nonprofits is important to her. “I use my business and social skills to help nonprofit and community organizations in Grand Rapids. I try to use my business skills to improve board/ organization performance. Also, I apply my full energy and enthusiasm to each board I am on.” Liang has been involved with St. Cecilia Music Center, the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She also supports her alma mater as a member of the Berg Scholarship Committee and a trustee of the Yale-China Association.

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ulie Lough has gone from a college kid who liked computers to a company owner and president who loves to encourage other women in business. A 1986 graduate of Aquinas College, Lough enjoys competing in a field dominated by men. She worked in the IT department of Herman Miller Inc. from 1987 to 1993, keeping that job while establishing her own company. “In 1989, with $5,000 in personal savings and no revenue, I started Micro Visions as a home-based business in the living room of a one-bedroom condominium,” Lough recalled. The company moved into its own quarters 15 years ago and today has a dozen employees. “While I could find no statistics on the number of women-owned information technology companies, in analyzing our competitors, I could find no other 100 percent female-owned businesses performing the technical and development services we provide.” An ATHENA Award nominee in 2009, Lough is a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Certification Committee. She serves on the GROW/ AWE program committee and has spoken at Women’s Resource Center events to encourage women to go into IT. Lough was instrumental in the establishment of the Trinitas Classical School, a private Christian school for K-8 students. She chairs the school’s finance committee and is a marketing committee member. “My greatest achievement, however, is not in the statistics but seeing the results of a job well done through creating a culture where employees have the opportunities to thrive and unparalleled service is delivered to our clients,” she said.

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Elaine Meyers meyers Cleaning service inc. Co-owner, president, Treasurer

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laine Meyers had a practical reason for starting Meyers Cleaning Service. “I started this business in 1984 to provide supplemental income to pay for a Christian education for our children,” she said. “I was able to earn more than was needed for our children’s Christian school education and college.” Meyers Cleaning Service was a oneperson operation in 1984. She had only two small cleaning accounts that first year, worth $2,100 in revenue. Now, however, Meyers employs 60 people, and her firm’s annual sales revenue tops $800,000. Today her son, Chad, is a partner and a vice president in the business. So is Nate Lukaart, who manages the firm’s carpet and upholstery cleaning division. Meyers Cleaning Service, which

serves the commercial market, is located in Jenison. In 2005, it received the Business of the Year Award from that city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year marks the fourth time her business has been recognized as a Top Women Owned Business by the Business Journal. But Meyers refuses to take all the credit for her company’s growth and longevity. “Our success has been the result of a total team effort, which also includes our vendors and business consultants,” she said. Meyers has also been active in the business community. She served for six years on the Jenison Chamber board of directors, and then on the merged Jenison-Grandville Chamber’s board, and on the group’s Scholarship Committee.

Amy Ruis Art of the Table owner and president

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my Ruis invested $500,000 in a renovation to open Art of the Table, a store that celebrates gourmet dining, in 2003, when the renaissance of the Wealthy Street neighborhood was just beginning. Since then, the graduate of Calvin College has become a vigorous supporter of local businesses and causes. Ruis marked 2010 by passing the introductory level course and examination of the Court of Master Sommeliers. She also landed several awards, including Top 50 Businesses of the Year from The Gourmet Retailer, the Horizon Award for Young Business Leaders from Calvin College and “40 Under 40” from the Business Journal. She cites her most significant business accomplishment as “opening a business that has helped shape a community in transition and being a part of new thought in Grand Rapids.” She has nine employees.

Ruis started her career as a manager and buyer for Haymarket Square in Breton Village. Even though she holds a degree in elementary education, Ruis found she loved the retail business. She continued as an independent sales representative of kitchen and gift items and spent four years as a buyer and product manager of garden art and wild bird products for J. Mollema & Son prior to opening Art of the Table. Ruis is on the boards of directors of the Wealthy Street Business Alliance, Uptown CID and marketing boards and the Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association. She has been active with Local First, Calvin College Alumni, Home Repair Services and UICA’s Women and the Arts Committee.

