40 Under 40 - Business Leaders - 2019 - GRBJ

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40 Under 40 Honorees 10 Jatnna Abreu Senior talent development specialist Amway Chris Ake Co-founder, partner Grand Apps 12 Jamon Alexander Director of workforce development West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology Chris Andrus Co-owner, vice president The Mitten Brewing Co. 14 Luis Avila Partner Varnum LLP Jessica Babcock Vice president of human resources Suburban Inns 16 Hannah Berry Owner Lions & Rabbits RC Caylan Owner RC Caylan Atelier LLC 17 Melissa Clement CEO Sherpack Jamie Cooper Founder Cannabiz Connection 18 Khumbo Croft Human resources compliance manager Gordon Food Service Katie Ferris Tax office managing partner BDO USA LLP 20 Mike Goorhouse President, CEO Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area Adom Greenland Senior vice president, COO ChoiceOne Bank

21 Nate Heyboer Owner DHE Plumbing and Mechanical Brittany Hunter Managing partner Atomic Object 22 Joe Manica President, CEO United Bank Brian McKeiver Co-owner BizStream 24 Amanda McVay Group vice president of grocery Meijer Laina Mills Senior vice president, chief investment officer Legacy Trust 25 Cathy Monton Regional vice president Manpower Ciciley Moore Program officer W.K. Kellogg Foundation 26 Jordan Notenbaum CEO Mobile Defenders Nick Nykerk President Lakewood Construction 28 Attah Obande Director of dream fulfillment SpringGR Jon O’Connor Co-owner, co-founder Long Road Distillers 30 Dr. Rosemary Olivero Division chief and section chief/co-founder and chief scientific officer Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital/ Inspired Biometrics Kelsey Perdue Kids Count project director Michigan League for Public Policy


31 Amanda Reed Director of virtual health Spectrum Health Dave Riley Director of business intelligence and research The Right Place Inc. 32 Amy Schoonover Owner Flirt Fitness Jen Schottke Vice president of operations Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter 34 Allison Sleight Co-founder Thacker Sleight PC Nate Smith Co-founder, COO Digital Industry Group 35 Randy Tharp Director of veterans health Leidos Laura Traxler Director of membership Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce 36 Nathan Vanderploeg CEO MessageWrap Zach Verhulst Architect, project manager TowerPinkster 38 Ashley Ward Founder, owner, CEO Hire for Hope John White Senior applications engineer Steelcase

The dawn of a new age


ELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY. This year’s Grand Rapids Business Journal class of 40 Under 40 Business Leaders is weighted with a new dominant industry: technology. More than one-third of this year’s honorees have a direct or complementary tie to the technology sector. Honestly, it was only a matter of time before this shift became apparent on the region’s list of young business leaders. Technology touches everything we do, from HR and manufacturing to banking and construction. It is such an ingrained presence in our lives that some of us would be at a loss without instant help from our personal assistant, Alexa. This year’s class is indicative of that sea change. These are young people who grew up with vast technological experiences at their fingertips and are adept at navigating within that world. They also represent more than just a generation of people with their heads down, glued to their “screens.” In many instances, the profiles of these young leaders give insight into how they are bending technology to do their bidding in a number of different ways. All of us use our accumulated experiences to better ourselves and our community. These young people, more than any generation prior to them, have the added benefit of working more efficiently and effectively with the rapid advancements in workplace technology. Combined with vocational dedication and devotion to the West Michigan community and its causes and concerns, this is a winning formula for success. So, what separates these people from their peers? That’s easy, and it has nothing to do with technology. These 40 leaders exhibit an inner drive that makes use of their varied skills to better West Michigan as a whole. Their values are apparent in everything they do. As you will see in their profiles, they are passionate about not just their own businesses or organizations, but the world around them. They are not selfish (look at how much money I can make!) but, instead, showcase how in tune they are with what’s happening in their community. They volunteer for causes that are of interest to them. They sit on boards that search for solutions for everything from homelessness to developing more minority leadership. And, with a nod toward their technological prowess, they stay connected with one another and trade ideas, both those that work and those that do not. Dante Villarreal, this year’s 40 Under 40 Distinguished Alumnus, has a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. He is the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of business and talent development and a member of the 2011 40 Under 40 class. Before moving to the chamber in 2017, he spent 15 years as regional director of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center, where he helped entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. He’s also had stints as regional manager for Telecomp Corp., accountant for the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce and adjunct instructor for courses in business and entrepreneurship at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business. Villarreal’s work toward economic growth extends beyond just paid positions. He’s chair of the local SmartZone committee and the Grand Rapids Sister Cities International committee for Zapopan, Mexico. He’s a board member for the Downtown Market, Davenport University’s Maine College of Business, Metro Health Hospital Foundation and Family Business Alliance. Villarreal is a perfect representative of what our 40 Under 40 Business Leaders “grow up to be.” But more than that, he understands what inclusion in the class means. When informed of the Distinguished Alumnus recognition over the phone, he enthusiastically accepted and talked about how the original honor all those years ago changed his “career trajectory” and pushed him to “the person I am today.” Here’s hoping the same thing happens for this year’s class. Tim Gortsema Editor Grand Rapids Business Journal


