40 Under 40 - Business Leaders - 2018 - GRBJ

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40 Under 40 Honorees 10 Luis E. Avila Attorney/partner Varnum LLP Scott Ayotte Director, affirmative action, equal employment opportunity & equity Grand Valley State University 12 Rachel Bartels Program manager, talent attraction and retention Hello West Michigan John Behrens President/CEO/co-owner Farmhaus Cider Co. 14 Allison Benczkowski Manager, organizational brand communications SpartanNash Peter Beukema CEO Suburban Inns 16 Joshua Conran Managing partner Deksia Maitlan Cramer Co-founder/principal Grand Ventures 18 Mary Dale Chief human resources officer Metron Integrated Health Systems Jonathan Dodge Executive vice president, business development Freshwater Digital 19 Amanda Fielder Partner Warner Norcross + Judd Autumn Fuchs Owner/interior designer Fuchsia Design 20 Tanya Gibbs Partner Rosette LLP

22 Kristian Grant Development manager/content developer ArtPrize/Mini Mogul Academy Tara Hernandez Marketing and communications director Gerald R. Ford International Airport 24 Joseph M. Infante Senior partner Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone Jonathan Jelks Principal/co-founder Midwest Tech Project 26 Michael Keast Vice president of commercial banking Chemical Bank Ryan Kilpatrick Executive director Housing Next 28 Veronica Kirin Author/entrepreneur coach/speaker Veronica Kirin Inc. Kate Kocienski Vice president of marketing and public relations Grand Rapids Public Museum 30 Luke Kujacznski Executive director Urban Alliance Jeshua Lauka Attorney David & Wierenga, P.C. 31 Michael Lomonaco Director of marketing and communications Open Systems Technologies Jeff Lumpp President Hylant Grand Rapids 32 Joshua Lunger Director of government affairs Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

Mike Goorhouse President/CEO Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area

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Amy Marshall Co-owner Management Business Solutions

34 Rachel Mraz Wealth management adviser Merrill Lynch Leandra Nisbet Owner Stingray Advisory Group 36 David W. Olson Jr. Executive managing director Principal Financial Group Kevin L. Patterson Audit partner BDO USA, LLP 38 Leonard Peters Tribal council treasurer Gun Lake Tribe Jennifer L. Remondino Partner Warner Norcross + Judd 40 Steffanie Rosalez Cook Arts Center director Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities Chris Sain CEO/founder Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Inc. 42 Ryan Schmidt Vice president of real estate development and management ICCF Nonprofit Housing Corp. Abigayle Sladick Vice president of communication Mel Trotter Ministries 44 Kyle Van Strien Owner/co-founder Long Road Distillers Daniel Williams President/CEO West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology

SUCCESS BEGINS WITH STRONG LEADERSHIP Sounds like SpartanNash. We are proud to congratulate Allison for being recognized as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 2018 40 Under 40. We are grateful for her vision and leadership.

Allison Benczkowski Manager, Organizational Brand Communications

You just never know


EET THE GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL’S 2018 class of 40 Under 40 Business Leaders. Contained within these pages are profiles of 40 young, emerging leaders in West Michigan who will be shaping the region for years to come. Their stories are inspiring and poignant, filled with heartache and triumph. The winners share tales of key mentors, daring decisions and, yes, humiliating failures. They are humble almost to a fault. Often, they included on their nomination forms the names of friends and colleagues who they believed to be more deserving than them. Most had trouble writing about themselves and their accomplishments. Yet, after reading through the nominations, one thing is apparent: These people work their tails off. In short, they are the perfect representation of the West Michigan workforce. They are loyal, intuitive, determined and filled with ideas. They have a servant mentality and their stewardship of the “West Michigan way” is ingrained from working with — and listening to — previous generations. They are active within their community and adept at networking with others to form strong alliances for causes in which they believe. You want these people working with you. You want these people representing you. Even business professionals who live and work outside West Michigan agree. The judges, who gave considerable time to reviewing 294 individual candidates, were Bob Thomas, chief operating officer of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce in Lansing; Lou Glazer, president and co-founder of Michigan Future Inc. in Ann Arbor; and Jennifer Kluge, president and CEO of MichBusiness/Michigan Business & Professional Association in Warren. They have expressed that, once again, this has been an extremely difficult year to name just 40 honorees, especially in a community bustling with such amazing young talent, entrepreneurs and leadership. Not only was it difficult to select 40 honorees, but it also was difficult to whittle their stories down to the space allotted for each of them. There is much more than meets the eye regarding these 40 individuals. Each was reviewed for business and career goals and achievements, evidence of business expertise and leadership, and community participation and enhancement. Why does this matter? Because of people like Rich MacKeigan. Sixteen years ago, when MacKeigan was a young executive with SMG who was helping to run venues in town, he was named to the Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class. Not many people knew who he was. He had a nice job and, by his own admission, planned to stick around three or four years and then move on to something bigger. Now MacKeigan tops every “who’s who” list in the industry, Grand Rapids is squarely on the entertainment map for all types of national performers, and SMG’s regional manager can think of no place he’d rather call home. He’s also this year’s 40 Under 40 Distinguished Alumnus. The point is you never know what some of these honorees are going to do and how their actions are going to affect the West Michigan business community. Take this opportunity to learn about them before everybody knows their name. Tim Gortsema Managing Editor Grand Rapids Business Journal

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Fierce Advocate. Litigator. Visionary.

Congratulations Amanda Fielder and Jennifer Remondino — 40 Under 40 honorees AND successful women in leadership at Warner Norcross + Judd. For more about the women of Warner and our unprecedented belief in empowering exceptional women, visit wnj.com.


Dedicated Champion. Counselor. Authority.

MacKeigan will share wisdom as Distinguished Alumnus


ICH MACKEIGAN has a big role in Grand Rapids. He’s one of the area’s leaders whose work directly contributes to the region’s growth. As regional manager of SMG, he oversees the Van Andel Arena, DeVos Performance Hall and DeVos Place, which all bring in tourists who contribute to the local economy.

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Last year’s record hotel booking rates in Kent County were attributed to several events, including the State Games of America, which was held at the arena and various other sites and brought more than 202,000 athletes and visitors to the area. Over the past year and a half, there have been recordsetting ticket sales for national concert tours at the arena and arts performances at DeVos, including three weeks of sold-out “Wicked” performances. The Business Journal recognized MacKeigan numerous times over the years, specifically naming him a member of 40 Under 40 classes in 2002, 2005 and 2007. This year, he was named as GRBJ’s 2018 40 Under 40 Distinguished Alumnus. Previous 40 Under 40 distinguished alumni include Art of the Table and Aperitivo owner Amy Ruis; former U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles; Lambert President Jeff Lambert; CWD Real Estate Investment Managing Partner Sam Cummings; and business owner and nonprofit leader Tami VandenBerg. MacKeigan said he thought he “misheard” when the Business Journal called to inform him of the news. He said the Business Journal always has been a “mainstay” for him and SMG, whether through advertising or informing him about business news in the community. “It’s absolutely an honor,” he said. “I’ve always been appreciative of the Business Journal because of that recognition of me in the past, and I’m extremely appreciative of this recognition today.” The industry publication Venues Today gave MacKeigan a 2016 Hall of Headlines award in the bookings category. Billboard Magazine named him one of the top 10 arena managers for midsize venues in 2016 and 2017, and ranked him and the arena sixth worldwide and second in North America for midsize venues on the Arena Power Players list. Originally from Canada, MacKeigan joined SMG as general manager in 1998 and became regional manager in 2007.


Ferris State University is proud to celebrate the success of alumni Mary Dale (College of Arts and Sciences, 2004) and Ryan Kilpatrick (Kendall College of Art and Design, 2015), honored among The Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 for 2018.

