HONOREE CELEBRATION OC TO B E R 24 , 2017 GR AND R APIDS CIVIC THE ATRE #G R B J4 0 U N D E R4 0
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40 Under 40 Honorees 9 Chris Andrus Co-owner Mitten Brewing Co.
Monica Steimle-App Director of property management Rockford Construction
20 Steven Jbara President/owner Grand Rapids Drive
Christina Keller President, Cascade Business Team Cascade Engineering
10 Robert Armbrister President, CIO SPARK Business Works, CSM Group
22 Sara Sherry-Knoester President Mixed Staffing and Recruiting
Luis Avila Attorney Varnum
Daryn Kuipers Chief executive officer/director of operations Boxed Water Is Better /The Windquest Group
Steven Barnes Partner Mobile Defenders, Tech Defenders and Genius Phone Repair
Max Benedict Principal Third Coast Development
Whitney Benedict Director of referral management and physician relations Spectrum Health
26 Sara M. Moylan Founder Shefit Apparel
Jesse Bernal Vice president for inclusion and equity Grand Valley State University
16 Amanda Brand Marketing manager Mindscape
Alisha Cieslak Chief legal and risk officer Gordon Food Services
18 Afton DeVos Associate director Kids’ Food Basket Heather Duffy Major gifts coordinator WGVU 19
Mike Goorhouse President Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area
Michael Hyacinthe Program manager/co-founder Habitat for Humanity/Has Heart
24 Michael Lomonaco Director of marketing and communications Open Systems Technologies
Amelie MacDonald Community manager The Factory
Rachel Mraz Wealth management advisor Merrill Lynch
32 Ryan Podvin Decision support manager Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Jason Popma President CasterDepot, DoRodo 34
Marcel Price Poet laureate/executive director/co-founder Grand Rapids/The Diatribe /The Drunken Retort
Terry Rostic Project manager, human resources Rockford Construction
36 Adam Russo Owner/adjunct professor COM 616/Grand Valley State University
Chris Sain Jr. Founder/executive director Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Inc.
38 Alison Sutter Sustainability manager City of Grand Rapids Kurtis Trevan CEO Gun Lake Investments
28 Trudy Ngo-Brown Director of teen programs West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology
39 Kyle Van Strein Co-owner/co-founder Long Road Distillers
Jon O’Connor Co-owner/co-founder Long Road Distillers
29 Megan Odegaard Co-owner/assurance manager Farmhaus Cider/BDO USA LLP
40 Carl Wierks Orthopaedic surgeon West Michigan Orthopaedics
Amanda Osorio Intellectual property attorney Mitchell Intellectual Property Law
30 Brian Pageau President Foresight (formerly Midwest Energy Group)
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Kevin Patterson Audit partner BDO USA Grand Rapids
Bridget Clark Whitney Executive director Kids’ Food Basket
Matthew Wilber, 31 Owner Fit Body Boot Camp
TO T H E
Road Ahead Congratulations to the 40 Under Forty class of 2017 for helping drive our community forward. As a family owned business for over 35 years, Sharpe shares your spirit to take risks, have a vision and inspire others.
Honorees exhibit leadership qualities
HERE ARE MANY impressive quotes about leadership, but I respectfully cite Max De Pree, who led Herman Miller as a president and then CEO, and who among many, many accomplishments also wrote seven books, most famously, “Leadership is an Art” and “Leadership Jazz.” De Pree, a longtime leader around the world and, most especially, at home in Holland and Zeeland, died one day after the judges met for final consideration of the Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 Class of 2017 nominees. He created the phrase “servant leadership.” He wrote, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.” Grand Rapids Business Journal received 383 nominations for the 40 Under 40 Business Leaders, Class of 2017. Selections were made from 240 finalists. Each was reviewed for business and career goals and achievements, evidence of business expertise and leadership, and community participation and leadership. The final 40 individuals are profiled in this supplement. The Business Journal also will honor a distinguished alumnus of previous 40 Under 40 classes, Tami VandenBerg. The entrepreneur is co-owner of The Pyramid Scheme and The Meanwhile, and founded and is executive director of the nonprofit Well House, which seeks to alleviate homelessness in Grand Rapids. The Michigan business leaders giving their time to final review of each finalist as judges were: • Lou Glazer of Ann Arbor, president and co-founder of Michigan Future Inc., a nonpartisan, nonproﬁt organization providing research and new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world-class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Michigan foundations fund its work. • Bob Thomas is the senior director of operations for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Michigan Chamber Foundation. He serves as national chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management Board of Trustees, Michigan Society of Association Executives, Michigan’s Tourism Strategic Plan Advisory Committee and Michigan’s Small Business Development Centers Advisory Board. • Ed Fernandez, vice president/divisional general manager, E.W. Scripps, one of the largest owners of television stations in the United States. In 2010, when named vice president/general manager of WXYZ-TV (ABC 7) Detroit, he held the distinction of being the only Hispanic general manager of a top 15 market in the country. Fernandez launched the successful “Detroit 2020,” a regional initiative designed to provide a vision for southeast Michigan in the year 2020. The Business Journal congratulates the 40 Under 40 Class of 2017 — and all 383 nominees! — Carole Valade Editor
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Distinguished alumnus VandenBerg will address 40 Under 40 class
AMI VANDENBERG has left her fingerprints all over Grand Rapids. In 2007, alongside her brother, Jeff, she opened The Meanwhile Bar on Wealthy Street, breathing life into a neighborhood corridor that sorely
Tami VandenBerg opened The Meanwhile Bar in 2007 and, less than five years later, opened The Pyramid Scheme.
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needed it and is thriving 10 years later. Less than five years after opening The Meanwhile, she launched her second business, The Pyramid Scheme, which has been bringing fresh live music acts downtown since. And in 2012, she began her tenure as the executive director of Well House, moving people from the streets into low-income affordable housing on the southeast side of the city. In addition to her work as a business owner and nonprofit leader, VandenBerg also is the co-founder of Eastown’s Bizarre Bazaar festival and LadyfestGR events and served on numerous boards, commissions and task forces over the past 20 years. Through her ownership of both The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme, VandenBerg has been a vociferous advocate for community and social responsibility. VandenBerg’s impact on Grand Rapids has been well-documented by the Business Journal, as a fourtime honoree as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, and was a 40 Under 40 Business Leaders honoree for six straight years. For her years of success as a business owner, her role as an economic catalyst for multiple areas of the city and her work as a nonprofit director, VandenBerg has earned the honor as the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 2017 40 Under 40 Distinguished Alumnus. VandenBerg will be honored at the Business Journal’s annual 40 Under 40 event Oct. 24 at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, alongside the 2017 class of the Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Business Leaders. She joins recent 40 Under 40 alumni Amy Ruis, Patrick Miles Jr., Jeff Lambert and Sam Cummings in receiving the designation.
Chris Andrus, 37
Monica Steimle-App, 39
PRIOR TO LAUNCHING the Mitten Brewing Co., Chris Andrus was a touring musician. No longer on the road, he co-founded the award-winning Mitten Brewing Co. and strives to make it a success for his more than 80 employees. The Mitten has grown on the corner of Leonard Street and Quarry Avenue, brewing more than 1,200 barrels of beer a year from its historic firehouse taproom and a location in Northport. Andrus gave the keynote address at the Grand Rapids Jaycees’ Leadership Summit and spoke at Navigate Works’ Forum Ipsum speakers series and Alma College’s 2017 Strategic Leadership Seminar Class. As vice president of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization, he helped save the organization from the brink of insolvency, and the Mitten endowed a Neighborhood Improvement Grant program. He was named the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur of the Year, won the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2015 President’s Award and the Mitten was nominated as a Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year in 2014. On top of serving up pizza and beer to the West Michigan community, the Mitten has made more than $150,000 in charitable gifts since 2012, which helped spawn the Mitten Foundation. “I believe the Mitten has been an important part of the revitalization of the West Side of Grand Rapids, and we don’t take our position in the community for granted,” Andrus said. “We’ve put our focus on using our company’s resources to enhance and elevate our community, and we hope to inspire others to do so, as well.”