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Jill M. Shepard CreekView Lodge Chairman of the Board

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ith a background in cost accounting, bank takeovers and related computer systems, Jill M. Shepard is a model of change. She has changed careers, changed her lifestyle and changed her weight by dropping 150 pounds, all within the past eight years. After tiring of working with distressed businesses, Shepard landed on real estate as a new career. She bought and sold more than 50 homes, helping many of the buyers to then purchase the homes from her. Then she and a variety of Michigan-based investors purchased a 79,000-square-foot former nursing home on 18.2 acres. Shephard runs an assisted living facility for senior citizens there, the 40-bed CreekView Lodge. It opened in 2008.

“The facility will launch an entire new ‘model’ for excellence in the much needed area of elderly care,” according to Shepard.

The financing freeze and real estate downturn have delayed Shepard’s plans for resort developments near Crystal Mountain and Interlochen and another senior development in mid-Michigan, she said. In the meantime, Shepard has lost 152 pounds via bariatric surgery. She said she is writing a book and a cookbook about the experience. “I’m half the woman I used to be,” she said. Shepard points to Marne’s CreekView Lodge as her top business achievement. “(I opened) an unknown, unaffiliated assisted living at the beginning of the recession and built a strong community presence and a strong business model, over a 300 percent gain in sales,” she stated.

Gina VanGessel Gina’s Boutique owner/operator

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ina VanGessel graduated from Central Michigan University in 2002 and followed that with an internship in London at the London College of Fashion. In 2004, she opened Gina’s Boutique in Grand Rapids, offering exclusive contemporary clothing and accessories for women. She is also a partner in Lia Rose Women’s Boutique in Grand Rapids. Prior to opening her own business, she was a store manager at Abercrombie & Fitch. Sales at Gina’s Boutique have increased every year from 2008, despite the impact of the economy and tighter personal budgets. 2010 was her best year to date, and also the year that Gina’s Boutique and Lia Rose won the Spotlight 616 Style Battle, competing against top notch businesses such as Leigh’s. In 2006, VanGessel was Executive in Residence in fashion merchandising and

design at the Central Michigan University Career Day. She serves on the Van Andel Institute J-Board and the Hospice of Michigan Collaborative. VanGessel played a significant role in the Collaborative’s 30th anniversary celebration that included bringing Chef Duff Goldman to Grand Rapids. VanGessel is proud to be a volunteer with Rays of Hope for Haiti, a local ministry that helps get basic supplies to the Haitian people still suffering after the earthquake of a year ago. VanGessel went with the group to Haiti in February to visit orphanages and help in any way they could.

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Sheila VanZile

Beverly Wall

Amy Young

Watermark insurance services owner and Queen

Languages international inc. Ceo

Grand Connection inc. president

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ith 26 years of experience in the insurance industry, including many top management roles, in 2005 Sheila VanZile decided to escape to a small business of her own — Watermark Insurance Services — where she could be creative, have fun and treat her customers like royalty. The title on her business card really does say queen. Watermark, located on Cascade Road in southeast Grand Rapids, takes a concierge-like approach to insurance: VanZile is a personal insurance advisor and resource for each client, offering personal property and casualty insurance, plus life and business insurance. The business has thrived throughout the recession. A native of Portland, Ore., VanZile earned an economics degree at Kent State University in 1978, graduating in the top 5 percent of her class. She was a commercial lines underwriter at three companies in Ohio before working her way up to a presidency at CNA Insurance in the late 1990s. From there she held titles including vice president, president and finally regional insurance services practice leader for the Midwest region of Marsh USA in 2003, at the time the largest brokerage firm in the world. VanZile is board chair and operating chair for the capital campaign at the UICA in Grand Rapids, which she proudly notes has been in the black for the last four years. She also serves on the Cascade Community Foundation, Humane Society of Kent County and the Cascade Business Association.