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Legacy Trust is proud to congratulate Laina Mills. Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 | Class of 2019

Thank you for your commitment to our clients and our community.

Laina Mills Senior Vice President & Chief Investment Officer at Legacy Trust


Distinguished Alumnus follows his own path to success


ANTE VILLARREAL SAID the phone call informing him he’d been chosen as this year’s 40 Under 40 Distinguished Alum came as quite a surprise. It shouldn’t have. Villarreal has had a hand in much of the local business growth for years. “It’s been a gift not just to watch but to participate in,” he said. As the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of business and talent development, Villarreal oversees all the leadership programs and the diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. He also leads advocacy for small businesses as they interact with larger companies, such as helping small contractors place successful bids. Before moving to the chamber in 2017, he spent 15 years as regional director of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center, where he helped entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

He’s also had stints as regional manager for Telecomp Corp., accountant for the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce and adjunct instructor for courses in business and entrepreneurship at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business. Villarreal’s work toward economic growth extends beyond just paid positions. He’s chair of the local SmartZone committee and the Grand Rapids Sister Cities International committee for Zapopan, Mexico. He’s a board member for the Downtown Market, Davenport University’s Maine College of Business, Metro Health Hospital Foundation and Family Business Alliance. Another reason Villarreal was a good choice for the recognition is one he said he sometimes forgets: He has risen professionally to a level of success and influence despite the odds. Villarreal was the first in his family to finish high school and the first to attend college. His mother stopped school after sixth grade; his father couldn’t read or write. The family traveled the country as migrant farm workers, and the four children changed schools often, sometimes four times per year. It was a hard life that he didn’t want for himself or his future children. “That’s when I knew I wanted more and learned that education was a ticket out,” he said. They had traveled so much that Villarreal had to take night classes in Sparta to finish school, and then he enrolled at Grand Valley State University, eventually earning an MBA. Each summer from age 5 to 18, Villarreal and his family harvested apples in West Michigan. They chose to settle here because they were treated with respect at every farm, which wasn’t always their experience elsewhere. “It was the people we fell in love with,” he said. “There was promise for us here.” He said he remains optimistic about the local business climate because people seem to “get” the importance of diversity and equity in the workforce as well as the companies they do business with. He said the addition of diversity and other initiatives at the chamber was in response to feedback from members, and it’s promising that leadership is beginning to better reflect the population. And he would agree with other leaders who say the level of collaboration in West Michigan is unique, something else that has kept him here. “Even competitors come together and collaborate,” he said. “That’s the foundation for growth.” Justin Dawes Grand Rapids Business Journal


CONGRATULATIONS DAVE RILEY For being named to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2019! Thank you for your invaluable contributions and dedication to the advancement of West Michigan’s economy! - The Right Place Team