MONICA STEIMLE-APP thinks outside the box to provide affordable housing opportunities to the Grand Rapids community. The director of property management for Rockford Construction not only oversees shareholders’ properties but also serves on numerous community boards dedicated to providing access to affordable housing opportunities and serving the needs of West Michigan’s Latin community. As the daughter of a Dominican immigrant, App said she always has been driven by her mother to strive for excellence. She said her mother faced several challenges to raise her in West Michigan, and that instilled in her strong values and work ethic. “My goal is also to support others in their growth the same way, including team members and my children,” she said. App also sits on the board for Rockford Construction and the Grand Rapids Housing Commission, where she engages with members to bring affordable housing opportunities to people in the Grand Rapids community. City Commissioner Ruth Kelly has worked with App to address affordable housing issues and said that she has done a great deal of service to the community. “Monica is a very caring and reliable person,” Kelly said. “In both her work environment and in her volunteer efforts she does, she is known for her research and her follow through.” Community boards on which App has served include Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Local First and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan. She also has volunteered her time with West Grand Neighborhood Association, Monroe North Business Association and Creston Business Association.
Co-owner Mitten Brewing Co.
Director of property management Rockford Construction
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Robert Armbrister, 33
Luis Avila, 36
ROBERT ARMBRISTER has helped more than 2.5 million children become better writers. And that’s only one of his proudest accomplishments, as he’s helped migrate a company of more than 100 people to cloud infrastructure and helped lead a 30 percent year-over-year improvement at the Western Michigan University development office. He also created a daily quotes app with more than 200,000 downloads. No matter where he goes, he wants to help younger generations. “What I want to do most is show younger people that you can reach your dreams in West Michigan by working hard, treating people fairly and serving others,” Armbrister said. “You do not need to move to one of the coasts, start a company and raise venture capital to be successful. It can happen here, and it does every day.” As founder and president of SPARK Business Works and chief information officer at CSM Group, he has worked across the globe. Both jobs, as well as his previous positions, have allowed him to experiment with entrepreneurial ideas and projects. His previous jobs include director of computer services and application development at WMU and as executive director of the WMU Office of Development & Alumni Relations. “There are some characteristics in life that you can’t teach, like Bob’s entrepreneurial spirit,” said Lori Green, director of business development at CSM Group and SPARK Business Works. “He understands his passion, is always questioning how he can do better, is optimistic about all possibilities and takes calculated risks, such as launching SPARK Business Works.”
LUIS AVILA has lived all over the world but has settled on Grand Rapids. Avila spent 15 years living overseas, including time in Geneva, Switzerland, working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in his birthplace of Mexico City as a lawyer and in London working on litigation focused on European and human rights. Now, he’s back in Grand Rapids, where he graduated from Calvin College, and has been named a Michigan Rising Star Super Lawyer twice and is the president of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Despite his lengthy résumé and list of places he’s lived, Avila said his hiring at Varnum is his biggest professional break, as Grand Rapids allows him to be a community steward. “Varnum has not only supported my involvement in the community but has surrounded me with the necessary resources to be a true benefit to the various organizations in which I am involved,” Avila said. He also serves on the boards of the Grand Rapids Ballet, Grand Rapids Symphony, State of Michigan Board of Medicine, Wedgwood Christian Services and coaches his son’s soccer team. His work doesn’t go unnoticed by the community, at Varnum or in the field. “Mr. Avila is an excellent attorney but an even better human being and an advocate for the city of Grand Rapids,” said Stan Samuel, president at CASEQ Technologies. “His board participation is further evidence of a person who loves his city and is doing more than his part to make sure Grand Rapids attains and maintains exposure on a national scale.”
President, CIO SPARK Business Works, CSM Group
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Honigman congratulates the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class of 2017 and offers our best wishes to all of this year’s honorees. Thank you for contributing to the success of our region.
Steven Barnes, 29
Partner Mobile Defenders, Tech Defenders and Genius Phone Repair AT 28, Steven Barnes is at the helm of three companies to watch. Genius Phone Repair, Tech Defenders and Mobile Defenders all have been Top 50 Companies to Watch in Michigan, and Genius was No. 750 on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies for 2016. “My partners and I (Garry VonMhyr and Jordan Notenbaum) opened Genius Phone Repair in 2011 with less than $9,000,” Barnes said. “We had no money and were working 80 hours each week to keep the business going. Since then, we have had success across three different companies because of that risk we took.” Today, the three companies have more than 200 employees. Barnes credits his father as his largest influence, following the death of his mother when he was 2 years old. “He worked harder than anyone I have met to provide me with unlimited opportunity, and I wouldn’t be here without him,” Barnes said. This year, the three companies are expected to bring in $75 million in revenue, and Barnes and his partners credit much of the success to the West Michigan community. The partners also recently helped launch the Hudsonville restaurant Sonder. “We cherish the ability to provide opportunity to Grand Rapids families and are proud of being from Grand Rapids,” he said. “Although I am only 29 years old, I feel we have built a tremendous organization focused on giving, innovation and community involvement. We will not stop expanding our footprint in Grand Rapids or across the USA and plan for several new ventures in the coming years.”
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Max Benedict, 34 Principal Third Coast Development
HELPING SATISFY Grand Rapids’ demand for housing is Max Benedict’s game. Without being named partner at Third Coast Development, his biggest break, he might not be in the position to contribute hundreds of housing units to Grand Rapids, but now his efforts in affordable housing helped lead to his appointment to the Grand Rapids Housing Advisory Committee and could help change the city’s landscape indefinitely. “In the past year, I have worked hard to bridge the gap between policymakers and the affordable housing advocates in our community,” Benedict said. “Communicating the impact incentives have on private developers to other affordable housing advocates is key to aligning goals and developing a successful housing strategy.” His time on the Affordable Housing Task Force is appreciated by multiple city commissioners. “Max is a true asset to Grand Rapids helping push the envelope on what is possible in the sphere of housing development,” said Jon O’Connor, a commissioner and owner of Long Road Distillers. His 2016-17 was big. “Max was appointed to the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Board, approved for a great affordable housing project on the West Side, took over as president of his river association and was also asked to be on the board of directors for Goodwill,” 2nd Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly said. “Max has a passion for both business and volunteer work in the city.” Benedict said his children, Jack and Dominic, along with wife — and fellow 40 Under 40 honoree — Whitney, fuel his desire to be successful.