$0-$1.49 MILLION

$0-$1.49 MILLION

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here must be more than one Beverly Wall. She is the CEO of Languages International of Grand Rapids, which has provided foreign language translation and instruction since 2003; founder of Wall2Wall Marketing, which began one year ago; president of Fishell Properties, a real estate/properties company launched in 2002; co-owner of Apple-licious, which makes caramel and chocolate apple confections; president of Timely Greetings & Stamps since 1997; and president of B.R.A.I.N.S. Advisory Counsel, a provider of neuropsychological services since 2008. Wall said her most significant business achievement was “surviving the Great Recession of 2009 and making 2010 even bigger in sales and profits.” Wall earned an associate degree in science at Davenport College in 1977; a bachelor of science in business and accounting at Aquinas in 1983; became a Certified Internal Auditor in 1986; and earned an MBA in finance and marketing at GVSU in 1987. Some of the most recent of her numerous awards and recognitions include membership on the Inforum Inner Circle in 2009 and 2010, and WBE Volunteer of the Year by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council Great Lakes. She also has been named a Distinguished Alumni of the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University. She is a planning commissioner for Grand Rapids Township; member of the Aquinas College International Advisory Board; Center for Economic & Empowerment Development; and president of Community Rebuilder.

I

n 1999, Amy Young joined partner Tracy VanderMeer to found Grand Connection Inc., a Grand Rapids event-planning company that by 2009 had expended its customer base to more than 55 clients, handling 200 projects and with sales of more than $1.2 million. Grand Connection prides itself on being a 100 percent virtual company, using technology that leads to an environmentally friendly operation. The company’s community outreach and business support has been substantial, taking part in a holiday program in 2009 to adopt a needy industry family during difficult financial times. Grand Connection worked with the National Lottery Convention during ArtPrize to develop “Paint the Town Red,” an event that drew more than 700 people and led the client to look at incorporating the company’s work at future national events. Young’s initiatives have included serving on the Grand Rapids Event Guidebook Advisory Board, which provides complimentary information and guidance when bringing convention business to Grand Rapids. Grand Connection has partnered with the Experience Grand Rapids convention bureau to offer services and expertise for housing and registration management for the larger citywide conventions. A graduate of Michigan State University and Aquinas College, Young runs an operation that offers a-la-carte meetings, conference and events management services. Young sits on the board of directors of Experience Grand Rapids and has done work for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition.

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TOP WOMEN OWNED BUSINESSES

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION Jill Batka dynamic Conveyor president

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

S

ince 2001, Jill Batka has headed Dynamic Conveyor Corp. in Muskegon, a company previously founded by her father but then acquired by Batka and her two sisters. Last year it was certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise. Dynamic Conveyor produces modular conveyors made of plastic and metal materials; they are designed to move lightweight products or parts quickly and efficiently in a plant setting. The conveyors, being modular units, can easily be disconnected and reconfigured like giant Legos, so new conveyors aren’t needed whenever the production layout within a plant changes. Born and raised in Muskegon, Batka graduated from Mona Shores High School in 1983 and attended Muskegon

Community College, where she earned an associate degree in business administration. Her first professional job — assistant bookkeeper — began in 1985 at a furniture store. Later she worked as a cost assistant at Grand Transformers, a manufacturing company in Grand Haven. In 1988, Batka took a job at Pliant Plastics, an injection molding company her father owned and managed. Meanwhile, at night she was also back in school, earning a bachelor’s degree. Today, Dynamic Conveyor has 17 employees. One of Batka’s most significant achievements is increasing the company’s sales by 57 percent within five years. Batka has served on the boards of Baker College and Grand Haven Bank.