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Luis E. Avila, 36 Attorney/partner Varnum LLP

LUIS AVILA’S NAME comes up again and again in leadership contexts in West Michigan. Avila was elected to the partnership at Varnum in November 2017, which he called his biggest career break and the “culmination” of eight years of hard work. He joined the firm in 2011 and practices in the areas of labor, employment and immigration law. “Varnum has given me the platform to not only become the best professional I can be but also to be a community steward,” he said. That stewardship includes serving as co-chair of both Varnum’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and its Diversity and Inclusion Council, and as a board member of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Ballet Company and Grand Rapids Symphony. Diane Lobbestael, vice president of development for the symphony, nominated Avila for the award, calling him a visionary leader, as well as “wise,” “bright” and “skilled.” As president of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Avila led the effort to establish a charitable foundation for the chamber, which so far has raised about $250,000 to provide services to entrepreneurs. He also was instrumental in launching the chamber’s Transformando West Michigan program, which provides funding, mentorship, skills building and industry certifications to Hispanic business owners. Avila is an adjunct professor of business law at Grand Valley State University and a past board member of the Michigan Board of Medicine. He recently won Corp! Magazine’s Michigan Salute to Diversity award and was named a Michigan Rising Star by Super Lawyers in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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Scott Ayotte, 32

Director, affirmative action, equal employment opportunity and equity Grand Valley State University TO STUDENTS, SCOTT AYOTTE stresses the importance of being a global citizen. After graduating from law school in 2012, Ayotte decided corporate law practice was not for him — but he still had a passion for social justice. He cast his net wide to “large institutions” where he could make a difference, and in 2012, landed a role in the human resources department at Spectrum Health, where he developed and implemented initiatives to foster inclusivity. In 2013, he began teaching business management classes at Grand Valley State University. In March 2017, the university hired him for his current position. As a member of the university leadership team, he manages compliance and inclusion initiatives in accordance with EEOC laws while supporting talent acquisition and retention, and mentoring students. He said his motivation comes from the experience of being a minority himself, as a Korean-American. “Growing up, I did not have individuals I could turn to and look upon as an example that looked like me,” he said. “As we look at the evolving demographics of professionals of color in Grand Rapids, it is vital for the next generation of students and emerging leaders to be able to see their community represented in a positive light.” Ayotte serves on the boards of directors for the Women’s Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Disability Advocates of Kent County and the American Red Cross of West Michigan. He also was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2015 to serve a three-year term on the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.


JEFF LUMPP President, Hylant Grand Rapids Office

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Rachel Bartels, 27

John Behrens, 32

RACHEL BARTELS is part of a small team with a big mission: welcoming newcomers to West Michigan. As a lifelong resident of Michigan’s east side prior to attending Aquinas College, Bartels has spent the past 10 years exploring the “left coast” and falling in love with it. Five years ago, she was hired as a full-time program manager at a new membership-driven talent recruiting organization, Hello West Michigan. In partnership with Executive Director Cindy Brown — her only co-worker — Bartels works to attract talent for member companies, including young people, overseas professionals and “boomerangs” who left the state but are considering moving back. So far, the organization has succeeded in bringing 1,300 job candidates — and their families — to live in the region via marketing, events and education. “We have accomplished a lot in my time here,” she said. “The professional accomplishment I’m most proud of is the multifaceted strategy we’ve developed … to attract and retain talent in West Michigan. As half of a two-person team, it is easy to see my work, effort and ideas in my organization’s final outcomes.” Bartels said she draws on her experience as an outsider — and her time spent abroad living with family in Italy — to empathize with the people she serves. She is career conversation chair for the Association for Corporate Growth’s ACG Cup, has served in various capacities with Grand Rapids Sister Cities International and is founding co-chair of the Aquinas College Women’s Connection, which provides a “noncompetitive community” for women to gather, learn, teach, socialize, share and mentor each other.

THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS after co-founding Farmhaus Cider Co., John Behrens is looking to share its prosperity with the community. Along with his co-owner Megan Odegaard, Behrens and the team at Farmhaus have given back to more than 50 organizations in West Michigan through annual funding commitments and volunteerism. They are able to do so because of the continual growth at the cidery, Behrens said. “My proudest professional accomplishment is having products sold in Meijer and Spartan Stores throughout Michigan while having a separate demanding full-time job as a regional controller at a Fortune 500 company,” said Behrens, referring to his other job at Steelcase. “I am also proud that each year under my leadership, Farmhaus has more than doubled in sales.” Farmhaus beverages took home awards in 2015, 2016 and 2017 at the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition, and the cidery was named one of the “Best of the West” in the cider category by Revue Magazine in its 2017 and 2018 reader polls. Behrens is committee lead for the Michigan Cider Association’s Grand Rapids Cider Week event, which doubled its attendance this year. He also volunteers at his alma mater, Grand Valley State University, speaking in business classes, volunteering Farmhaus to serve as a case study/class project for marketing and advertising students, and hiring students and recent graduates as interns and employees. Behrens is a mentor at Start Garden and sponsor of the pitch competition 5x5 Night, which he said helps “budding entrepreneurs in our area to get off the ground.”

Program manager, talent attraction and retention Hello West Michigan

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President/CEO/co-owner Farmhaus Cider Co.


Luis Avila ’05 Mike Goorhouse ’08 Kyle Van Strien ’07

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2018 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 13

Allison Benczkowski, 37

Peter Beukema, 36

ALLISON BENCZKOWSKI LEARNED from her mom’s example that “a woman can do anything a man can do,” and it’s still paying off today. Benczkowski is a leader in the digital marketing and communications field at a time when the pace of change is rapid and the need for technology training is high. The executive leadership team at SpartanNash nominated her for this award. “Her two most notable projects to date include launching a new career site for SpartanNash, featuring the newly developed employment brand, and the current development and future execution of a new intranet platform to better bring SpartanNash communications to its family of over 15,000 associates,” the team said. Previously, Benczkowski worked for six years as IT marketing and communications manager at Herman Miller, leading change management and employee training as the company deployed new technologies. She is a member of the Michigan Council of Women in Technology and co-chair of its Ignite! mentorship program; a board member of West Michigan Tech Talent’s Grow Work Group; and a regular presenter on the topics of women and technology, mentorship and communication technology strategies at various events, including the Grand Circus coding boot camp and at Grand Valley State University’s Executive MBA classes. Benczkowski is a member of the SpartanNash Foundation grant review committee and the national and regional chapters of the Network of Executive Women. “I believe my personal career path demonstrates anyone can be successful in their respective career fields if they work hard, believe in themselves and focus on helping others more than on helping themselves,” Benczkowski said.

FROM HIS HOBBIES TO his community service, Peter Beukema makes it clear he is passionate about travel and tourism. As a lifelong resident of West Michigan, Beukema became director of operations at Suburban Inns when he was just 23. Along the way, he’s picked up hobbies such as becoming a certified scuba instructor, earning his pilot’s license and promoting Holland and West Michigan as a place for business growth and tourism. As current CEO of Suburban Inns — which owns and operates six hotels in Holland, Grand Rapids and Midland — Beukema has been at the helm as the company has landed on the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For list the past three years, grown to a workforce of 525 employees and seen the Courtyard by Marriott Holland ranked the No. 1 Courtyard property brandwide for “multiple months in a row.” Beukema is a board member of the InterContinental Hotels Group Owners Association, board liaison and chair for the IHG Rewards Club Committee, board member of the Holland SmartZone, past chair of Tulip Time Festival and past commodore of Bayshore Yacht Club. In all his service roles, he has worked to improve the financial status and sustainability of the organizations he served while promoting West Michigan and its businesses. “No one cares more for their team and the West Michigan community than I do,” Beukema said. “Showcasing our neighborhoods to visitors from around the world is what jazzes me.”