Ferris State is proud to celebrate College of Education and Human Services alumna Amanda Brand (‘09) for her recognition among Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty” for 2017. To learn more about the great things that Ferris State students and alumni are accomplishing every day, visit ferris.edu.
daryn kuipers, CEO BOXED WATER 2017 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 13
Whitney Benedict, 34
Jesse Bernal, 35
Director of referral management and physician relations Spectrum Health
Vice president for inclusion and equity Grand Valley State University
WORKING IN THE medical industry and hard work runs in the family for Whitney Benedict. Her grandfather co-founded Airway Oxygen, now a company with more than 20 locations. “My entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic come from him,” Benedict said. Benedict speaks nationally and is published when it comes to her work creating a star rating and transparency review website for Spectrum Health doctors, as well as leading a staff and technical innovation at Spectrum Health that will allow patients to quickly access health care services, including online scheduling, across Spectrum Health over the next two years. She had what she called her biggest break when she was asked to manage the Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan medical practice at age 25. She served on the Van Andel Institute JBoard and Grand Rapids Ballet Community board. The Benedict family also helps create a Christmas for refugee families each year along with fundraising for key West Michigan charities through their businesses, such as Grand Rapids Garage Bar & Grill. Work and community are important to Benedict, but according to friend Christina Keller, she balances it well with her family, which includes her husband, Max Benedict, a fellow 2017 40 Under 40 honoree and partner of Third Coast Development. “Whitney is an amazing female leader and rising star in the Grand Rapids area,” said Keller, president of Cascade Engineering Business Team. “Whitney is not only a rock star at work and creating incredible opportunities on the Medical Mile, but she balances being a mother of two small ones at home.”
JESSE BERNAL said his grandmother is a rock and major influence in the family. Growing up in South Texas mostly as a migrant worker, her lessons continue to impact Bernal’s life now. “Her work ethic and commitment throughout her life has been an inspiration and provides valuable lessons for me today,” Bernal said. “While she never had the educational opportunities I have been so privileged to have, she continues to instill the importance of education and lifelong learning to our entire family.” Bernal is passing on the lesson to more people through his work as vice president for inclusion and equity at Grand Valley State University. “(My proudest accomplishment) is the creation of Grand Valley’s framework for inclusion and equity,” he said. “Not only does this community’s endorsed framework guide our work at the university, but it provides strategic efforts to advance our commitment to the future.” Bernal has a political science degree from Westmont College, and a master’s and Ph.D. in education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He serves on the University of California Board of Regents and founded and chairs the Michigan Association of State Universities Chief Diversity Officer Council. He also is a member of the Varnum Diversity Council, Grand Rapids Public Museum Board of Trustees, Grand Rapids Community Foundation Community Action Council and Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities Board of Directors, among many others. UC Santa Barbara awarded him the 2011 and 2012 Service Award and the 2010 Advocate of the Year award.
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Amanda Brand, 38
Alisha Cieslak, 33
AMANDA BRAND said her children keep her grounded but also push her to make a difference. Pregnant at 17, Brand never expected to earn her master’s degree, but more than 20 years later, she wishes she could go back in time. “I would love to go back and in time and tell (myself ), ‘You are smart, you are enough and you will do great things,’” Brand said. Following her graduate degree in business administration and leadership development from Northwood University, she was hired at Mindscape to launch the firm’s training line of business and has since been promoted to marketing manager. “Amanda has made a tremendous impact on Mindscape since joining us 12 months ago,” said Pete Brand, Mindscape CEO and Amanda’s husband. “Amanda is a high achiever who is extremely committed to doing what she says she’ll do.” Amanda Brand is a board member at Family Promise of Grand Rapids and also served on the Kent County Housing Commission. She also is an ambassador for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, volunteer with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, West Grand Neighborhood Organization, Habitat for Humanity and Steepletown Neighborhood Services. “Amanda is an amazing person,” Family Promise Executive Director Cheryl Schuch said. “I’ve known Amanda for almost 10 years, and she continues to be an inspiration to me and those around her. She is passionate about community and mentoring others and someone who lives out her beliefs and doesn’t sit idly by waiting for change.”
ALISHA CIESLAK has made her way around the globe. She is from metro Detroit but has lived in Germany, Austria, Italy, Cambodia and Zambia. She has since settled in West Michigan as the chief legal and risk officer at Gordon Food Service. At GFS, she was instrumental in the creation of the company’s international volunteer program, which took employees to Zambia from Oct. 6-16 to help build and outfit a crisis pregnancy center. “I created the application and communication plan that over 250 employees participated in for the chance in this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Cieslak said. In 2016, she was Michigan Women in Law Honoree and was a 2015 Minority Corporate Counsel Association Rising Star, as well as winning the Thomson Reuters Golden Cheetah Award. Prior to joining GFS, Cieslak was North American director of legal affairs for Benteler Group, the company’s first attorney outside of Germany. In her work at GFS, she quickly made her presence felt following her hiring. She made a case to hire an expanded legal team, which helped cut costs while providing more comprehensive services. “The senior leadership team and board quickly recognized her energy, strategic insight and the merits of her vision, and she was tasked to lead the newly expanded legal staff,” said Deb Abraham, director of corporate affairs at GFS. “Alisha continues to make her mark as a thoughtful, decisive senior leader at one of West Michigan’s largest international corporations.”
Marketing manager Mindscape
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Chief legal and risk officer Gordon Food Services
Impact. Congratulations to our alumni and staff named to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty” business leaders list. Like West Michigan itself, their positive impact is far reaching. That’s the Laker Effect. Whitney Benedict, ‘05 & ‘14 Jesse Bernal, Division of Inclusion and Equity Amanda Brand, ‘05 Afton DeVos, ‘13 Heather Duffy, WGVU Mike Goorhouse, ‘11 Daryn Kuipers, ‘04 Jon O’Connor, ‘04 Kevin L. Patterson, ‘04 & ‘05 Ryan Podvin, ‘13 Adam Russo, ‘10 Sara Sherry-Knoester, ‘11 Monica Steimle-App, ‘01 Kyle VanStrien, 12 Matthew Wilber, ‘10
Luis Avila! A 2017 “40 Under Forty” Business Leader
Contact Luis Avila at 616/336-6895 or email@example.com
Labor and employment relations Immigration Employment litigation defense Community leader, mentor, role model
2017 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 17
Afton DeVos, 34
Heather Duffy, 33
WITH HER PARENTS divorcing when she was 18 months old, Afton DeVos calls herself lucky to have four influential parents. “I believe I am a compassionate leader and a loving mother because of my mom, Marsha. I believe my greatest legacy will be my faithful ‘showing up (to work)’ because of my dad Larry,” DeVos said. “I believe I have tremendous perseverance because of my dad, Scott. And I believe I have an exceptional amount of joy because of my mom, Debbie.” She helped launch LaughFest in 2011 as part of the leadership team of Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, which introduced her to Kids’ Food Basket Executive Director Bridget Clark Whitney and, ultimately, led to her being hired as development director with the organization. She now is the associate director. “Afton DeVos is a powerhouse when it comes to fundraising,” Clark Whitney said. “She has played a critical role in the growth of the organization’s budget from $1.6 million to $5.5 million and the startup of two satellite locations.” DeVos also was a 40 Under 40 honoree in 2013 and was a finalist for the 2016 Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award. She has served on the Van Andel Institute JBoard for nine years and as a board member at the Children’s Healing Center for two years, helping launch an engagement task force to diversify funding and exposure to the organization’s mission. DeVos also is a founding member of the Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids Red, a young professionals program.