Meg Goebel president/Ceo paul Goebel Group

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

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his is the fourth time Meg Goebel’s insurance agency, Paul Goebel Group, has been named a Top Women Owned Business by the Grand Rapids Business Journal, and she also has marked four years as one of the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. Established in 1932, the agency has evolved from property and casualty products to offering insurance for life, accident, health, disability, professional liability, commercial liability, property, workers compensation, homeowners and auto coverage. Goebel first worked at the family business as a receptionist in 1976. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 1979 and a detour to work

in marketing in Colorado, she came back into the fold and, in 1994, purchased the agency from her father, Paul Goebel. Today, it employs 23 people. Goebel’s activities cover a wide range of interests in nonprofit and community

organizations, particularly the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, where she is chair of the board of directors and serves on the CEO Search Committee seeking a new leader with the anticipated retirement of Jeanne Englehart. Goebel also served on the Michigan Chamber of Commerce board of directors and has served on the Kent County Republican Finance Committee. Other involvements encompass the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, the Historical Society for the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Broadway Grand Rapids, Alliance for Health and Planned Parenthood of Western and Northern Michigan.

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Peaches McCahill The mcCahill Group owner and president

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

H

aving the vision to take fitness and develop it into a viable, long-term business is Peaches McCahill’s most significant business achievement. She notes that 25 years ago, when she launched The McCahill Group, the corporate wellness/spa concept was not well recognized. Today, with 85 employees, The McCahill Group is a consulting and management firm that specializes in health and beauty. The company designs customized programs, supports facility development and management, and aids in equipment acquisition, budgeting and staffing, preventive medicine, fitness/recreation and training seminars. McCahill played a significant role in health and fitness programs at Amway, Wolverine World Wide, Ford Motor Co.,

Meijer, Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort and many others. The company’s headquarters are in Bridgewater Place in downtown Grand Rapids, where The McCahill Group manages the Bridgewater Fitness Center. Last year, McCahill’s 14-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer, and her husband died of cancer three years ago. Those tragedies inspired her to open her first LIVESTRONG facility to fight back against the prevalence of cancer today. McCahill is a member of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Health & Human Resources Committee, and an honorary committee member of the Aquinas College Sports & Fitness Center. She was recently appointed to the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health & Sports.

Jamie R. Mills mills Benefit Group LLC owner and president

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

M

ills Benefit Group is considered by many companies as the premier employee benefit consulting firm in the region. Jamie Mills started the company in 1986 with one employee and revenue of $100,000. In the past 13 years, Mills and her dozen employees have lifted that revenue figure to nearly $3 million. Her employees say the firm’s success is largely due to Mills’ drive and determination to succeed, and her desire to provide extraordinary service to its clients. Mills developed her skills, her avid dedication to customers, and her deep passion for the industry while working as an insurance benefit consultant for 10 years. The educational portion of her résumé includes a bachelor’s degree in American culture from the University of

Michigan. She also earned certification as an employee-benefit consultant from the Wharton School of Business. The latter designation is fairly rare, being held by fewer than 11,000 insurance professionals in her field, and is one reason Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women named Mills its Entrepreneur of the Year last year. Mills has been grateful for her success locally and has devoted much of her time to giving back to the community. She spent years on the Junior Achievement board and has served as its chair. She also has given generously to such organizations as the United Way’s Tocqueville Society, Gilda’s Club’s Red Door Society and Kids First.