Dave Riley Director, Business Intelligence & Research

info@rightplace.org / 616.771.0325

Jatnna Abreu, 29

Chris Ake, 30

BORN IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, Jatnna Abreu came to the United States when she was 15 years old and has devoted her career to ensuring all people are welcomed in the business world and equipped to thrive. Promoted four times in seven years at Ada-based Amway, Abreu is senior talent development specialist, responsible “for ensuring a rich, diverse pipeline of talent” and “developing servant leaders” within the organization through a “consistent, enterprise-wide approach.” “I have worked very hard to make sure my voice and other people’s voices are heard at Amway and with the positions I have held … within the community,” Abreu said. “I love helping other people, especially children of color. I want them to know that they can do anything they put their minds to. But they need to see people like them doing those things for them to be able to know that they, too, have a future and can be whatever they want to be.” Abreu’s nominator considers her a role model whose many accomplishments — through Amway and externally — display her commitment to servant leadership. Abreu is vice chair of Amway’s Multicultural Inclusion Network; past project manager and current planning committee member of the Amway Professionals of Color Conference; planning committee member of Sisters Who Lead; mentor at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Southwest Community Campus; public relations coordinator and past board member for Changing Thirsty Lives, a nonprofit that serves disadvantaged children in the Dominican Republic and Grand Rapids; and more.

WHILE IT’S NO SILICON VALLEY, Grand Rapids has a burgeoning technology sector, and Chris Ake, co-founder of Grand Apps, is building on his success in the industry to continue growing it. Ake was inspired by Jacob Canfield to join him in launching Grand Apps, a web and mobile app developer, in 2011. At the time, Ake had just graduated college and didn’t know what he would be doing besides waiting tables. After Canfield got married in 2013, Ake decided to take the jump, leave the stability of waiting tables and go all-in on Grand Apps. “This was hard because I had no safety net,” Ake said. “I had no money saved and came from a lower middle-class family in Detroit.” Ake helped bootstrap and lead Grand Apps from its basement origins to a million-dollar software agency with a 4,000-square-foot office in downtown Grand Rapids eight years later. “We have been focused on helping grow Grand Rapids in every way we can,” Ake said. “My focus as an owner was to hire people and help stimulate the downtown economy. I live and work right downtown, and we always try to invest and hire in our company instead of taking too much profit.” He also is active in SENATE, an apolitical group he helped form that focuses on helping other local entrepreneurs by connecting them with one another to share ideas and offer support. “This is my way of giving back to the up-and-coming ones, and it’s been very fun to sit on that board,” Ake said.

Senior talent development specialist Amway


Co-founder, partner Grand Apps




616.698.0880 4087 Brockton SE | Kentwood, MI 49512 | rohdeconstruction.com

Jamon Alexander, 35

Chris Andrus, 39

JAMON ALEXANDER SAID he has dedicated his life and career to making Grand Rapids a stronger, more equitable city for all. As director of workforce development at West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology, Alexander leads a program that prepares underemployed and unemployed adults for careers in health care. He said he’s most proud of the Leadership by Design experience, which is informed by his own career journey and is integrated into the career training model at WMCAT. In the program, adult students explore the power of their stories and how those experiences can be assets in the workplace. He said students who have completed the program “selfidentify as more confident, have a stronger sense of self and are better and more authentic people, which translates well into employment” and shows once they get jobs. “We are supporting people transitioning into economic security in a city with high racial, economic and health disparities,” Alexander said. “I’m most proud to be part of the solution, leading a nationally connected program and launching a curriculum and approach that doesn’t exist here locally.” He is a co-founder of BL2END, a young professionals group for people of color, which he said has reached 2,000 people over the past 13 years. Alexander is on the board of zoning appeals for the city of Grand Rapids. He also is a member of the Create Great Leaders advisory council for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, an equity adviser for K-Connect and member of the Kent County Essential Needs Task Force.

CHRIS ANDRUS SAID he believes The Mitten Brewing Co. wouldn’t be what it is without the supportive culture of Grand Rapids’ beer scene, so naturally, he’s used his success as a springboard to give back to the community. Besides growing his brewery from a small startup to an over $4 million company with three locations and more than 100 employees, Andrus and his business partner Max Trierweiler have presided over more than $250,000 in charitable gifts since 2012. “I’m most proud of the fact that our smallish community brewery was recognized as one of ‘Michigan’s 50 Companies to Watch,’ and I believe our 2018 Mitten Foundation accomplishments are largely responsible for that honor,” Andrus said. The Mitten Foundation donated $52,000 in charitable gifts in 2018, which included 80,000 meals provided for food-insecure neighbors, 600 school uniforms for Grand Rapids Public School students, over $2,500 in heating bill assistance for neighbors, more than $4,000 in equipment for the Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball program, 90 cats treated medically and readied for adoption, sponsoring of 20 disabled ArtPrize artists, over 150 board volunteer hours, 900 free pizza slices served and 19 students from Union High School who were sent to Washington D.C. for Close Up. Andrus currently is a member of the Westside Collaborative board of directors as well as its Sense of Belonging workgroup. “I truly believe it is Chris’ commitment to giving, in addition to excellence, that separates The Mitten from the pack,” said Jim Davis, executive director of Westside Collaborative.