Manager, organizational brand communications SpartanNash

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CEO Suburban Inns

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Joshua Conran, 39

Maitlan Cramer, 28

JOSHUA CONRAN IS living proof higher education doesn’t have to be a prerequisite for success. Conran has started, bought and sold 13 businesses in his career without having finished high school or attended college. He currently is managing partner at Deksia, a marketing strategy, brand development and advertising agency founded in 2003 and based in Grand Rapids. He doesn’t point to any one career break as the secret to his success — but said lifelong learning is key. “If I hadn’t made the choice to continue reading after high school, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. “Reading professional books, actively seeking out learning opportunities, and participating in conferences and professional development has made all the difference.” Conran said he tries to surround himself with “happy, healthy, curious, smart and ambitious” people. In 2013, he launched an intern/apprenticeship program that resulted in a 30 percent hiring rate at Deksia. Conran was nominated for this award by six people, including colleagues, business associates, clients, fellow volunteers and friends. Other than growing businesses, Conran enjoys community service. Winner of the Izaak Walton “Ike of the Year” award in 2005, he has been a board member of the Dwight Lydell chapter of the Izaak Walton League, a founding board member and chair of AnchorPoint Christian Schools, youth exchange officer of the Grand Rapids Rotary Club and founding member and past president of the Entrepreneurs Organization of West Michigan. He also has contributed to publications such as Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, Social Media Today and more.

MAITLAN CRAMER HAS taken a page from his mother’s book when it comes to cultivating a strong work ethic. Cramer was raised by a single mom who worked three jobs to cover her children’s needs and set them up for success. Feeling a similar drive, Cramer graduated high school a year early and college a semester early. In college, he worked 50 to 60 hours a week while carrying 20 credits. He now is a principal at Grand Ventures — an early-stage venture capital firm based in Grand Rapids that has so far raised more than $12.5 million — alongside co-founder and managing partner Tim Streit. Cramer split the first 10 years of his career between Denver and San Francisco, and moved back to West Michigan two years ago. Since then, he has been busy getting involved in the community. “I have always been so focused on my career that I never found the time to better my community until I moved back to Grand Rapids,” he said. “Since moving back, I’ve made it one of my missions to continue making Grand Rapids a great place to live and raise a family.” Cramer serves on the board of directors for Ingenium, which helps prepare urban students to succeed in school, the workforce and the community. He also is a member of the Emerging Leaders Council at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where he helps with soliciting donors for fundraising and raising awareness about the organization. Cramer also served as a board observer with TimeDoc and led its series seed financing.

Managing partner Deksia

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Co-founder/principal Grand Ventures

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CONGRATULATIONS TO BOB PETERS! On behalf of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, we appreciate your dedication and hard work for being named as one of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s, “40 under 40 Business Leaders” in West Michigan.

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Mary Dale, 36

Jonathan Dodge, 37

Chief human resources officer Metron Integrated Health Systems

Executive vice president, business development Freshwater Digital

MARY DALE LANDED her first C-suite role at the age of 32. As chief operating officer at Grand Rapids-based Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan, she worked to transform the company’s human resources department. It was named to the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in West Michigan list for the first time in 2010 and every year since. While there, she implemented a wellness program that was recognized by the Best and Brightest program in 2015. Dale joined Metron Integrated Health Systems as chief human resources officer in 2016 and was tasked with bringing the 40-year-old company’s HR department to a position of sustainability. Within a year, she restructured the HR team and implemented a slew of new approaches to talent acquisition, HR information systems, compensation, performance management and employee engagement. She also was instrumental in recruiting talent from the Philippines to solve Metron’s nursing shortage. In 2018, Metron was named to the Best and Brightest list for the first time. Dale has served as co-chair and vice chair of Metro Health-University of Michigan Health’s ImpACT Board, launched in 2017 to engage young professionals in improving public health through organizations such as Mel Trotter Ministries, the Children’s Healing Center, Ele’s Place and Van Andel Institute. During the past year, Dale devoted 600 hours to volunteering with various organizations through ImpACT. “I feel beyond blessed each time I get to participate or volunteer in the community and, quite frankly, get back more from the experience than I give,” Dale said.

JONATHAN DODGE IS most proud of his ability “to create jobs and make an impact in West Michigan.” Nine years after he joined digital media and signage company Freshwater Digital with founder Matt Downey, the business serves several Fortune 500 clients, generates millions in annual revenue and employs 18 people. “I’m very proud that my work at Freshwater helps support job growth in West Michigan,” Dodge said. He also founded an online menu, ordering and delivery platform called SimpleDine in 2003, when the concept of digital ordering “was in its infancy.” A former advertising team member at Meijer, Dodge received his best advice from his then-boss and former Meijer Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Handler, who told him he should decide whether he most wanted to be a merchant or a digital marketer, and if the latter, he should consider branching out on his own. Dodge took the advice seriously and left to create Freshwater on the strength of his ability to “take an idea and turn it into something tangible and real,” he said. A 14-year resident of West Michigan, Dodge spent three years on the board of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) West Michigan chapter and served as a U8 coach, and also has volunteered with Girl Scouts of America West Michigan and the West Michigan chapter of the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He has served in advising capacities to the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas and Michigan State University’s Marketing Board, and also donates to the Humane Society.

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Amanda Fielder, 38

Autumn Fuchs, 30

WHILE STILL IN COLLEGE, Amanda Fielder didn’t know much about the legal industry or where a legal career would take her, but a simple 20-minute interview with two attorneys from Warner Norcross + Judd set her on the path to partner status with the firm. “Warner has been a perfect fit for me,” Fielder said. “I love what I do, I love where I practice and I am excited about our firm’s future.” Warner is preparing to move its team of 300 Grand Rapids-based attorneys and staff to the new office building at 150 Ottawa Ave. NW in 2019, and despite becoming a partner less than four years ago, Fielder was given the honor of chairing the firm’s design committee. “We were looking for a very smart, driven, focused, works-well-with-others individual who can get things done on time and on budget,” said Doug Dozeman, managing partner with Warner Norcross + Judd. “Amanda was the perfect choice. She is in tune with the needs of all of our Warner attorneys and staff.” As chair of the design committee, Fielder is responsible for overseeing an approximately 10-person committee focused on creating a more efficient client service space and encouraging the development of lasting relationships. “To supplement this, I am also identifying ways to better utilize technology and attract new talent and retain existing talent,” she said. Fielder also is a sitting member of the Warner Norcross + Judd Management Committee, co-chair of Kids’ Food Basket Construction Committee and member of the Inner City Christian Federation Advisory Committee.

BEING GRITTY, STUBBORN and determined, in her own words, were a few of the traits that have elevated Autumn Fuchs to her current status in the world of interior design. Her company, Fuchsia Design, now helps clients build homes ranging from $500,000 to $20 million. Fuchs’ career path was an uphill battle, even during her academic years. Choosing to go to college for interior design drew heavy criticism from friends, family members and even teachers who thought she was wasting her talent and intelligence on a nearly obsolete industry. “I’m the type of person that is pushed even harder when I’m told I can’t do something, and those who haven’t believed in me are the ones who have inspired me to get to where I am today,” she said. Graduating college in 2010, Fuchs hit the building industry during a time when jobs were few and far between, but she still managed to land a job when other interior designers with over 10 years of experience had their positions eliminated. Her first design job out of college, she said, granted her the skills necessary to land a second job as a residential interior designer and, later, to start her own firm. “Others are often surprised that I develop electrical plans, plumbing diagrams and every other detail that comes with building a luxury home,” Fuchs said. This year, she began her position as secretary of the Professional Women in Building Council, an organization dedicated to promoting, enhancing and supporting women in the home-building business.