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Gina Otterbein

Karen Scarpino

Ginny Seyferth

northern physical Therapy services president/physical Therapist

president/owner promotional impact & Green Giftz

seyferthpR owner and president

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

G

ina Otterbein and her business partner, Janis Kemper, acquired Northern Physical Therapy Services in Coopersville in 2003, when the company was 10 years old. Within two years they grew the firm’s revenue by $1.1 million, due largely to their addition of a new location in Wayland and adding specialty services, including occupational therapy, women’s health, and injury prevention in the workplace. The firm has 30 employees. “We felt that increasing revenue by over $1 million within the first two years of owning the business was a great accomplishment for us,” said Otterbein. A Chicago native, Otterbein earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy from GVSU in 1990. She then worked at Hackley Hospital Rehabilitation/Mary Free Bed in Muskegon; Visiting Nurse Services in Grand Rapids; Professional Physical Therapy Services in Kentwood; and Nova Care Rehabilitation in Grand Rapids. She has been a member of the Coopersville Area Chamber of Commerce since 2001 and is currently president of its board of directors. She is a Michigan delegate and member of the board of directors of the American Physical Therapy Association. In 2010, Otterbein was chair of Coopersville’s annual Del Shannon Car Show, which featured 600 cars and 25,000 people in attendance. Proceeds from the event were donated to the North East Ottawa Forum, which helps at-risk youth in the Coopersville school district, as well as the Del Shannon Memorial Scholarship fund.

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

K

aren Scarpino will celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Promotional Impact & Green Giftz next year, but she got started early by increasing sales by $1 million from 2008 to 2009. She founded the specialty advertising firm as a home business after serving as the first female vice president at Aves Inc., where she developed promotional elements for trade shows and events. Scarpino has used a highly customized approach to help her business stand out. For example, her company developed a charm bracelet as an Amway Corp. sales incentive for female independent business owners, who received a charm for each month they met sales goals over a five-month period. The result? Scarpino sold 100,000 units, added $500,000 to sales and boosted sales for Amway, as well. Scarpino positioned her company to ride the environmentally conscious trend with Green Giftz, which sources sustainable items to be used for promotional purposes. She also takes advantage of the “buy local” sentiment with a line of madein-Michigan items. It seems others are taking notice, as the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce EPIC Awards recognized Promotional Impact as 2010’s Top WomanOwned Business of the Year, and Scarpino was nominated as among the Top Women to Watch in Advertising in 2011 by the Advertising Specialty Institute. Scarpino is on the board of directors of the chamber’s CEO Roundtable and devotes the rest of her time to raising her three children.

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

G

inny Seyferth has established a compelling track record in the highly competitive communications, media and advertising field, having started SeyferthPR in 1984. Her company has won two entrepreneurial awards, two excellence awards, the most recent for ArtPrize, and is a finalist on the list of Top Women-Owned Businesses for the fifth time. Seyferth has personally been recognized as one of West Michigan’s 50 Most Influential Women four times. And that is just a partial list of accomplishments. But Seyferth’s worth also is measured by what her firm has accomplished for the community. “I am proud that SeyferthPR has helped to lead the change in public perception about our community and our state during some of the roughest times in Michigan,” said Seyferth, who serves on at least 10 nonprofit boards. Seyferth has seen those rough times at her own company. “These past two years were two of the toughest in our company’s history. We took on clients who had real challenges, economically and strategically. We cut out every possible company expense and asked all of our (32) employees to take days off without pay in order to save jobs and keep our strong, no-debt credit rating,” she said. “We learned to work better as a team, and our most significant achievement was that we succeeded in focusing more attention on our region,” she said. “We helped to change the conversation in Michigan and about Michigan.”

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Chris F. Willis CEO Media 1

$1.5 MILLION-$3.99 MILLION

2

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010 was a rebound year for Chris Willis’ Media 1, the custom training company she founded in Grand Haven in 1993. “I am proud to say that Media 1 has not only survived substantial revenue drops during these economic challenges without adding to our debt load, but that we are also on track for a solid rebound year,” Willis reported. Willis said that over the past 18 months, Media 1 has expanded its products to include developing SharePoint portals for collaborative learning and informal networking. More than one-third of Media 1’s revenue is now based in Social Learning and SharePoint. Media 1, with 15 employees, has hired three employees, plans to hire three more and has established a network of eight contractors to support this new business line. And it’s added a host of new awards that recognize this growth. Passionate about economic development and supporting women and young entrepreneurs, Willis is active in The Chamber — Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg. A fiber artist and fiction writer, Willis is devoted to her canine companions. Recently, she moved her family to Muskegon’s Beachwood neighborhood to take advantage of the Kruse Park Dog Beach, only to discover that budget pressures are making it difficult for the city to continue its commitment. So Willis established the nonprofit Friends of Muskegon Dog Beach. “I have made it my mission to establish a citizens group for the protection of this valuable community resource,” Willis said.