Director of workforce development West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology


Co-owner, vice president The Mitten Brewing Co.



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At Manpower,® we believe that meaningful and sustainable employment has the power to change the world. We connect the potential of people to the ambitions of business and apply our leading expertise to create ideal employment matches to accelerate success. Together, we’ll get further. Congraulations to all the “40 Under 40” honorees and to our own Cathy Monton for being chosen as an honoree. We are proud of her 16 years with Manpower in the West Michigan area. Cathy Monton – Regional Vice President Great Lakes Territory cathy.monton@manpower.com • 231-794-9200 2935 28th Street SE • Grand Rapids, Michigan 49512

manpower.com 2019 40 UNDER 40 | GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 13

Luis Avila, 38

Jessica Babcock, 36

Partner Varnum LLP

Vice president of human resources Suburban Inns

LUIS AVILA IS a partner and labor and employment attorney at Varnum, one of the largest law firms in the state, and he is using his position to serve his community. Avila uses his legal expertise to help promote and manage Varnum’s MiSpringboard, which is the firm’s $1 million commitment in free legal services to Michigan startups. Varnum also chose him to lead its diversity and inclusion efforts as the chair of its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Outside the firm, Avila previously served as president of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He launched Transformando West Michigan, a program that offers mentoring, skills, funding and certain industry certifications for Hispanic business owners. He also has led the efforts to create the Hispanic Chamber Foundation, which provides various educational programs and supportive services to Latino entrepreneurs with a focus on business leadership and skill development. The foundation has awarded nearly $500,000 in grant funds from private foundations and the city of Grand Rapids. “I am very proud that I served as president of the board of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for three years and that we were able to implement some of my vision for the Hispanic business community, specifically creating a foundation to support the chamber’s altruistic efforts, and raising nearly half a million dollars in less than a couple of years of launching the foundation,” he said. Avila serves on the boards of the Grand Rapids Symphony and Grand Rapids Art Museum.

AT AGE 36, Jessica Babcock has been working for Suburban Inns for half her life. Starting as a front desk representative, she climbed the ladder to her current role as vice president of human resources after the company paid for her to earn her degree. And she has been busy since then. Suburban Inns didn’t have a human resources department until she built it from the ground up, creating processes for everything from hiring initiatives to disciplinary procedures. When Babcock started the process, the company had about 250 employees. Today, it has more than 750. That number jumped by more than 150 earlier this year with the opening of Embassy Suites by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown, and Babcock hired them all. “I believe that my experience working on the ground level of the business has given me amazing insight not only on how to improve existing operations but also on how to advocate for our team members,” Babcock said. A big piece of that work revolved around employee relations, such as implementing an appreciation program, interactive job reviews, more flexible work schedules, better vacation plans, 100% maternity/paternity pay and more. “I truly believe the HR department is the heart of an organization,” Babcock said. “We make it a priority to build relationships with our employees so they feel comfortable coming to us for anything.” Babcock is a board member for the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association Education Foundation, a Hello West Michigan Tactical Advisory Group member and has volunteered for numerous organizations.


THRIVING CHILDREN. WORKING FAMILIES. EQUITABLE COMMUNITIES. Congratulations to the 2019 Grand Rapids 40 Under 40! Proud to recognize our colleague Ciciley Moore for her contributions – right here in Grand Rapids and everywhere we work – to create equitable communities on behalf of children.



Twitter: @WK_Kellogg_Fdn


Congratulations ZACH VERHULST on being recognized as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 under 40 Business Leaders.”

We appreciate your dedication to our team and clients, curious nature, and creative input. You don’t look a day over 33.