ANY GRAND RAPIDS arts connoisseur can thank Heather Duffy for making their lives a little brighter. As exhibitions curator for the Urban Institute of the Arts from 2015 to mid-2017 and ArtPrize exhibition manager prior to that, Duffy has played a significant role in increasing the accessibility and engagement of thoughtful and profound art exhibits in the city. As curator of a noncollecting organization, Duffy was responsible for building art exhibitions essentially from scratch. With a focus on uplifting marginalized voices and actively advocating for the equality and empowerment of women through these exhibitions, Duffy has received communitywide praise. “Heather Duffy has created programming initiatives that make me proud to share with our community,” UICA Marketing and Communications Coordinator Katie Zychowski said. This past year, Duffy curated the “US IS THEM” and “Here + Now” exhibitions, which debuted in January, opening UICA’s 40th anniversary. “US IS THEM” included works by 42 international artists confronting divisive issues of politics, religion and racism. “Here + Now,” a series of solo exhibitions, continues the line of dialogue opened by “US IS THEM” and extended an opportunity for emerging and mid-career African-American artists. In July, Duffy began a new position with WGVU, where she looks to continue her support for the arts and culture by extending her focus to include the communication and programming opportunities provided by public media. “I am excited to contribute to the community through WGVU’s public service outreach focusing on inclusion, health, arts, veterans and education,” she said. Duffy previously was honored by the Business Journal as a member of the 2015 40 Under 40 class.
Associate director Kids’ Food Basket
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Major gifts coordinator WGVU
Mike Goorhouse, 31
Michael Hyacinthe, 38
MIKE GOORHOUSE is an example of effecting change at both the macro and micro levels. As president of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, Goorhouse oversees a $65-million fund and drives forward the conversation in finding solutions to community issues in the lakeshore region. As a member of the board of directors for Bread for the World, he works with a national organization to end hunger at home. And as the founder and co-chair of the newly created Housing Next, he is working with public, private and nonprofit entities to solve the region’s affordable housing crisis. But Goorhouse also regularly meets with 25 younger foundation professionals, providing guidance and support for an up-and-coming generation navigating the waters of a field often dominated by seasoned professionals. “I am a young leader who sees a lot of room for personal and professional growth while still having the confidence and ability to make significant change now,” Goorhouse said. He has the résumé and references to back him up. A three-time 40 Under 40 honoree, Goorhouse continued to build on his accomplishments in 2017. In the past year, Goorhouse launched Housing Next and completed a $35-million Community Foundation endowment campaign, the largest in the organization’s history. His efforts in spearheading the campaign have been recognized nationally. “It has been a true honor to be recognized as an innovator in my field while also making such a significant impact on my community for generations to come,” he said.
AS AN EIGHT-YEAR U.S. Navy combat veteran, Michael Hyacinthe understands the countless sacrifices made to protect the citizens who call America home. It’s that experience that compelled Hyacinthe to partner with designer Tyler Way to create Has Heart, a nonprofit that pairs wounded veterans with creative designers to create art as a means of therapy and engagement. Founded in 2010, Has Heart was honored as an ArtPrize Nine top-five venue and recognized by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and former President Barack Obama, whom Hyacinthe credits as the biggest influence in his life. Hyacinthe also developed Wimage LLC, a company that uses creative technology and educational resources to cultivate artistic expression. The Wimage app turns words into images and provides real-time visualization of an idea, pushing users of all ages to explore their creativity and become visual communicators. “I am very proud that Wimage can inspire all individuals to see themselves as creatives regardless of disabilities or socioeconomic backgrounds,” Hyacinthe said. In addition to his work with Has Heart, Hyacinthe is a program manager for Habitat for Humanity, where he has been honored as one of the top veteran affiliates in the nation. His peers have called him “inspiring,” his positive attitude “contagious” and his work with military veterans and servicemen and women “passionate.” “I hope that my story can inspire kids, especially minority kids, to create ideas that put others before self,” Hyacinthe said.
President Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area
Program manager/co-founder Habitat for Humanity/Has Heart
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Steven Jbara, 29
Christina Keller, 36
President/owner Grand Rapids Drive
President, Cascade Business Team Cascade Engineering
HOW MANY PEOPLE can say they owned a professional sports team before 30? At 29, Steven Jbara is the youngest executive in the NBA G League, formerly the Development League, and is responsible for bringing the Grand Rapids Drive to the area in 2014. In just his second year at the helm, he was nominated for executive of the year, and he has steered the ship to three consecutive profitable seasons. That’s no small feat, considering the Drive are the first NBA G League team in history to post positive revenue in its first year. Jbara founded the SSJ Group in 2014 with the focus of bringing professional basketball to Grand Rapids. Comprising of 38 C-suite level executives and business owners from across the country, the organization is the controlling LLC of the Grand Rapids Drive. Since the Drive’s establishment, Jbara drove the front office to top five in the league in sponsorship revenue, gate receipts and the top team in the league for team gear and branded item sales. Last year, he added to his plate the role of COO at Jekyll & Hyde Advertising in Detroit and is working with another Motor City startup in WaitTime. Jbara also sits on the West Michigan Sports Commission Advisory Committee, the Gilmore Car Museum Board, Double-Down Development Board, the NBA’s Team Leadership Committee and a member of the Detroit Pistons’ Networking Business League.
AS PRESIDENT of Cascade Business Team, Christina Keller is carrying on the ideology and social responsibility her father instilled in Cascade Engineering many years ago. Keller joined her father’s company in 2009 and has served in numerous roles, most recently as the president of CK Technologies, the Cascade Family of Companies’ largest asset. During her time there, CKT posted record earnings, and she moved on to her current role, where she oversees four of Cascade Engineering’s nine business units. Keller said she is most proud of Cascade’s welfare to career and prisoner re-entry programs, which have helped more than 800 people move from government assistance to independent living and boasts a 98 percent retention rate. Keller also serves on the board for Independent Bank and is vice chair of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and chair of the Program Related Investment Group, in addition to her role as mother of two children. Perhaps then, it’s no surprise Keller’s biggest influence is her father Fred Keller, founder and president of Cascade, who has made a point to encourage social and community responsibility among all employees of the company. But Christina Keller has big dreams of her own. “I would like to be a part of the next generation of leaders in this community as we strive for the betterment of West Michigan,” she said.
20 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
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Sara Sherry-Knoester, 29
Daryn Kuipers, 35
President Mixed Staffing and Recruiting
Chief executive officer/director of operations Boxed Water Is Better/The Windquest Group
SARA SHERRY-KNOESTER started her company, Mixed Staffing and Recruiting, in 2012 with just one client and one employee. Five years later, she has employed over 1,000 people throughout West Michigan. Knoester said she took a leap of faith by starting her own business at 24 years old with almost no marketing experience and in a market that already was saturated with staffing firms. At the time, she also was holding three other jobs. “I didn’t take a salary for the first three years and would often begin my day at 4 a.m. and continue until 11 p.m.,” she said. She hit several potholes along the road to success. 2014 appeared to be the year that Mixed Staffing would take off; it had over 165 employees and nine clients. But Knoester was taken out of work five times because of double-lung pneumonia and was rushed to the ER when her fiancée’s Great Dane attacked her, leaving her with 47 stitches. “While others may have given up, I pushed forward with more determination to succeed than ever before,” Knoester said. “I always try to maintain a positive attitude.” Knoester’s perseverance contributed to a staffing firm that generated $1.7 million in revenue in 2016. One of her employees, Lindsey McCoy, said she is “extremely impressed” with Knoester’s ability to continuously grow the company and be a coach and mentor to employees. “I have never had a supervisor/boss show so much interest/support in my own personal growth, and it’s absolutely incredible,” McCoy said.