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18 TOP WOMEN OWNED BUSINESSES GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL SUPPLEMENT

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Spring Break For Women March 11 – 13, 2011

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20 Top Women Owned Businesses Grand Rapids Business Journal supplement

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TOP WOMEN OWNED BUSINESSES

$4 MILLION-$6.99 MILLION Tammy L. Born, D.O. Born Clinic owner and medical director

$4 MILLION-$6.99 MILLION

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ammy L. Born, D.O., is owner and medical director of the Born Clinic on 52nd Street in Grand Rapids. Opened in 1965 by Grant R. Born, D.O., whom she later married, the clinic employs 35 today and is dedicated to helping solve the nation’s health care crisis by blending traditional and preventive medicine, while lowering the cost of health care. A native of Princeton, Minn., Born graduated from Calvin College in 1982 and then earned her D.O. degree from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1986. She enjoys the satisfaction of fulfilling her personal mission to help people feel better, in particular through the Born Clinic efforts to promote nutrition and preventive medicine on a national

level. She is also proud of the fact that she was able to grow the business despite the loss of her husband, who passed away in 1998. Born currently serves on the Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the HHS Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. She serves on the Health Care Legislative Committee of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the American Osteopathic Association, the Michigan Osteopathic Association’s political action committee, the International College of Integrative Medicine, the American Society of General Laser Surgery, and many others.

Jami M. Moore Jem Tech Group president

$4 MILLION-$6.99 MILLION

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EM Tech Group has specialized in the information technology industry since 1979. The Mount Clemensbased firm offers a lengthy list of data center infrastructure solutions, IT services and IT products, which number 600,000. Under Jami Moore’s direction, JEM Tech Group’s sales more than tripled in eight years. Sales revenue rose from less than $2 million in 2000 to more than $7 million in 2008. The company has served an impressive array of clients that include the University of Michigan, Ford Motor Co., Dow Chemical, Compuware, Comerica Bank, the state of Michigan, Toyota, Quicken Loans and Sparrow Health. Crain’s Detroit named Moore one

of its up-and-coming business leaders by placing her on its 40 Under 40 list in 2009. Moore and JEM Tech Group were finalists for the Top Women Owned Businesses in Michigan in 2009, and for the Ernst & Young Central Great Lakes Entrepreneur of the Year that same year. Since 2005, Moore’s company has consistently been listed in the Top 100 Women Owned and Diversity Owned businesses in Michigan. Moore is actively involved with AFCOM, the Michigan Council of Women in Technology where she serves as a mentor, and with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She also serves on organizations that combat diabetes and breast cancer, and those that support animal shelters and child adoption programs. Grand rapids Business Journal supplement Top Women oWned Businesses 21

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Sally Mulder

Mary Nienhuis

Helen Zeerip

Bursma electronic distributing inc. Ceo

president north Coast Components inc.

Teddy’s Transport owner and president

$4 MILLION-$6.99 MILLION

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hen Sally Mulder purchased the majority share of Bursma Distributing in Grand Rapids in 2006, it had been in business a long time, but the future had passed it by. The main office and showroom, and the computer system, were like stepping back in time. Mulder wasted no time in bringing the company up to date. She recognized talent, promoted decision-making at department levels and built a team to transform all aspects of the business. That triggered double-digit sales growth, providing the necessary capital to install state-of-the-art infrastructure for a competitive advantage. The company is a premier wholesale distributor of electronics with five branch locations in Michigan and Ohio. Mulder is now leading the 25-person company through the challenges of the economic downturn. A native of Holland, Mulder has the experience of 22 years in management, starting at Herman Miller in 1974. From 1978 to 2000, she served as acting president, CFO, corporate secretary and other roles at Dynamic Corp. in Holland. From 2001 to 2004, she was finance director at Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Small Business Technology and Development Center. She is also president and trustee at Elkins Innovations Inc. of Grand Rapids, a medical device technology business she launched in 2006. She serves as a board member of Doctors On Call for Service, which helps educate health care professionals in several African nations.