Partner Warner Norcross + Judd

Owner/interior designer Fuchsia Design

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Tanya Gibbs, 32

Mike Goorhouse, 32

Partner Rosette LLP

President/CEO Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area

IN ONLY FOUR years as a licensed attorney, Tanya Gibbs achieved partner status with Rosette LLP, a nationally recognized, majority Native American-owned law firm. Although she said she always intended to practice law, Gibbs never imagined doing so with local tribes. During her first year of law school, she met a tribal councilor from the Little Traverse Bay Bands (LTBB) of Odawa Indians, who encouraged her to apply for a legal internship with the band. “My experience with LTBB helped me to establish a solid foundation for both tribal government and business development, which helped me get to where I am today,” Gibbs said. Gibbs specializes in nongaming economic development and business transactions for tribally owned businesses. She works with tribal governments and leadership to develop tribal law that allows for the creation, operation and dissolutions of various business entities and industries, and advises tribal-owned businesses on day-to-day issues like contracting, employment, financing, business creation, and mergers and acquisitions. She currently serves as president of the board of directors for Odawa Economic Development Management Inc., a tribally chartered corporation owned and operated by the LTBB. Gibbs also has served five years as chairperson of the American Indian Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan and seven years as vice chairperson of SECOM Resource Center. While both terms expire in 2018, Gibbs actively has been seeking new board, committee and volunteer opportunities in Grand Rapids for 2019. “I look forward to supporting different organizations that will help meet the needs of the Grand Rapids community,” she said.

MIKE GOORHOUSE SAID HE got his biggest break when the board of the Community Foundation of the Holland/ Zeeland Area appointed him president and CEO at just 27 years old. “They took a chance on a young leader when they could have easily hired a more seasoned, veteran nonprofit or philanthropic executive,” Goorhouse said. The chance paid off. Elizabeth Kidd, vice president of community impact for CFHZ, said Goorhouse led the foundation through its largest year ever in 2017 with $9.7 million in total gifts and bringing the foundation’s total assets to $73 million, a $20-million jump from when he first stepped in to lead the organization in 2014. “Never one to rest on his laurels, Mike has continued this upward trend in 2018 with $2.4 million in first quarter gifts,” Kidd said. In 2018, Goorhouse was named to American Enterprise Institute’s Leadership Network, received the Holland/ Zeeland Young Professionals’ Leadership Matters award, and CFHZ was the recipient of Local First’s Good for Employees award. Within the past year, Goorehouse spearheaded the launch of a large collaborative effort around affordable housing in Ottawa County, completed an over $35-million endowment campaign for the CFHZ and became a soughtafter thought leader on how recent federal tax change could impact charitable giving. “Because of my position as the president/CEO of a $75-million foundation, I am privileged to take part and lead high-level strategic conversations on community issues and priorities, not only in the Holland/Zeeland area but in the broader West Michigan region, as well,” he said.

20 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2018


KEVIN PATTERSON for being nominated and selected as a member of the Grand Rapids Business Journal 2018 40 Under 40.

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Kristian Grant, 31

Tara Hernandez, 36

Development manager/content developer ArtPrize/Mini Mogul Academy

Marketing and communications director Gerald R. Ford International Airport

KRISTIAN GRANT PRIDES herself on creating innovative projects and collaborations that have lasting outcomes. Since founding Mini Mogul Group in 2013, she has led programs teaching countless children the ins and outs of business ownership. “I believe that not only my commitment to our city but my ongoing passion to make this a better place for so many is a reflection of where we are headed and why I am proud to be seen as a change agent here,” Grant said. The crown jewel of Grant’s organization, Mini Mogul Academy, is a course that prepares elementary school-aged students for a future in business ownership. Grant also has partnered this program with ArtPrize to curate ArtPrize Education Days, a free 19-day series of classes with topics like “defining what art is” and “art as a way to advocate for things that are important to you.” On top of her achievements with her own company, Grant also has had the success of being elected to serve as the youngest member of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education in 2016. During her tenure, she has spearheaded several initiatives and partnerships to bring resources, global exposure and access to students. Grant has served four years on the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Goal 4 Alliance, where she has helped create systems to give small minority businesses placement and seed money to help them thrive in downtown Grand Rapids. Grant also was the recipient of the 2017 Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses Young & Gifted Award.

TARA HERNANDEZ said transitioning from a 10-year career in sports broadcasting to one in public relations for Gerald R. Ford International Airport is the greatest professional achievement on her list. “I was intimidated at first, not speaking ‘aviation talk’ and not knowing the inner workings of the airport, but now I feel so comfortable in this role. I truly enjoy what I do every day,” Hernandez said. Her success in public relations is evident in her achievements. In 2015, she placed first in the Airports Council International-North America Excellence in Airport Marketing, Communications and Customer Service Awards, and she achieved her National Transportation Safety Board certification in managing communications following an aircraft accident or incident. Her work in aviation communications is preceded by numerous accolades in her previous career as a sports anchor and reporter, including winning first place in 2010 for feature reporting from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters and best feature reporting in 2011 from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. “When I wanted to be a sports anchor, I told my dad that not a lot of women were in that field,” Hernandez said. “He told me, ‘You can do anything a man can do, don’t forget that.’ I went on to become the first female sports anchor in the Augusta, Georgia, market and only the second — and longest tenured — in Grand Rapids.” Hernandez is a volunteer for the Literacy Center of West Michigan and serves on both the Experience Grand Rapids Diversity Council and the West Michigan Sports Commission Advisory Council.

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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. Scott Ayotte, ‘08, Division of Inclusion and Equity John Behrens, ‘09 & ‘16 Mike Goorhouse, ‘11 Michael Keast, ‘07 Ryan Kilpatrick, ‘06 Veronica Kirin, ‘09 Joshua Lunger, ‘12 David W. Olson Jr., ‘04 Kevin L. Patterson, ‘04 & ‘05 Abigayle Sladick, ‘07 & ‘18 Kyle VanStrien, ‘12


2018 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 23

Joseph M. Infante, 38

Jonathan Jelks, 33

THE PRACTICE OF craft beverage litigation barely existed in the United States 10 years ago until Joseph Infante decided to start his own. The head of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone’s alcoholic beverage regulation team now has become so revered in the practice that other law firms in Michigan are trying to emulate his work. “I wanted a practice that I built on my own in an area I was interested in,” Infante said. “By sitting down with brewery owners and learning the business from going to industry conferences, I was able to create a practice that was entirely my own.” As a young litigator with Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone in Grand Rapids, Infante said he had the freedom to continue his litigation practice while also developing a new craft beverage practice. Now, he serves as an outside general counsel to nearly 100 breweries, wineries and distilleries across the U.S. and advises them on myriad issues faced by alcoholic beverage companies, including distribution agreements and disputes, regulatory compliance, trademark issues, litigation, licensing and branding. Infante also is the co-founder of the Craft Beverage Lawyers Guild and has served for two years as its president. The guild is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the legal services received by the craft beverage industry. He was a recipient of Hospice of Michigan’s 2017 Crystal Rose Award for volunteer of the year and raised over $750,000 through the annual Barley, BBQ & Beats fundraiser he created.