DARYN KUIPERS has some experience starting a business. In addition to his role launching Boxed Water Is Better, Kuipers also founded Spout.com and had a hand in launching theCommon, Momentum-MI, Reserve Wine & Food, iServ Technology Group and ArtPrize. As CEO of Boxed Water, he has been instrumental in changing the way the world thinks about its water consumption. “He believes in his team, inspires employee engagement and fosters a great place to work,” Windquest Chief Talent Officer Connie Marean said. Kuipers served as interim executive director of ArtPrize and has been a member of the 9-year-old event’s board of directors for five years, during which he changed the prize structure, began individual giving campaigns and drove multiyear corporate sponsorships. Kuipers said his biggest career break was taking a leap of faith to leave his paying job with iServ to start Spout, securing the support of his mentor and jumping into the world of building something from the ground up. The experience provided him with a thrill he has chased since. “The act of starting something from nothing by creating Spout, and later Boxed Water — and a few others as part of the operational team with a few friends who have better creative minds than I — is an experience like no other,” Kuipers said. Kuipers also serves on the board of OXX, where he assisted getting the product launched and sold at Home Depot, and at The Stow Company, where he approved a $44-million expansion and assisted with the acquisition of Distinctive Wine Cellars.
22 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
PREPARED FOR WORK + LIFE Employers appreciate how Calvin’s rigorous liberal arts education shapes the whole person with the faith, knowledge and skills to walk confidently into a career and life.
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2017 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 23
Michael Lomonaco, 37
Amelie MacDonald, 27
SINCE JOINING Open Systems Technologies in 2011, Michael Lomonaco has shaped and helped evolve the growing tech giant’s marketing and communications team. Lomonaco is responsible for leading OST’s brand strategy, marketing program, market insights and public relations division and his impact has been felt. In that time, OST has grown from 50 employees and $50 million in revenue to 230 employees and $160 million in revenue and six locations — including three internationally. A graduate of Michigan State University, Lomonaco sits on the board of advisors for The Channel Company and the organization’s Internet of Things board of advisors and is a founding member of The Right Place Tech Council. He also serves on the board of directors for John Ball Zoo, is the vice chair of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks board of directors and, in the past year, joined the board of directors for Make-a-Wish Michigan. Lomonaco said his biggest career break was his coming aboard at OST. “Getting to wake up and work alongside folks at OST, develop our brand strategy, communications and marketing (and) to tell our stories in a way which drives customers and new employees is the best job in the world, in my opinion,” he said. Lomonaco has been honored by the Business Journal three times prior (2013, ’15 ’16) as a 40 Under 40 leader.
WHEN AMELIE MACDONALD began working at The Factory in November 2015, women made up just 10 percent of the co-working space’s community. Now, female membership has grown to about 40 percent. “Through turbulent societal times, we’ve also remained a safe and inclusive space for everyone, and I’m really proud of that,” MacDonald said. While running the day-to-day operations of The Factory, MacDonald works to build a strong community of people looking for a healthy space to grow their businesses. Numerous members of The Factory have praised her passion, kindness and desire to help anyone who enters the doors. MacDonald, of course, credits those same members for her success. “Having a community that’s passionate about taking ownership of their ideas and have the voice in the things they want to do is so much more important than trying to do everything by yourself,” she said. Recently, MacDonald launched “Cotivation,” a peer-topeer professional development group program designed to teach Factory members how to learn and lean on each other to achieve their goals. In doing so, MacDonald has reintroduced the concept of collaborative motivation into the co-working space’s DNA. MacDonald also serves on the board for New Work Cities and as a community manager for coLearning. She is the vice president of events at American Marketing Association of West Michigan and a member of the board for AIGA West Michigan.
Director of marketing and communications Open Systems Technologies
24 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
Community manager The Factory
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Sara M. Moylan, 36
Rachel Mraz, 36
Founder Shefit Apparel
Wealth management advisor Merrill Lynch
SHEFIT APPAREL began with Sara Moylan’s mission to solve a problem she had faced for most of her adult life — finding a sports bra that provided her with true support. Upon solving her own problem, she turned her attention to helping women who also went unsupported. She launched a successful Kickstarter campaign where Shefit gained traction, landing segments on NBC’s “Today” show and “The Doctors.” Just six months after the “Today” show, Moylan was pitching alongside her husband before the “Shark Tank” judging panel, where Shefit successfully negotiated a deal. From 2015 to 2016, Shefit grew its revenue by 600 percent, and the startup is on track for 300 percent growth in 2017 over 2016. The company has increased its staff to seven employees and plans to add three more before the end of the year. “It is my daily gut-burning passion that fuels me,” Moylan said. “It is the customer testimonials I receive day in and day out, from women of all ages, telling me how much the product I created has forever changed their lives. Each testimonial is a daily reminder of my mission and the vision I have for the company.” In addition to running her own company, Moylan is an active mother of four girls, which also steers her to be the best person she can be. “They make me want to be better in every way,” Moylan said, “from health on the inside and out, to achieving success and living out my dreams in life and in business.”
EARLY IN HER career, Rachel Mraz turned to her mother for guidance. As a female entering the male-dominated world of investment banking, Mraz leaned heavily on maternal advice to refocus on doing what is right for the client. Now 14 years into her career with Merrill Lynch, it is clear the investment and wildlife preservation worlds owe quite a bit to Mraz’s mother. This past year, Mraz was named one of Forbes Magazine/SHOOK’s 500 Top Next Generation Wealth Advisors, just one of countless awards Mraz has earned as a wealth management advisor. “I love my career and my team, and this recognition validated that passion on a national scale,” Mraz said. Outside of the financial world, Mraz is a fierce advocate for the welfare of endangered animals. She serves on both the board of directors and the finance committee for John Ball Zoo and has traveled the world with her husband Mike to see firsthand and support the work being done by local preservation societies in exotic locations. When she chaired the capital campaign for the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, she saw the fundraising overcome the economic downturn and exceed the campaign’s lofty financial goal, which provided the Equest Center with a new facility, new programs and accommodations for more riders. She also is in the second year as chair of the Saint Mary’s Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, only the second female and youngest chair the board has elected to date.
26 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
as a leader in West Michigan Congratulations, Whitney Benedict. At Spectrum Health, we’re proud of you and your recognition by Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 under Forty.” Your inspiration and innovation are making a difference in the health and well-being of our community.
© Spectrum Health
Learn more at careers.spectrumhealth.org
Trudy Ngo-Brown, 39
Jon O’Connor, 36
TRUDY NGO-BROWN said she felt a sense of “otherness” growing up as a Vietnamese-American in Texas. That feeling propelled her toward a career of fostering equitable access to education for all students. Ngo-Brown spent the first part of her career teaching English language learners in Japan and Chicago. She now works to “create a culture of opportunity” through programming for teens at the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology. Her efforts have paid off. Last November, WMCAT’s Teen Arts + Tech Program was recognized as one of the top creative youth development programs in the country with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, presented by then-first lady Michelle Obama. “Nelson Mandela said that, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world,’” NgoBrown said. “I believe this to be true, and my career has always been focused on creating access to quality learning experiences for all students.” Ngo-Brown’s achievements have included creating career readiness and job-shadowing opportunities for students in Kent Intermediate School District and leading WMCAT curriculum development to advance teens’ digital and artistic literacy. She has served on committees for The Expanded Learning Opportunities Network (ELO), ArtPrize and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. In 2016, she won the ELO Champion of Quality Award. She was a member of the TEDxGrandRapids Education Team and she is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Grand Rapids.