$4 MILLION-$6.99 MILLION

A

fter betting the farm on North Coast Components Inc., Mary Nienhuis was not about to let a recession get in the way of her company’s success. The economic downturn reduced the connector industry by 21.8 percent. By early 2009, NCC’s sales dropped by 44 percent to its lowest point in a decade, with the decline of manufacturing and customers’ high inventory levels. “We survived the past 18 months by making tough cost-cutting measures, added a field sales person, and came out a stronger, healthier company,” Nienhuis reported. After a career in sales at a variety of distributors, Nienhuis took on her own business in 1997, when she sold her home, borrowed from her husband’s retirement fund and took out a loan to acquire the business and construct a new building for it. Originally a Detroit-area distributor of electro-mechanical components, today NCC, now located in Hudsonville, builds “complicated wire harnesses for a variety of industries, including recreation, medical and industrial.” Nienhuis had been general manager of the company for six years and moved it from the Detroit area to Hudsonville. NCC managed to snag some new customers as competitors pulled back during the recession. “When our competitors were closing their doors or laying off sales staff, we increased our sales team” by two members. Employees reduced pay by 10 percent for a short while and Nienhius took a 50 percent pay cut into 2010. The company expected $4 million in sales last year.

$4 MILLION-$6.99 MILLION

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urviving the recession was a significant achievement for Helen Zeerip and Teddy’s Transport, a nationwide expedited trucking business that she and her husband, Craig, operate out of Holland. Teddy’s Transport was doing fine in 2008 — but in 2009, its sales plummeted by 50 percent. Through 2010, Teddy’s Transport recovered nearly all the decline in business, and even introduced a new service that year: less-than-truckload, or LTL, shipments to and from Chicago. “It’s thriving,” said Zeerip. Zeerip’s parents started Teddy’s Transport when she was a teenager. It was a small business focused on West Michigan, using pickups and light trucks. In 1997, Zeerip and her husband bought it, added semi-trucks and hired up to 60 employees, mostly drivers. A business which had never had more than $1 million in sales before 1997 is now doing “close to $6 million,” she said, and makes deliveries in all 48 of the continental United States. Zeerip is very active in the community, too. She and her husband have been foster parents for almost 10 years, and she led the capital campaign for the Wings of Hope Hospice in Allegan County. In 2006, she completed the Leadership Holland program and is now chair of its curriculum committee. She serves on the executive committee of the Holland Chamber of Commerce and is active in Love in the Name of Christ, a charitable organization.

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TOP WOMEN OWNED BUSINESSES

$7 MILLION OR MORE Elise Benedict-Howard university moving & storage Co. inc. Ceo

$7 MILLION OR MORE

E

lise Benedict-Howard was hired by University Moving & Storage in Farmington as a bookkeeper in 1978. She held numerous positions over the next several years, including senior account manager and chief financial officer. In 1986, at age 37, she bought the company and she has done very well with it in a male-dominated industry. The company was established in 1969, but in 1986, it had only one location, a small staff and minimal equipment. Today, University Moving & Storage has 200 employees, 100 semi-trucks and is one of the top four domestic and top two international agents for North American Van Lines. Still based in Farmington Hills, University has four warehouses: one each

Amy Engelsman proos manufacturing inc. owner and Ceo

$7 MILLION OR MORE

in Ohio and Indiana, one in Farmington Hills, and a 40,000-square-foot facility on 32nd Street SE in Grand Rapids. University is certified by the Women Business Enterprise National Council. Benedict-Howard was named Woman of the Year 2010 by Enterprising Woman Magazine. Her company has been listed among the top 500 woman-owned businesses by Working Woman Magazine. She is on the board of directors of Michigan Center for Empowerment & Economic Development and on the Cleary College board of trustees. She serves on the sales and marketing committee of the North American Movers Association, and has served on the board of the Michigan Movers and Warehouseman’s Association.