JONATHAN JELKS HAS left a significant mark on his community. Aside from his crowning achievement in co-founding the Midwest Tech Project, he has been a key player in several other minority advancement efforts throughout Grand Rapids. Jelks also is a founding member of the city of Grand Rapids mayoral task force, where he has worked with city leaders to come up with viable ways to prevent violence and crime in the core city by creating jobs and helping seed businesses that anchor growth, empowerment and vibrancy. “The accomplishment I’m most proud of is co-founding the Midwest Tech Project, a diversity in tech think tank mentoring program and advocacy organization that focuses on connecting underserved populations to the workforce of the future,” Jelks said. The Midwest Tech Project has organized events like the area’s first bilingual technology fair at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School, drawing 400 community members to engage with tech firms about how they can access jobs in the industry. He also is the co-founder of GR USA, an apparel company specializing in clothing items demonstrating Grand Rapids pride, and co-founder of Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses’ GRABB 5 Business Accelerator program, a sixmonth program designed to offer counsel and resources to help accelerate black-owned businesses. Jelks’ accolades include being the youngest recipient of the Grand Rapids Community College Bob and Alicia Woodrick Giant Award, winner of the Dr. Malinda P. Sapp Grand Rapids Symphony of Soul Legacy Award and winner of the 2018 Best Community Event at the Grandy’s Awards for the Midwest Tech Project.

Senior partner Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone

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Principal/co-founder Midwest Tech Project

Luke Kujacznski on being honored in the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2018. We’re inspired by the way you’re fostering positive change in our community.

From your friends at

Michael Keast, 37

Ryan Kilpatrick, 38

MICHAEL KEAST SAID there is no greater accomplishment than serving a cause greater than one’s self, and as a decorated Marine Corps vet, he’s taken the same approach to his role as vice president of commercial banking for Chemical Bank. Over the past 15 years, Keast has advanced his career from teller into a commercial relationship manager within the banking industry. He has served as assistant vice president/commercial relationship manager with Independent Bank Corporation and First National Bank of Michigan, and as senior BLC loan underwriter for Fifth Third Bank before coming into his current role with Chemical Bank. “My biggest professional break was when I came to work for Chemical Bank,” Keast said. “The leadership team saw my potential and took a chance on pulling me away from the operation center at Fifth Third, which allowed me to get back out in front of the community.” Today, Keast manages a commercial banking portfolio of about $100 million of loans and over $11 million of deposit balances. He attributed his leadership qualities, teamwork and attention to detail from his time as a Marine. From his enlistment in 2000 to his honorable discharge in 2004, he became a student of Marine Corps Security Forces Training, served as a foreign diplomat to the U.K. and deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For his services in Iraq, Keast received the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” for valor. Keast also has served in numerous positions with the Mid-Michigan Banking Group and serves as treasurer of the West Michigan Veteran Coalition.

RYAN KILPATRICK SAID his first year with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation was like drinking from a fire hose. When he started in late 2014, the market for new urban development projects was heating up across West Michigan, and he was thrown headfirst into the world of development finance and the state investment process. But his initial baptism set him up for success as the first executive director for Housing Next, a communitywide, cross-sector collaborative focused on lowering the cost of housing. The Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland and the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation came together to form Housing Next, and CFHZ President and CEO Mike Goorhouse said Kilpatrick is one of the best change agents in the Holland/Zeeland area. “In just six months, he has taken our community by storm and is building a coalition that is meaningfully tackling an issue that many communities are facing,” Goorhouse said. “He has individual residents, housing nonprofit leaders, business leaders and public sector leaders aligned around a market-based strategy that can work for a larger portion of our community.” Kilpatrick said the biggest influence on his life was working for his dad at engineering firm Williams & Works out of college. The experience taught him how to craft public policy and build consensus around projects Kilpatrick also sits on the city of Grand Rapids Board of Zoning Appeals and the Affordable Housing Fund Board, where he is working to establish a funding mechanism for housing in the city.

Vice president of commercial banking Chemical Bank

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Executive director Housing Next

Veronica Kirin, 32

Kate Kocienski, 34

Author/entrepreneur coach/speaker Veronica Kirin Inc.

Vice president of marketing and public relations Grand Rapids Public Museum

VERONICA KIRIN has been busy as the founder of several companies, nonprofits and programs. She recently sold the website management and design company GreenCup, which she founded at age 26 and was honored as a 2017 Top Women Owned Business. She founded her first nonprofit at age 24. Kirin now uses all those experiences in her latest business as an entrepreneur coach for women of the LGBTQ community. “I want to show this city that a queer woman who developed businesses in industries that don’t represent her can achieve great things,” she said. “That despite any naysayers, hard work and dedication can pay off.” Her book, “Stories of Elders,” was released Sept. 30. After 3½ years of writing and driving 11,500 miles across the country to interview 100 members of the Greatest Generation, she put the stories together to show how technology has affected the world. One of three nominators said: “I’ve witnessed her passion for helping others, her hard work, dedication and discipline. She’s one of the most intelligent people I know.” Kirin has done much volunteering, public speaking and other community involvement. She currently visits businesses to verify applications to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. In 2009, she was a tsunami first responder in the U.S. territory of American Samoa. She worked on Hurricane Katrina relief projects through AmeriCorps in 2006. Kirin has received numerous awards and recognition for her business and volunteer work, including the Gold Congressional Medal for Volunteerism, bestowed by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

KATE KOCIENSKI MOVED to West Michigan in 2012 from her hometown in rural upstate New York for a marketing job at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. When she first visited Grand Rapids to interview for the job, she immediately “fell in love” with the museum and the city and its people. Later being promoted to the museum’s vice president of marketing and public relations, Kocienski has worked hard to ensure the museum’s longevity, completing projects such as a five-year strategic plan, full rebrand, successful county millage initiative and new programming. The wider community has benefitted from her work, as well. Kocienski has had leadership involvement with the Grand Rapids Maker Faire, low-sensory programming, launch of the newly renovated Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, pop-up exhibitions of the museum’s collection and more. She recently joined the board of directors for the Association of Midwest Museums, primarily working on the regional museum conference to be held in Grand Rapids next year. She has been on the West Michigan Tourism Association board for five years. Kocienski said she is dedicated to making a community impact through her work to bring cultural activity to West Michigan. “Everything I do is for the public,” Kocienski said. “I look at projects through a human-centered design approach.” Her nominator said: “Over the years, I have witnessed Kate’s ability to represent not only the museum but the best interests of the community, and to contribute in a way that leads to successful results while bringing out the best in everyone.”

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Luis Avila! A 2018 “40 Under Forty” Business Leader

   

Contact Luis Avila at 616/336-6895 or leavila@varnumlaw.com

Labor and employment relations Immigration Employment litigation defense Community leader, mentor, role model

Ann Arbor | Detroit | Grand Haven | Grand Rapids | Hastings | Kalamazoo | Lansing | Novi

2018 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 29

Luke Kujacznski, 37

Jeshua Lauka, 37

LUKE KUJACZNSKI BEGAN at the nonprofit Urban Alliance as a volunteer, eventually climbing the ladder all the way to his current role as executive director. He was just three months into a director position when the former executive director suffered a medical emergency, and Kujacznski stepped in. “Though I barely knew any of the board members, an immense amount of trust was extended my way,” Kujacznski said. “With very little experience leading a nonprofit and working to understand the complexity of the work, I reflect with gratitude on the opportunity provided to me.” Kujacznski’s business journey began at age 23, when he founded and ran an insulation company for seven years before exiting for a new venture. He said Urban Alliance has made improvements to the way formerly incarcerated people are viewed. His work has contributed to changed entrance requirements at community colleges and changed hiring policies at dozens of businesses. The organization recently launched the Urban Alliance Technical Center to provide free technical skills to the economically disadvantaged. “The labor force is in dire need of people, but we have had the talent within our reach,” he said. “The work of re-establishing value to a portion of the population is absolutely critical to the prosperity for our region.” Kujacznski is board president of the Kalamazoo Covenant Academy, having led the board through its first full year. He also is an advisory board member of the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Groves Center.