AWARDS KEEP POURING in for craft spirits maker Jon O’Connor. Long Road Distillers was named one of the 2017 Best New Distilleries in the World by Timeout magazine and Aquavit Distillery of the Year at the Berlin World Spirits Competition. The Long Road Aquavit won Best in Show at the American Craft Spirits Association 2017 contest. It also won double gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and Best in Category and Best in Class at the American Distilling Institute 2017. O’Connor channels his success back into the West Side community in which he lives and works, serving as 1st Ward Commissioner and chair of the city of Grand Rapids’ Affordable Housing Committee, board member of the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan and the West Leonard Business Association, and past board member of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization. “I have been a fierce advocate for this city and these neighborhoods for over 15 years, both in my personal and professional life,” he said. “I have the good fortune of both starting and owning a business in the West Side, which has been a significant catalyst in the rapidly redeveloping Leonard Street corridor. “Our neighborhoods are the lifeblood of our city, and I work diligently to be a positive force for business in our city.” O’Connor also serves as president of the Michigan Craft Distillers Association and was treasurer of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education from 2010-14.
Director of teen programs West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology
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Co-owner/co-founder Long Road Distillers
Megan Odegaard, 29
Amanda Osorio, 30
Co-owner/assurance manager Farmhaus Cider/BDO USA LLP
Intellectual property attorney Mitchell Intellectual Property Law
AS A WOMAN in two industries — cider making and financial services — Megan Odegaard throws herself into business, drawing on a hodgepodge of experiences. As a teenager, she sold Cutco knives, from which she learned business and interpersonal skills. In 2009, she worked on a commercial fishing vessel in Alaska, where she logged 84 to 128 hours per week. Odegaard launched Farmhaus Cider in 2014 while studying for her CPA exam and working 60 hours per week during BDO’s busy season. She was then promoted to assurance manager, the youngest BDO employee in the role at that time. A native of Seattle, Odegaard said she stayed in Grand Rapids after graduating from college because she believes in West Michigan’s potential. “Eleven years ago when I moved here, the city was very different than it is today, and I am excited that I get to contribute to that, not only as a professional service provider in my CPA role but also as a local entrepreneur in an industry that has become a major tourist attraction and garnered international recognition,” she said. Her ciders have won numerous awards. A believer that women achieve business success through mentorships, Odegaard volunteers at her alma mater, Calvin College, in the Women in Business program and leads the internship program for her department at BDO. She is a member of Calvin’s Master of Accounting Advisory Board, serves on the Cider Week GR committee through the Michigan Cider Association and raises money for several local nonprofits. Under her leadership, Farmhaus Cider donates to more than 40 organizations and sponsors Start Garden’s 5x5 Night.
A LIFELONG RESIDENT of Grand Rapids who has spent time in Mexico, Spain, Guatemala and Haiti, Amanda Osorio pursues a broad range of passions personally and professionally. After earning a degree in Spanish language and literature and international studies from Hope College, she received a full-ride scholarship to WMU-Cooley Law School and earned her Juris Doctor. She landed her job at Mitchell Intellectual Property Law in 2015 and works in international patent, trademark and copyright law, using her fluency in Spanish to her advantage. Osorio has taught English to migrant workers, worked as a Spanish interpreter for Spectrum Health and volunteered to help refugees and immigrants through Bethany Christian Services. Currently, she serves as secretary of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan - Western Region, vice president of the West Michigan World Trade Association and on the executive committee at Exalta Health in Grand Rapids, formerly known as the Health Intervention Services Clinic. Osorio said her panoply of service experiences help her “bring the world to Grand Rapids and present Grand Rapids to the world.” “I am now a lawyer trying to make Grand Rapids more creative, more inventive and more entrepreneurial,” she said. “I hope that my contributions can help continue moving Grand Rapids forward and make it a wonderful place for people of every background and neighborhood. “Grand Rapids is a wonderful place to live and work, and my goal is to do my part to keep it that way.”
2017 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 29
Brian Pageau, 37
Kevin Patterson, 35
BRIAN PAGEAU cites a deep bench of influencers that got him where he is today, starting in his inner circle and working his way toward coaches, pastors, philosophers and authors. As president of Foresight, a private company that works to help businesses reduce their energy use and increase profitability, Pageau harnesses his experience as a coach, advisor, fundraiser and entrepreneur. He never thought he would wind up in business after studying English and history at Hope College and earning a degree in secondary education. But helping to launch an office supply franchise at the age of 23 gave him the bug for leadership. As he heads up Foresight — which targets midsize, multisite industrial, commercial, retail and manufacturing companies as well as restaurants and schools in the U.S., Mexico and Canada — Pageau uses his mentorship skills with his 12 employees. “I take great pride in seeing the people that work for me grow personally and professionally,” he said. Tiffany Graham, the company’s marketing director, called him a visionary leader. “Every team member at (Foresight) feels heard, encouraged and challenged,” she said. “Like a coach to a team, he walks alongside us and pushes us to new levels.” Pageau spent 11 years as an assistant varsity basketball coach at Holland Christian High School. He co-founded and raised $1 million in seed money for the MaxOne tech startup, which helps coaches run their athletic programs more effectively.
KEVIN PATTERSON describes himself as an “accountant with a personality” from a working-class West Michigan family. Inspired by his mentor, former Crowe Horwath boss Rob De Groot, Patterson strives to be generous with his time by mentoring four CPA colleagues at BDO Grand Rapids, where Patterson is the youngest audit partner by seven years. Patterson was invited to be part of the inaugural Association for Corporate Growth’s Women in Finance Mentorship Program (2016-17) because of his advocacy for and mentorship of women in leadership at BDO. “I would not be where I am without Rob’s professional and personal teachings, and I try to emulate him by mentoring and helping others,” Patterson said. At BDO, Patterson is a member of the Sales/Networking Leaders Team, National Revenue Recognition Team and the Business Service Center. He serves on the boards of Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. He also volunteers with Start Garden and for the John Ball Zoo RendeZoo fundraiser. Previously, he volunteered for the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids Finance Committee and the March of Dimes Executive Leadership Team, which plans the nonprofit’s annual Signature Chefs Auction. Patterson credits the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Grand Rapids program as the impetus for much of his community service. He is a graduate of the program’s Class of 2014 and said it was there that he learned “systems and design thinking.”
President Foresight (formerly Midwest Energy Group)
30 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
Audit partner BDO USA Grand Rapids
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2017 40 UNDER 40!
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VISIT GRMAG.COM 2017 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 31
Ryan Podvin, 32
Jason Popma, 37
A SPINAL CORD INJURY led Ryan Podvin to what he now calls, tongue-in-cheek, his “big break.” Podvin broke his neck in a diving accident in 2010 and spent months at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, relearning how to talk, walk, eat and build a new life as a partially paralyzed man with a cane. A former landscape architect, Podvin found inspiration during his recovery by spending time at Blandford Nature Center and from his therapists at Mary Free Bed. His new physical limitations prevented him from returning to his previous field, so he earned an MBA in finance at Grand Valley State University while working as an intern at Mary Free Bed. He was hired full time in 2013 and now is a decision support manager and member of the senior leadership team. Podvin gives back to three organizations. As treasurer at Blandford, he assisted the nonprofit as it finished a $10.3-million capital campaign, opened the Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center and acquired the former Highlands Golf Course to convert it to a public nature space. “I volunteer in two additional capacities, rehabilitation and awareness around spinal cord injuries,” he said. Those capacities include the MFB peer support program, in which he mentors newly injured spinal cord patients and their families, and he also volunteers as a “test patient,” letting physical and occupational therapy students practice on him. He considers his biggest professional accomplishment to be developing an MFB team of analysts that have grown research initiatives and funding to improve patient outcomes. Podvin also was directly responsible for the hospital’s new venture, Mary Free Bed at Home, a home health agency.