Congratulations to Zach and all “40 under 40” recipients! towerpinkster.com 2019 40 UNDER 40 | GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 15

Hannah Berry, 29

RC Caylan, 37

Owner Lions & Rabbits

Owner RC Caylan Atelier LLC

NOT ONLY HAS Hannah Berry found a way to make a living as an artist, but she is using her knowledge to help other artists and using her talents to make Grand Rapids a more cultured city. Among numerous projects in the Creston neighborhood and through the city, Berry highlights her proudest accomplishments as the Rad American Women walking tour — paintings of women leaders on the mechanical boxes throughout the city — and Creston. After Dark. — an annual street fair and festival. “Both have created economic development and sustainability for local artists, engaged the community in a meaningful way, been a teaching tool, focused on accessibility and inclusion, and have pushed people to have to work together on a higher level at a faster, more collaborative pace,” Berry said. Lions & Rabbits represents more than 115 local artists and offers an array of workshops. This fall, Lions & Rabbits is taking over all adult education for Kent District Library. “We are just continuing to pollinate creativity. It’s so beautiful,” Berry said. She said she thinks working with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. to coordinate artists for the Movies on Monroe parking lot and Best of Creston helped expose her name to the community. Berry is vice chair of the North Quarter Corridor Improvement Authority, the web design and arts coordinator for the Creston Business Association and co-chair of the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Goal 5 Alliance. Berry also has been involved with creating murals locally and has received numerous awards and recognitions.

FROM BRIDAL GOWNS to evening gowns, RC Caylan has had a passion for fashion design since he was 9 years old. The designer, born and raised in the Philippines, has executed that passion by opening his own fashion boutique, RC Caylan Atelier, in downtown Grand Rapids. In addition to his own business, Caylan has had his clothing showcased on runways at numerous events, including San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Network, where his design was showcased for the first time. Caylan said his biggest professional break was when one of his designs was worn by Anne Winters the day she won an Emmy award. “I am always proud to represent our city on a bigger stage every time I showcase my new collection, such as New York Fashion Week, the first fashion week in the world,” he said. “In addition, I am an advocate to help the growth of our creative minds in the community by showing them the right avenue and guide them when they start in the fashion industry world. In 2017, I showcased for the first time my designs/brand here in Grand Rapids and partnered with the American Cancer Society, where 50% of the proceeds go to the organization for their research fund to beat cancer.” Caylan’s designs have been featured in magazines such as British Vogue, Basic Magazine, Cosmopolitan and others. Caylan won the Global Beauty Awards’ 2018 Fashion Designer of the Year, as well as Gawad Amerika’s Fashion Designer of the Year in 2016 and 2017, which recognizes Filipino American success.


Melissa Clement, 25

Jamie Cooper, 37

MANY PEOPLE ONLY dream of accomplishing what Melissa Clement has done in a short amount of time. She became the CEO of Sherpack, a fulfillment and logistics company, at the age of 23. Now, at 25, she has turned the small startup into a multimillion-dollar company. Sherpack provides e-commerce fulfillment, retail fulfillment, consultation, subscription box fulfillment and customized knitting services. In the last three years, Clement has taken the company from $1 million in sales to $3 million in 2019, with expectations of reaching $5 million-$8 million. “I think what I have accomplished at only the age of 25 is unique,” she said. “I will and do work hard for everything I have. I want to show young men and women that it doesn’t matter what your passion is, if you set your mind to something and really want it, it’s attainable. I coach volleyball and to be able to show the young girls what I have accomplished in a tangible way would be a great teaching tool and hopefully encourage them more than just my words can. Hopefully, they will realize anything is possible.” Clement said her biggest influence professionally is Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. “She is the first woman CEO of a major global automaker,” she said. “Seeing her become CEO of a predominately male-dominated industry encouraged me and made me realize anything is possible.” Sherpack CMO Kurt Rewa said Clement is an excellent role model, adding, “I think she would be a great story for the 40 Under 40.”

JAMIE COOPER IS reaping the rewards of her activism. All the miles traveled, the signatures collected, educational sessions held and ballots cast culminated in the 2018 election victory when a majority of Michigan voters voted in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana. Cooper has been a longtime advocate for the legalization of recreational marijuana ever since she decided to call Michigan her home five years ago. She has been one of the voices promting the legal use of recreational marijuana, making Nov. 6, 2018, a date she will always remember. “The week we legalized cannabis was one of the best weeks of my life,” she said. “That week, I received thank you letters, emails, messages and even got flowers sent to me. That was the week I realized people were appreciative of my work and the fact that I helped pave the way for a massive industry in Michigan.” Cooper has since used the momentum to further her passion for the cannabis industry. Her company, Cannabiz Connection, which she founded in January 2018, is an online platform that provides resources for business owners and entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. “I will have hosted more than 60 events over the course of the year, and I am launching a pro-cannabis city and lifestyle magazine called Sensi this October,” Cooper said. She currently serves as a board member for West Michigan Cannabis Guild, Smart & Safe GR and is chair of Women Grow, a network that helps women get started in the cannabis industry.