JESHUA LAUKA CERTAINLY has left his mark in the six years he has lived in Grand Rapids. He practices business, real estate, and estate and trust law at David & Wierenga, P.C., developing a focus in representing West Michigan startup businesses and entrepreneurs. Lauka was named a Michigan Rising Star by Super Lawyers for the years 2013-16, an honor given to no more than 2.5 percent of lawyers in the state annually. Outside of work, Lauka has provided leadership and volunteering to many causes. His nominator described him as someone who “has achieved great professional success with integrity and humility, valuing people and relationships more highly than personal gain.” Among many volunteer activities, Lauka is a mentor at Stocking Elementary through Kids Hope USA, a football coach in Grandville, and a member and mentor for Christian Business Men’s Connections of Grand Rapids. He is a board member of Mel Trotter Ministries and Stockbridge Boiler Room, and is on the transportation committee for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. As a former board member, he provided the legal work for Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence to receive 501(c)(3) designation. He also has served as co-chair of Leadership for Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids and on the Manasseh Project advisory committee, Michigan Political Leadership Program fundraising committee and CityServe Grand Rapids fundraising committee. “The ways that I have chosen to use my time, talent and treasure hopefully reflect that success in my life has been defined by serving others,” Lauka said.

Executive director Urban Alliance

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Attorney David & Wierenga, P.C.

Michael Lomonaco, 38

Jeff Lumpp, 33

MICHAEL LOMONACO’S PASSION for IT and his community seems to shine in everything he does. From his job as director of marketing and communications for the IT services and consulting company Open Systems Technologies to his involvement in many community organizations, Lomonaco’s nominator, OST President and CEO Meredith Bronk, said he “commits his heart and passion” to it all. “Mike is willing to do the hard work necessary to make a difference,” she said. Since he started at OST in 2011, Lomonaco has grown the marketing department to seven people. Over the past 18 months, he completed a rebrand and launched the new OST IT consulting brand OpenDigital, done by what he calls his diverse, cross-functional team. Lomonaco is a founding member of The Right Place’s Technology Council of West Michigan, meant to elevate IT collaboration and thought leadership throughout the region. He is a board member of The Channel Company as well as the West Side Corridor Improvement District, working to elevate its three business districts. He is on the boards of the John Ball Zoo, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. He also volunteers as a mentor and coach. Lomonaco has won multiple awards, including being named a 40 Under 40 honoree in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. “In the end, I want to leave a legacy that my family and, especially my children, can be proud of and build upon to help make our community a special one for all people who choose to live here,” Lomonaco said.

AT AGE 28, JEFF LUMPP became Fifth Third Bank’s youngest CFO and senior management team member. That was after the bank recognized him as a top emerging leader two years earlier. At age 32, he was named Grand Rapids president of the family-owned insurance brokerage company Hylant. A year in, he was awarded ownership of the local firm after quadrupling average annual sales. Lumpp believes his passion for and openness to learning, and his ability to do so quickly, is a major piece of what brought him big opportunities at such a young age. “It has been a wonderful journey and sometimes a tough journey, but I continue to be a student and believe that has empowered me to continue to work hard and keep learning,” he said. He credited his parents with instilling qualities for success, both of them teaching kindness and empathy. All four of Lumpp’s nominators praised him as a skilled young professional and a passionate community member. He is a board member of John Ball Zoo, working to begin the process for an expansion. In his board role with the Mary Free Bed YMCA, Lumpp is guiding the group through change, strategic planning and community relationships. He also is a board member of Senior Neighbors and the Davenport University Alumni Board. Lumpp has been a board member for Financial Executives International and Big Brothers Big Sisters in Toledo. He has other leadership roles with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Heart of West Michigan United Way and Hylant’s volunteer program.

Director of marketing and communications Open Systems Technologies

President Hylant Grand Rapids

2018 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 31

Joshua Lunger, 31

Amy Marshall, 32

Director of government affairs Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

Co-owner Management Business Solutions

JOSHUA LUNGER SAID his leadership roles at a young age have helped him represent Grand Rapids-area businesses. As director of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Lunger was a leader in major energy reform negotiations that led to “one of the largest legislative victories” in the chamber’s 130-year history, the result of 2½ years of work opposed by some influential businesses. Through dozens of meetings and leading a coalition, he played a major role in stopping chamber-opposed versions of legislation. West Michigan legislators had aligned with the chamber’s position, and days before final passage of legislation, the governor’s office began negotiating a compromise. Andy Johnston, vice president of government affairs, said Lunger always inclusively considers the broader impact of policy decisions in his work. Lunger started his chamber career with little experience and attributed much of his growth to his boss, Johnston. “I have been allowed to try, and sometimes fail, to take on big, thrilling and scary challenges that have helped me develop confidence and the ability to be an effective leader on significant issues,” Lunger said. He was a veteran squad leader of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which took him to Iraq for 15 months. He continued Michigan Army National Guard service through 2010. Lunger is vice chair of Mobile GR Commission and member of the Grand Rapids Stormwater Oversight Commission and Kent County Housing Commission. Formerly on the Sustainable Streets Task Force, he oversaw investment strategy to improve Grand Rapids’ roads.

AMY MARSHALL SAID she carries with her the values she learned from her paternal grandparents every day. She is “beyond grateful” for the sacrifices they made to move from Ecuador with their children in pursuit of the “American Dream.” “I have learned a lot from both and can say that dreams can come true through hard work, perseverance and staying true to yourself,” Marshall said. “I carry these values with me each and every day.” If anyone is an example of that dream come true, it’s Marshall. Besides becoming co-owner of Management Business Solutions in 2014, Marshall is very active in the community, working to create opportunities for youth and professionals, including others from the Latino community. Marshall is in her third year as board chair of Spartan Stores YMCA, having recently implemented a three-year strategic plan focused on youth development and creating stronger community partnerships. She is a board member of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, working on such initiatives as Transformando West Michigan, which strives to promote Hispanic businesses, and Building Bridges Through Education, connecting Latino students with area employers. During her work on the Davenport University Employer advisory board, the school began utilizing internal tools she created for its internship program. Marshall recently created the Aquinas College Alumni Leadership Council, which saw more than 60 senior-year students interested in connecting with alumni. Marshall also was a 40 Under 40 recipient in 2010 and 2012, and one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan in 2014.

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Coming in March 2019! Ticket and more event information will be announced this winter!

2019 GRBJ Top Women-Owned Businesses Awards Nominate your favorite women-owned businesses today! Visit bit.ly/twob19nom or get the link at grbj.com. Nomination deadline is November 19, 2018.

Contact sponsor@grbj.com for sponsorship opportunities.

Rachel Mraz, 37

Leandra Nisbet, 34

RACHEL MRAZ is a busy woman, making national waves as a young wealth management adviser at Merrill Lynch. She has held leadership roles with at least 16 community organizations, including 10 presently. Mraz was named among the 2018 Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Advisors and as one of the 2017 Forbes Top 500 Millennial Advisors in America, chosen from 19,000 nominations. She credited her late mother, Eileen DeVries, who worked for the same company, as helping Mraz establish herself in the male-dominated field of investments. She now heads the Eileen DeVries Family Foundation. Mraz recently finished a board chair term for Saint Mary’s Hospital Foundation, the second woman and youngest chair elected. She also is involved with the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Van Andel Institute, Davenport University Foundation and Family Business Alliance. The Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding successfully completed fundraising and facility renovation during an economic downturn with Mraz as its capital campaign chair. “Needless to say, I feel strongly about women in leadership roles in philanthropic boards and want to work to set examples for future business and philanthropic leaders,” Mraz said. Mraz has been a GRBJ 40 Under 40 honoree in 2007, 2009-11, 2013-15 and 2017, as well as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Her passion outside of work is for endangered animal welfare. She is a John Ball Zoo board member and has traveled internationally to support animal protection organizations and their local economies.