JASON POPMA said his secret to success is keeping himself surrounded by talented people who keep him both “hungry and humble.” He learned a hardworking approach to life from his grandfather, who was a farmer, builder, developer, landlord, teacher and Red Cross volunteer. “He taught me a work ethic that life is what you make it, and complaining does not solve anything,” Popma said. “You can do anything if you set your mind to it with a little hard work.” In 2007, Popma took on the challenge of turning around Wayland-based CasterDepot, a maker of casters and wheels that was a “distressed company.” It since has doubled sales and is opening its fifth location this month, with Popma at the helm as its president. He also founded a related company, Wayland-based DoRodo, a supplier of casters and wheels, in 2006. Under Popma’s leadership, CasterDepot has customengineered solutions for Kohl’s, Intel, Dematic and now Amazon. “Amazon currently has us designing a cart system to solve the movement of their odd-shaped items for all their distribution centers that don’t fit in their conveyors or AGV (automated guided vehicle) systems,” he said. Popma serves with the Colson Distributors Council, the Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring Ambassador Group and the Young Presidents’ Organization. He also is president of the board of directors for the nonprofit More-Self-Less, which hosts a Christmas celebration for children and their families in West Michigan who can’t afford to have their own.
Decision support manager Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
32 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
President CasterDepot, DoRodo
KEVIN PATTERSON and
MEGAN ODEGAARD Kevin Patterson Assurance Partner
for being nominated and selected as honorees for the Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 Class of 2017.
Megan Odegaard Assurance Manager
BDO provides assurance, tax, and advisory services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. We offer a sophisticated array of services and the resources and capabilities of the BDO global network, combined with the personal attention of experienced professionals. Accountants and Advisors www.bdo.com ÂŠ 2017 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved.
Marcel Price, 29
Terry Rostic, 34
Poet laureate/executive director/co-founder Grand Rapids/The Diatribe/The Drunken Retort
Project manager, human resources Rockford Construction
MARCEL “FABLE” PRICE is the first person under 40 to have earned the title of poet laureate of Grand Rapids. He also is the first person of color for the role. And the first without a college degree. Price is no stranger to obstacles. As a biracial youth with chaotic beginnings, he faced mental health issues and had trouble in school. A teacher who cared put him through a writing boot camp as an alternative to failing English, and Price discovered spoken-word poetry as a path to freedom and healing. In 2013, he co-founded The Diatribe, a nonprofit that uses poetry to empower youths and partners with ArtPrize Education Days. “For some, starting a business seems really easy, but for a young person who came from nothing and was always shown they had no value, this speaks volumes to me,” Price said. “Not only are we building an organization based on youth empowerment but showing other young people they can do the same.” Price also co-founded and co-hosts The Drunken Retort, a performance art network held at Stella’s Lounge on Monday nights. With a list of publication credits several pages long, Price still finds time to volunteer at Mental Health America, The Creative Youth Center and The Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids. In 2016, he won a Community Advocate Award from Grand Rapids Young Professionals and an Audio Poetry Contest Award from the Missouri Review.
TERRY ROSTIC switched industries in 2016, moving from higher education to construction, but he carried his love of serving underrepresented groups into his new role. Now a project manager for the human resources team at Rockford Construction, Rostic runs the company’s Dimensions program. The initiative helps emerging minority-, women- and veteran-owned companies in learning commercial construction processes to grow their businesses. In its first cohort, which wrapped up this spring, Dimensions helped 15 companies bid on 25 projects and connected them with mentors to keep the momentum going. “The thing that makes me proudest of the Dimensions program is that we were able to reach/work with 12 businesses that have never worked with Rockford Construction prior to the program and present them meaningful projects to bid,” Rostic said. “The mission of this program fits perfectly with my servant leadership approach to life.” That approach includes founding and directing Alpha League Global Leadership Program while working at Davenport University in 2015 — a mentorship program for first-generation male college students of color to help them become successful in college and provide future career opportunities. After its first academic year, participants had higher GPAs than peers of color not enrolled in the program. Rostic still works as one of its success coaches. Rostic serves on numerous boards, including the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, Senior Neighbors, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and Girls Growing II Women.
34 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
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Adam Russo, 32
Chris Sain Jr., 34
Owner/adjunct professor COM 616/Grand Valley State University
Founder/executive director Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Inc.
ADAM RUSSO has his finger on the pulse of West Michigan. The owner of COM 616 uses his expertise in PR and communications to influence and collaborate with other young entrepreneurs. “As an Asian-American business owner in West Michigan, I want to serve as an inspiration to the next generation of minority entrepreneurs,” he said. Russo was adopted into what he called a “blue-collar, hard-working family.” He remembered from a young age hearing his father’s alarm clock wake him at 3:30 a.m. and seeing him go to work at the same manufacturing job for 30 years. His mother worked two jobs as a server and a bus driver. His parents’ busy schedules gave them about 20 minutes together on most days. “Their work ethic was instilled in me at an early age,” he said. Russo’s business gives strategic communications and public relations assistance to many major businesses, including Amway, Comcast, Clark Communications, Paramount Realty Partners and Project Green. Before he started his own business, Russo found a mentor to help him in his professional development. He believes this opportunity was his biggest career break. As a way of paying it forward, he continues to look for opportunities to meet with students and young professionals. Russo also serves as an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Grand Valley State University, teaching the next generation of PR professionals the values of hard work and establishing a strong professional network.
BEING ABLE TO impact the lives and successes of at-risk youth is a major source of pride for Chris Sain Jr. Sain is a member of several professional and community boards, including the Grand Rapids Community College Strategic Leadership Team (SLT), To College Through College (TCT) and Grand Rapids Public Schools Grade 2 Grad School (G2G). “I am passionate and committed to my community and the vitality of all people striving to make Grand Rapids the great place that it is,” Sain said. Sain is the author of two books and is in the process of writing a third. His first book, “Dumb Athlete,” deals with negative media portrayals of young African-American men and is an Amazon top 100 bestseller. His second book, “Finding Real Love in the Love & Hip Hop Era,” involves the struggle to establish lasting love in a culture that values instant gratification. His professional experience includes being the coordinator of retention and a success coach at Grand Rapids Community College; co-director of Alpha Beta Omega, a leadership development program for African-American males attending GRCC; and after school director and counselor for Wyoming Public Schools. Sain also is the co-founder of Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Inc., which is a sports-centered education program designed to teach at-risk youth about becoming civic leaders, advanced learners and responsible adults. “The accomplishment I am most proud of is seeing those I mentor succeed and persevere through hardships and make the best of their situations,” he said. “I am proud to play a small role in their journey.”