CEO Sherpack

Founder Cannabiz Connection


Khumbo Croft, 36

Katie Ferris, 37

Human resources compliance manager Gordon Food Service

Tax office managing partner BDO USA LLP

SIX YEARS AGO, Khumbo Croft was invited to meld her finance background into an HR role at GFS, and she has since tripled the organization’s cost savings, among other milestones. A first-generation immigrant from Zambia, Croft came to the U.S. at age 18 to study business at Grand Valley State University. She worked as a senior auditor at Deloitte before moving in 2010 to the internal audit department at GFS. After a few years, an HR leader approached her and recommended she join the HR team at GFS, which wanted to use her innovative ideas. Croft “took a big leap of faith” and said yes. She has since tripled the size of her team and the organization’s cost savings, she said. “I did not have any HR experience, but the leader saw potential in me and supported me as I was learning, and more importantly, trusted me when I began to execute a very bold vision,” Croft said. She also implemented an equitable hiring process that has boosted retention while removing barriers to entry and increased the hiring of women and people of color in the majority of the company’s 170 U.S. facilities. Croft contributes to workforce development through board and committee roles at Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, Heart of West Michigan United Way, West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of the Varnum Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and Kids’ Food Basket.

KATIE FERRIS IS the first female tax office managing partner during BDO’s century in West Michigan. She attained the role in February. Responsible for overseeing 100 tax employees in the West Michigan market, Ferris serves clients in multiple industries, including manufacturing, distribution, technology, telecommunications and construction. She has more than 10 years of experience in public accounting, advising both public and private multinational companies. Ferris was nominated for this award by her colleague, Kevin Patterson. “Katie works extremely hard and cares a ton about the practice and continuously makes the BDO team better with her leadership,” Patterson said. “She is well respected by all and a tremendous asset to West Michigan.” Ferris said she is proud to be part of a team that recognizes hard work and is “free from bias,” a claim illustrated by the fact that she was named tax partner nearly five years ago while 34 weeks pregnant, she said. “I am fortunate to have this position as BDO embarks on our 100-year anniversary in Grand Rapids and (to) help lead us into the beginning of our next 100 years,” she said. “As a woman under 40, I’m incredibly honored and humbled to hold this position.” Ferris volunteers with her team through the “BDO Counts” give-back initiative, which serves and supports local and national organizations based on causes of interest to each office. She is board treasurer for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan and the Literacy Center of West Michigan and a board member of Talent 2025.



LAURA TRAXLER Grand Rapids Chamber | Director of Membership

Impact. Congratulations to our alumni named to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” business leaders list. Like West Michigan itself, their positive impact is far reaching. That’s the Laker Effect. Chris Ake, ‘11 Jamon Alexander, ‘05 Jessica Babcock, ‘05 Katie Ferris, ‘04 & ‘05 Mike Goorhouse, ‘11 Brittany Hunter, ‘08 Brian McKeiver, ‘02 Cathy Monton, ‘03 Jordan Notenbaum, ‘10 Jon O’Connor, ‘04 Amanda Reed, ‘11 John White, ‘11



Mike Goorhouse, 33

Adom Greenland, 39

MIKE GOORHOUSE LANDED his “dream job” as president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area at age 27. In the last year, Goorhouse doubled the previous record for new donations to more than $20 million. In two years, Goorhouse met the goals of increasing the endowment from $15 million to $20 million and increasing the number of estate gift commitments from 25 to 125, representing a pipeline of more than $30 million. “Our campaign has received national attention in the community foundation field, and 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,” Goorhouse said. Goorhouse recently launched a social impact private investment fund for affordable housing and participated in an invitation-only national roundtable for community foundation CEOs, served as emcee for TEDxMacatawa and is helping transition an Afghan refugee family into the area. In 2018, he was named a finalist for Lakeshore Advantage’s Visionary Award for work on affordable housing. The same year, he was the recipient of Local First’s Good for Employees Award, was named to American Enterprise Institute’s Leadership Network and received the Holland Young Professionals Leadership Matters award. Goorhouse is the co-founder and co-chair of Housing Next, advisory board member of Project Clarity, and founder and chair of the Holland/Zeeland Housing PreDevelopment Fund. He also is on the boards for Movement West Michigan, Association for a More Just Society and Bread for the World.