LEANDRA NISBET is a self-made entrepreneur dedicated to helping other local businesses and professionals. A second-generation small business owner, Nisbet said she has worked very hard to create opportunities, challenge herself and continue learning. “I don’t shy away from challenges; instead, I use them as motivators,” she said. She said completing her MBA at Davenport University was her biggest professional milestone, as it gave her the knowledge to leave the corporate banking field and launch her own business. Now, she said she wants to continue giving back. “I am passionate about helping others, sharing my gifts and talents, and helping to improve our community,” Nisbet said. As owner of Stingray Advisory Group — a GRBJ 2017 Top Women Owned Business — and co-owner of Gold Leaf Designs, she assists businesses with developing and implementing strategies for growth and sustainability. Nisbet serves as a mentor for the Grand Valley State University Seidman Professional Mentorship Program and on the finance committee of the Women’s Resource Center. She also is an adjunct instructor at Davenport University. In Nisbet’s role as treasurer — and only female board member — of Grand Rapids Inventors Network, she worked with several inventors and startups with market viability exploration, product launches and marketing. She also is an advisory council member of Michigan Women Forward. She served as the development director and public relations director of Grand Rapids Young Professionals, as well as the president and other roles of the Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence.

Wealth management adviser Merrill Lynch

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Owner Stingray Advisory Group

Fire up

Autumn! Congratulations to Autumn Fuchs, ‘10, one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 Under 40.” Autumn is an outstanding example of CMU’s dedication to graduating leaders ready to put their stamp on the world.


CMU, an AA/EO institution, strongly and actively strives to increase diversity and provide equal opportunity within its community. CMU does not discriminate against persons based on age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, height, marital status, national origin, political persuasion, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, race, religion, sex, sex-based stereotypes, sexual orientation, transgender status, veteran status, or weight (see http://www.cmich.edu/ocrie). UComm 3746931

10 YEARS 2018 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 35

David W. Olson Jr., 38

Kevin L. Patterson, 36

DAVID OLSON JR. is the youngest executive managing director at Principal Financial Group, a financial institution that employs over 16,000 people who serve more than 22 million clients. Olson leads 110 advisers, administrators and staff across the Great Lakes region in the business marketplace, helping manage the relationship of several thousand businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Aside from his professional responsibilities, Olson is pursuing his passion for culinary arts. He has been publicly recognized for his work as a chef, being unanimously elected to the American Culinary Federation board. Olson has been a member of ACF for two years, raising more than $350,000 for culinary education scholarships alongside GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education and to help Kids’ Food Basket underwrite the significant expense of fighting childhood hunger across West Michigan. Olson has taken his love for culinary arts to different mediums. “As a chef, annually I appear on dozens of television programs and host events from coast to coast, this year filming from New York to Atlanta and Chicago, and appearing on the likes of PBS’ Emmy Award-winning program, ‘A Moveable Feast,’ Fine Cooking magazine, NASCAR and the Travel Channel’s ‘Man vs. Food,’” he said. Olson also was a co-founder of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Transformando West Michigan, an initiative designed to reduce barriers for Hispanic business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as create and support educational programs for Hispanic students. He said founding the nonprofit was his proudest professional accomplishment.

JULY 1, 2017, marks a special date for Kevin Patterson. On that date, Patterson became the first Asian audit partner of BDO Grand Rapids in its 99-year history. He also is BDO Grand Rapids’ youngest audit partner by seven years. Before he became a partner, he was the audit senior manager since starting with the firm in 2014. During that time, he has served on numerous boards for BDO, including the BDO Sales/Networking Leaders board, which has donated 1 percent of BDO Grand Rapids’ annual West Michigan revenues to local nonprofit organizations. That amounted to $1.6 million, from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2018, which was donated to organizations including Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes, the YMCA, Goodwill and many more. Patterson also is a member of the Titan Business Challenge Committee and the board of directors for Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes. The committee is in the process of raising money to move forward with building a $10-million Free Enterprise Center in Grand Rapids, which will support the financial education of young students. Patterson credited current boss and career mentor Tony Lawrence as having a major influence on his professional career and life, saying Lawrence “empowered me to go above and beyond when auditing (clients) and when mentoring colleagues.” “I would not be where I am without Tony’s professional and personal teachings, and I try to emulate him by mentoring and helping others just like Tony helped me,” Patterson said.

Executive managing director Principal Financial Group

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Audit partner BDO USA, LLP

Leonard Peters, 37

Jennifer L. Remondino, 37

SOMETIMES THE MOST influential people in life are the ones who have caused the most heartache. That is what happened to Leonard (Bob) Peters when his father abandoned his family without any warning signs. It taught Peters everything he didn’t want to be, and it has given him a source of motivation and compassion. His hunger for success has led him to become the tribal council treasurer of Gun Lake Tribe. Over the last four years as treasurer, he helped form Gun Lake Investments, where he was instrumental in growing its staff size from one employee to 500 in 2017. Peters oversaw the $75-million expansion of the Gun Lake Casino and played a significant role in transitioning Gun Lake Tribe from its Stations Casino Management Agreement to taking full control over its gaming enterprise. He also negotiated a multimillion-dollar capital contribution for Gun Lake Investments. “I take great pride in monitoring all of the tribe’s portfolios,” Peters said. “I am extremely proud to have negotiated the request for capital for Gun Lake Investments. This was a huge accomplishment for both GLI and myself. I was successfully able to have an annual contribution for the next three years approved, resulting in tens of millions of dollars funded to GLI.” While he is making significant strides in helping the Gun Lake Tribe community, he also is attending Western Michigan University, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business and is expected to graduate in 2020.

BEING INDUCTED INTO the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel is no easy task, according to Jennifer Remondino. “An invitation to join ACTEC is a career pinnacle for anyone in my profession,” she said of her nomination last year. Remondino is one of 53 members of the Michigan Bar who is a fellow of the prestigious organization, which is reserved for attorneys who have spent more than a decade in the legal realm of trust and estate management. Having practiced law for just 11 years, Remondino is one of the youngest members of ACTEC. She was deemed an excellent candidate to become a fellow due to her reputation, skills and contributions to law by lecturing, writing, teaching and participating in bar association activities. “I am also one of the youngest attorneys to be elected into Warner Norcross + Judd’s partnership (at age 31 in 2013) and the first female to be named as the executive partner in any of our eight offices,” she said. Remondino said ACTEC is by far her biggest professional achievement, but she also accomplished another rare feat that landed her in a position to be recognized as a fellow of the ACTEC; at 24, she became an associate for Warner, the largest law firm headquartered in West Michigan and one of the largest in the state. Remondino credited her mother and her three children as her biggest inspirations. “My children have reinforced my general approach to life, which is one of optimism and a can-do attitude,” she said.

Tribal council treasurer Gun Lake Tribe

38 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2018

Partner Warner Norcross + Judd


aquinas.edu 2018 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 39

Steffanie Rosalez, 35

Chris Sain, 35

Cook Arts Center director Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities

CEO/founder Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Inc.