36 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
NOMINATIONS NOW BEING ACCEPTED Find the online nomination form at grbj.com or at surveymonkey.com/r/GRBJ50Women18Nom The nomination deadline is November 14
Save the date
THE 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN WEST MICHIGAN AWARDS LUNCHEON MARCH 7, 2018 JW Marriott Grand Rapids More event details coming this winter
Congratulations to all 40 Under 40 honorees, including our very own
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Alison Sutter, 38
Kurtis Trevan, 39
ALISON SUTTER originally went to school for architecture but, through her career path, soon discovered the value of advising businesses on environmental sustainability. Now serving as sustainability manager for the city of Grand Rapids, Sutter discovered her passion for sustainability in 2000 when she served as an architectural intern for William McDonough and Partners in Charlottesville, Virginia. “They had me do an economic analysis of putting the green roof on the Ford Rouge plant,” Sutter said. “I had the opportunity to evaluate the financial reasons for doing environmental programs and got to promote environmental benefits.” Sutter also worked as an environmental attorney and sustainability manager for Warner Norcross and Judd, sustainable business officer for Metro Health Hospital, senior sustainability consultant for Key Green Solutions and, most recently, manager of corporate responsibility for SpartanNash. As corporate responsibility manager for SpartanNash, Sutter expanded participation in the Double Up Food Bucks program, which provides free fruits and vegetables to low-income families. Under her leadership, the program was expanded from two grocery stores in 2014 to 17 in 2016. She also negotiated and received approval for $1 million in public and private funding from Fair Food Network for the program. “Alison is one of the most recognizable young sustainable business leaders in West Michigan,” said Dan Schoonmaker, executive director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, “a mainstay in sustainable food system discussions and an emerging force in corporate sustainability.”
FOR THE PAST eight years, Kurtis Trevan has used his expertise in economic development to assist the Gun Lake Native American tribe. The CEO of Gun Lake Investments hails from a multicultural household. Being of Japanese and Native American descent, Trevan said he has had the honor of working with his tribe, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, commonly known as the Gun Lake Tribe. “The success of the Gun Lake Tribe came about through adversity, persistence and courage,” Trevan said. “I’m fortunate to have been a part of this experience. The results have directly benefited West Michigan through the benefits of job creation and investment.” As the founder and CEO of Gun Lake Investments, Trevan has invested in and improved the assets of the Gun Lake Community. His organization works to develop a self-sufficient economy for the tribe outside of the casino business by seeking new real estate and commercial opportunities. Trevan was elected Gun Lake Tribal Council leader in 2012 and spent four years helping create a scholarship endowment to cover all post-high school educational expenses for members of the tribe and enhancing reservation schools through the funding of athletic, technology and other programs. He also was treasurer of Gun Lake Casino, where he oversaw two expansions and the addition of 1,200 jobs. “Kurtis is dedicated to increasing the financial sustainability within Indian Country,” said CJ DeVries, friend and colleague of Trevan. “He is an advocate for diversity and community engagement.”
Sustainability manager City of Grand Rapids
38 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
CEO Gun Lake Investments
Kyle Van Strein, 32
Bridget Clark Whitney, 37
KYLE VAN STREIN has made an impact on the craft beverage scene in Grand Rapids. The co-founder of Long Road Distillers has earned accolades both nationwide and internationally. Van Strein and his business partner, Jon O’Connor, opened Long Road Distillers, Grand Rapids’ first craft distillery, in 2015. “While farm-to-table food and craft beer helped prime the market for bold, local flavors, we knew that we were on the leading edge of the craft spirits industry,” Van Strein said. The company’s traditional Scandinavian-style spirit Aquavit won platinum and consumer’s choice award at the 2017 SIP Awards in Newport Beach, California. Two of the company’s signature gins, Long Road Dry Gin and MICHIGIN, both won gold medals at The Fifty Best’s 2017 gin tasting. And the company itself earned the title Aquavit Distillery of the Year at the Berlin International Spirits Competition. “Our accolades and accomplishments are a result of our dedication to our craft and commitment to using local, fresh ingredients,” Van Strein said. Van Strein also has served as a board member for the Michigan Craft Distillers Association and the Kalamazoo Valley Distilling Academy Advisory Board. “Kyle has been an influential force in the creation and growth of Long Road Distillers ... as well as being a passionate champion for his city,” O’Connor said. Other than his family, Van Strein said the biggest influences in his life are the more than 30 employees at Long Road Distillers who have dedicated their time and energy to making the company succeed.
BRIDGET CLARK WHITNEY developed the idea for an anti-hunger initiative as a senior at Aquinas College. Coming home from a year studying abroad in Ireland, Whitney started working on the concept of Kids’ Food Basket just a few days later. Fifteen years afterward, Kids’ Food Basket has become a leader on the issue of childhood hunger in Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties, growing from serving 80,000 meals to children a year in 2002 to serving over 1 million meals in 2017. “We’re not just giving the kids we serve a handout,” Whitney said. “By giving kids the nutrition they need to learn and live well … we’re building stronger cities in West Michigan.” Kids’ Food Basket averages over 250 volunteers each day and over 15,000 a year. The program has won several awards and honors, including Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Nonprofit of the Year, MiBiz Best Managed Nonprofit Award for Excellence in Fundraising and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Nonprofit of the Year. “At Kids’ Food Basket, we are thankful for Bridget because she strives each and every day to be the executive director and leader that organization needs to thrive and continue feeding kids,” said Afton DeVos, associate director for Kids’ Food Basket. Whitney’s personal awards and honors include the 2013 ATHENA Young Professional of the Year and being one of 12 young professionals nationwide to be chosen for the 2009 and 2010 American Express NGen Fellows program in Washington, D.C.
Co-owner/co-founder Long Road Distillers
Executive director Kids’ Food Basket
2017 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 39
Carl Wierks, 39
Matthew Wilber, 31
CONDUCTING APPROXIMATELY 250 hip surgeries a year, Dr. Carl Wierks still has managed to volunteer his surgical skills to the benefit of professional athletes and numerous humanitarian efforts throughout his career. Wierks is a partner of West Michigan Orthopaedics, a Grand Rapids-based private practice orthopaedic group, where he specializes in the treatment of hip, knee and shoulder pain. In May, Wierks shared his insight in hip arthroscopy with 200 orthopaedic surgeons at the Orthopaedic Technology and Information Forum in Naples, Florida. “There are still many questions about this surgical specialty,” Wierks said, “but I am proud to help make each patient outcome a little bit better, and safer, through sharing my own knowledge about the topic.” Wierks also is a team physician for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams. After completing his residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he applied and was certified in 2009 to be a member of the U.S. teams’ medical pool. Wierks has co-authored 10 book chapters and has been published in nine academic/trade journals. Remembering the hard work ethic, honesty and creativity his grandfather displayed as a farmer, Wierks said he tries to bring the same values and perspective to treating his patients. “From the outside, the lives of my grandfather and I could not be much different, but the internal values of commitment to hard work, honesty, seeing the positive and being creative influence me every day,” he said.
WHEN MATTHEW WILBER opened the Grand Haven Fit Body Boot Camp (FBBC) location in 2013, he had no clear goal of where he wanted the business to go or even how he would manage to pay the bills. After one month in business, Wilber had one client and zero revenue. Today, the five FBBC locations in West Michigan have collectively helped more than 3,000 people lose 100,000 pounds. “When I first started this journey four years ago, I was the trainer, the admin, the sales guy, the marketing guru and the janitor,” Wilber said. Wilber’s business now employs more than 40 people and generated $5 million in revenue in 2017. FBBC is an international fitness and weight loss franchise. The company recognized Wilber’s franchise as the No. 1 FBBC franchise in the world. The ranking is determined by number of clients, greatest results and highest revenue. The FBBC West Michigan team and its clients have collectively donated more than $100,000 to local charities. Their 2017 goal is to reach $200,000. FBBC’s Christmas Giving Campaign works with local schools to deliver presents to children in need. Wilber’s team also partners with Charity Water, an organization that helps provide clean water to places in need. FBBC donates one dollar for every pound its clients lose. “Our goal in 2017 is to help our clients lose 30,000, so we can transform three communities with a $30,000 donation,” Wilber said.
Orthopaedic surgeon West Michigan Orthopaedics
40 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2017
Owner Fit Body Boot Camp
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