AFTER JUST FOUR YEARS at ChoiceOne Bank, Adom Greenland became the youngest senior vice president and COO in the institution’s 120-year history. He attained the role in 2017, after previously serving as the Sparta-based bank’s vice president of operations, then senior vice president of retail services and IT. According to his nominator, ChoiceOne President and CEO Kelly Potes, Greenland is responsible for overseeing the bank’s technology, retail, operations and marketing departments. Potes said Greenland is a “savvy change agent” who has positioned the community bank to become a technology innovator in the fintech space while maintaining traditional banking channels. He also has diversified the bank’s customer base, creating bilingual financial literacy programs and boosting its services for Spanish-speaking migrant farmworkers. Additionally, Greenland spearheaded the purchase and renovation of a full-service branch in downtown Grand Rapids. For his work in these areas and more, Greenland earned a spot in the 2019 Independent Bankers 40 Under 40 Emerging Community Bank Leaders class. Under his watch, the bank has received accolades including the 2019 Editor’s Choice Award for Community Commitment by CardRates.com, the 2018 Independent Banker Top 20 Most Innovative Community Banks award and the 2017 National Community Bank Service Award by the Independent Community Bankers of America. Greenland serves on the operations and technology committee for the Michigan Bankers Association, is a member of the Community Bankers of Michigan and volunteers with TrueNorth Community Services in Fremont and Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, among other activities.

President, CEO Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area


Senior vice president, COO ChoiceOne Bank

Nate Heyboer, 38

Brittany Hunter, 33

NATE HEYBOER HAS come a long way with DHE Plumbing and Mechanical since starting the company with his father and brother. Fourteen years later, the company is making $35 million in annual revenue and hired its 150th full-time employee, an accomplishment of which Heyboer is very proud. “I have hired every single one personally,” Heyboer said. “Our projects have been nominated for awards and the employees are treated differently in a good way. In today’s economy, skilled trades employees could go anywhere and get a job in a day. Not only do DHE employees stay, they advocate (for) others in the area to join the team.” Heyboer is a vocal believer that the skilled trades need a big boost. For every five workers who retire, one new person steps in, he said. He hopes his personal story of success can be an inspiration to people who may not have considered the trades a viable career option. “Letting the public know that an owner of a plumbing and mechanical company can go from turning wrenches to running a company with $35 million in sales per year with 150 employees while still under 40. The public thinks of plumbing and cleaning out clogged sinks or fixing toilets,” he said. “Far from it.” Among the numerous projects DHE has had a hand in are New Holland Brewing’s The Knickerbocker building, Meijer’s Bridge Street Market and surrounding buildings, the Kent County Recycling Center, 601 Bond Apartments, GVSU science building and Studio Park.

BRITTANY HUNTER HAS designed her way to the top of Atomic Object. She is a managing partner at the software design company’s Grand Rapids office, where she is responsible for running an office with 46 software designers, developers and testers while generating $8 million in revenue. She also has invested in the company as a shareholder. Those are titles she said she never envisioned holding prior to joining Atomic Object nine years ago. Hunter was happily working at Grand Valley State University as a web developer, but after being told and convinced by a friend to apply for Atomic Object’s open position for a designer, she did. She was offered and she accepted the position in 2011. Throughout the years, Hunter has taken on various roles at the growing company. She created Atomic’s delivery practice, where she formally took the software consultant and delivery lead position in 2015. She worked with clients and teams of software makers to validate requirements, planned product releases and build custom software. “I’ve provided software design, software team leadership and software product consulting to over 150 companies and organizations, many of them local to West Michigan and others on a national scale,” Hunter said. “I view each project as an opportunity to learn and understand a client’s business domain and goals, and leverage my knowledge and experience to contribute something good to our community in the form of collaborative relationships, product innovation, lowered costs and/or increased revenue for my clients.”