STEFFANIE ROSALEZ HAS been described as an “inspiring leader.” She is the director of the Cook Arts Center at Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, and earlier this year, when the organization was without an executive director, she went beyond her director position, managing the staff and the organization’s programming, and assisting the board and other leaders during the transition. She has helped start new programs such as the Girls Rock! Grand Rapids program, a group dedicated to empowering girls and women through music, and a Teen Leaders program. Rosalez is on numerous boards, including the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs as a grant panel member. She is responsible for reading and scoring hundreds of grants each year to recommend funding for art projects throughout the state of Michigan. Each year, panel committee members influence where millions of state and federal dollars are spent. She also is the organizational partner for Plaza Roosevelt Partners, which is made up of eight organizations and a neighborhood committee that currently are working to enhance the physical, service, educational, health care and social environments of the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. Rosalez is the co-founder and curator of Cultura Collective, which was selected as the winner for the juried installation award during ArtPrize 2016. She also shared the curatorial award for the best venue of 2016. Rosalez is a leadership team member of the Greater Grand Rapids Racial Equity Network, a member of the Neighborhood Match Fund Committee and committee member of LadyfestGR, which celebrates the beauty, complexity and power of women.

THIS YEAR MARKS the 10th anniversary of Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Inc., which provides sports opportunities and educational resources for at-risk youth. Chris Sain, founder of Grand C.I.T.Y. said one of his biggest obstacles was having the courage to open a nonprofit. As an African-American, Sain said he had difficulty acquiring loans and grants. Despite the lack of financial support at times, he was determined not to give up. “Very few minority-owned and -operated businesses last three years,” Sain said. “Even fewer make it to 10 years. Patience and persistence are hallmarks of who we are. Despite challenges, we continue to impact our community in a major way, never complaining, never making excuses. Simply finding a way by any means necessary.” Grand C.I.T.Y. allows young people to compete in sports like youth football. There also is a Basketball and Leadership Academy, which offers monthly basketball skills training for girls and boys. Grand C.I.T.Y. also has mentoring programs, workshops and a reading club. On top of running the nonprofit, Sain is involved in a number of community organizations. He is the vice president of the Greater Grand Rapids chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a member of the mayor’s SAFE Task Force, which attempts to lower violence in Grand Rapids communities. As a member of the task force, Sain helped procure body cameras for all GRPD officers to improve transparency, and police and community relationships. Sain is a three-time 40 Under 40 honoree, having been nominated in 2016 and 2017.

40 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2018

Ryan Schmidt, 37

Abigayle Sladick, 33

Vice president of real estate development and management ICCF Nonprofit Housing Corp.

Vice president of communication Mel Trotter Ministries

AFFORDABLE HOUSING OFTEN falls in the shadows of growth and wealth in the Grand Rapids real estate market. Ryan Schmidt is working to help residents who are at a financial disadvantage not be forgotten in the booming real estate market. Schmidt is the vice president of real estate development and management of Inner City Christian Federation Nonprofit Housing Corp., which helps low-income families find housing. Schmidt has been working with ICCF since 2011 and, during his tenure, has helped grow the organization’s available housing. When Schmidt first started, there were 96 affordable apartments in Grand Rapids. Since then, the number of units that are either complete or funded and in active development has grown to 576. That is a 500 percent increase in the span of seven years. A large part of the growth happened in 2017, when 213 single-family homes were purchased from a Chicago real estate firm. “We saw this as an opportunity to creatively address the affordable housing needs in our community without the need of chasing government funding mechanisms typically needed to make these programs work,” Schmidt said. By utilizing 16 sources of funding, ICCF was able to purchase the properties, invest in capital improvements, hold rent steady for existing families and offer current renters the opportunity to purchase the homes. On top of his duties at ICCF, Schmidt is treasurer for HQ, a drop-in center for homeless and runaway youth in Grand Rapids. He also helped the group become an independent 501(c)(3) organization, diversified the donor base and created financial stability.

ABIGAYLE SLADICK HAS a passion for helping the marginalized, the forgotten ones. Her desire to help people who do not have the resources to help themselves led her to Mel Trotter Ministries, where she serves as the vice president of communication. She has played a pivotal role in bringing attention to homelessness in West Michigan. Sladick has brought the issue of homelessness to the forefront of the community by educating the public through numerous events. Since her promotion in 2017, she has organized Mel Trotter Ministries’ annual Mel Trotter Turkey Drop, Thanksgiving Day dinner and crowdfunding events, including raising more than $30,000 for refrigerated trucks to transport food to and from Mel Trotter Ministries. Before joining the nonprofit in 2015 as the director of communication, Sladick held different titles in the communications industry. She returned to her alma mater, Grand Valley State University — where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees — to become the assistant director of alumni relations. Prior to that, she was a marketing and communications director, and a news reporter/photojournalist. Aside from her work with Mel Trotter Ministries, she is actively involved in her community as a board member of the communications committee at the West Michigan Public Relations Society. She serves as a liaison to Pine Rest Foundation Board’s PR Connect — a young professionals board committed to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health. Sladick also volunteers at Olivet Evangelical Free Church and the GVSU Alumni Association.

42 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2018

Congratulations TO THIS YEAR’S 40 UNDER 40 honorees and our Distinguished Alumnus, Rich MacKeigan. We look forward to following your progress in the future!


Kyle Van Strien, 33

Daniel Williams, 39

Owner/co-founder Long Road Distillers

President/CEO West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology

DESPITE PRODUCING a number of award-winning spirits, Long Road Distillers owner Kyle Van Strien said he has no shortage of motivation to continue improving. “It’s our production team, our managers, our servers, bartenders, cooks and dishwashers (who) push me to be a better leader each day,” he said. “Thinking about how to motivate them, elevate them in their careers and inspire them is what keeps me up at night.” Long Road Distillers’ Long Road Aquavit won the “Best of Show” award at the American Craft Spirit Association awards in 2017 after beating more than 800 entries from distilleries across North America. In 2018, the company was named one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch by Michigan Celebrates Small Business. In addition to co-running an internationally recognized distillery, Van Strien has been chair of the Grand Rapids Planning Commission for the past two years, serving on the board in various capacities for a total of six years. He also serves as a mentor for potential business leaders at Grand Valley State University’s Cook Leadership Academy. “Kyle has been committed to improving and growing the business climate in Grand Rapids through his entrepreneurial efforts, his public service and his mentoring of the next generation of leaders,” said Jon O’Connor, co-owner of Long Road. Van Strien is a three-time 40 Under 40 honoree, winning in 2016 and 2017, and Long Road is a two-time Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year winner in the beverage category, winning in 2015 and 2017.

DANIEL WILLIAMS IS an ambassador for racial equity and inclusion in the Grand Rapids community. As president and CEO of West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology, he said he is determined to help everyone, regardless of race or religion, to excel both educationally and socially. Through his leadership, WMCAT has raised $8.5 million to help the arts organization double in size to accommodate the growing numbers of teens, adults, students and staff. Williams said while the graduation rates and test scores produced are great indicators of success, the real success “lies in the fact that these numbers represent people who are continuing their education, getting better jobs, supporting their families and building confidence in who they are.” His desire and passion to help incorporate everyone in the pursuit of success is derived from his childhood and growing up in an interracial household. “I learned the importance of understanding how cultural perspectives, race and socioeconomic status intersect and affect opportunities and experiences,” Williams said. “My experiences as (my parents’) child were the earliest factors that motivated my personal and professional goals of breaking the generational cycle of poverty, working for racial equity and justice, diversity and inclusion.” He has stretched that experience to numerous organizations, including the Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative introduced by Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, which aims to increase employment and eliminate racial disparities. He also was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks, which was created to establish a roadmap to strengthen statewide broadband access and connectivity.

44 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER 40 2018


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2018 40 UNDER 40 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 45

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL 40 UNDER 40 HONOREES, INCLUDING OUR VERY OWN LUKE KUJACZNSKI. We love to see people living up to their potential. At Urban Alliance, we foster and promote workforce and personal development programs within urban communities. We strive to help build a world where everyone, regardless of their background, has a clear path towards success and is able to achieve their full potential.


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Communicating through our actions that we value every individual. uainc.org