I

f attitude is a predictor, then Amy Engelsman was destined to be a successful owner and CEO of Proos Manufacturing Inc. Her mindset toward the Great Recession was unique among business owners: “The recession was one of the best pieces of education I have ever gone through as a business owner,” she said. Engelsman said company sales were down by 70 percent in January 2009 and she was going to have to prove to everyone that she was capable of putting Proos Manufacturing back on track. She met those challenges, and by June 2010, she completed her purchase of the company. “It is a very rewarding feeling to know that I have worked hard and earned every element of this responsibility,” she said. “The support of my customers,

suppliers and most importantly, my employees has allowed this dream to become a reality.” Engelsman, whose maiden name is Proos, started working at her family’s business as a college student in 1987, and began working there full time in 1989. The company does high-precision manufacturing, metal stamping, assembly and computer-aided design, among other functions. “Because of our success this year, we were able to give out company bonuses for the first time in two years,” said Engelsman. “My employees were so appreciative, and it was wonderful to give back to those that have supported you.”

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Dina McKnight Zip Xpress inc. owner and Ceo

$7 MILLION OR MORE

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ina McKnight must be well thought of by her 45 employees. “My employees are always considered first before I make any decisions. I have gone without a salary for the past two years in order to keep from cutting jobs,” she said. “The turnover at Zip Xpress is almost nonexistent.” Zip Xpress is a Holland-based motor carrier company that McKnight started a month before terrorists struck the nation on 9/11. Hardly a good omen for a startup. But McKnight has persevered, keeping the company free of debt for the past eight years and growing her business. “We recently expanded into the Detroit-area market, hiring and adding employees,” she said. “We overcame two

difficult years during this economy and are still making money and have kept our staff free of layoffs.”

A native of Windsor, Ontario, McKnight worked in the transportation industry for 20 years as a billing clerk, operations manager and an account executive before going out on her own to start Zip Xpress, where annual sales revenue now regularly tops $10 million. McKnight has been nominated for an ATHENA Award, serves on the fundraising committee for Metro Health Foundation, and is a donor and volunteer for Metro’s Child Life Program. “I love to work with children so I have been involved in babysitting at the women’s shelter and shopping for (their) groceries.”

Kathie VanderPloeg ship-pac inc. owner, chairwoman and Ceo

$7 MILLION OR MORE

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athie VanderPloeg graduated from Kalamazoo College with a degree in music education in 1978, the same year she worked as a customer service representative at Ship-Pac Inc., the business her father and mother, John and Margaret VanderPloeg, started in 1964. Later that year, she became a sales representative at the firm, and in three short years, she became assistant to the company president. But VanderPloeg wasn’t finished climbing the corporate ladder. In 1992, she became president of Ship-Pac. But it was in 2000 that VanderPloeg reached the ladder’s top rung, when she bought the business from her family. “Today, we have total revenue of approximately $21 million and are virtually debt free,” said VanderPloeg, a Kal-

amazoo native, who won an ATHENA Award in 1998. Ship-Pac provides packaging equipment and supplies as its core business. It also does marking and coding, offers janitorial maintenance and sells foodpackaging equipment. VanderPloeg’s experiences extend beyond her business. She is a board member of Partners Worldwide, where she started a microloan program in Kenya. Other boards she served on include trade association Afflink, the World Presidents Organization, the Kalamazoo County Chamber of Commerce, Goodwill Industries and the Greater Kalamazoo United Way. VanderPloeg hasn’t abandoned her musical roots: She also serves on the board for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music.

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Top Women Owned Businesses - 2011