Owner DHE Plumbing and Mechanical

Managing partner Atomic Object


Joe Manica, 39

Brian McKeiver, 39

JOE MANICA BECAME president and CEO of United Bank in July with 17 years of industry experience. He succeeded his father, Mike Manica, who retired from the roles in June after a 39-year career at United. Manica also was appointed as executive vice president and COO of United Bank Financial Corp., the parent of United Bank. Although he spent part of his banking career in Chicago and New York, he said he is most proud of his work in West Michigan. “My biggest professional accomplishment is being part of the team that led United Bank during the Great Recession,” he said. “We did not accept any government bailout funds, staff members did not lose jobs and we worked with businesses to prevent any from closing due to called loans. During that time, United Bank remained profitable due to the hard work and creative problem solving of our entire team.” He calls his parents his biggest inspirations. “Growing up, they encouraged me to learn by stretching my capabilities and getting me out of my comfort zone,” Manica said. “Today, their advice and wisdom inspire me to become a better leader and to mentor the growth of others.” Manica serves as finance committee member for the Children’s Healing Center, a play place for children with weakened immune systems. He is a regular contributor for the Michigan Bankers Association “Focus on Business” digital TV segment. Manica also is involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a nonprofit that raises awareness and funds for Type 1 diabetes research.

THROUGHOUT THE 18 YEARS of BizStream’s existence, Brian McKeiver has seen the good, the bad and the ugly. He and Mark Schmidt founded the company, which is an international-level provider of website design, development and programming services, in 2001. Its clients include Warner Norcross + Judd, BDO, General Cable, Sauder and The Bridgespan Group, among others. There are 12 certified Kentico developers at BizStream, which is the No. 1 Kentico Gold Partner in the United States. BizStream’s success was halted in 2008 and 2009, however, during the recession. “BizStream was a self-funded company, we had no investors or credit available to us at the time,” McKeiver said. “We had to cut our workforce from a size of 13 to about three or four. My business partner Mark and I ran through every asset, income stream and credit card balance we had. I think at our lowest point, I had about $13 left to my name. ... As Mark and I were considering different job opportunities, we closed a large deal for our internal product, YouthCenter.” McKeiver said that deal kept the business afloat. As the economy began to turn around, so did BizStream; some of the employees who had to be let go were rehired. The company eventually was able to afford a 22,000-squarefoot building, be debt-free, self-funded and give back to the community. McKeiver also is vice president of the BizStream Academy, launching the coding boot camp seven years ago and growing it to now support over 60 attendees.

President, CEO United Bank


Co-owner BizStream


ATTAH for your commitment to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’re proud to have you on our team.

40under40 Director of Dream Fulfillment

www.springgr.com 2019 40 UNDER 40 | GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 23

Amanda McVay, 39

Laina Mills, 38

Group vice president of grocery Meijer

Senior vice president, chief investment officer Legacy Trust

AFTER ONLY SIX YEARS at Meijer, Amanda McVay worked her way from buyer in the bedding and home textiles department to group vice president of grocery. McVay now is responsible for the grocery division’s multibillion-dollar profit-and-loss management, overseeing corporate merchandising, marketing, category management and brand development and leading a team of 100 employees. She describes herself as a “driven, determined and positive leader” who uses innovative thinking and coalition building to solve challenges. Her accomplishments at Meijer include negotiating “joint business growth planning partnerships” with 25 of the top 100 consumer packaged goods companies in the world that led to gains for all parties, starting a Big Ten campus recruiting program for new associates and helping create Meijer’s Innovation Council to mentor local tech startups. She paved the way for Meijer’s sponsorship of the Network of Executive Women to train and develop female talent, and she serves as the company’s first ambassador to the organization. McVay is a board member for Feeding America West Michigan and has volunteered with East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Habitat for Humanity and Kids’ Food Basket. She was a 2019 Inforum Inner Circle honoree, an award that recognizes women in the “inner circle” of business, civic and community leadership. In 2018, she was named one of Poets & Quants’ Best and Brightest Executive MBA graduates after earning an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. She also was named a Rising Star in Progressive Grocer’s 2015 Top Women in Grocery ranking.

LAINA MILLS HOLDS a title attained by few women in her male-dominated industry. A “casual conversation with a neighbor” 15 years ago inspired her to use her math and analytical skills in the field of investment management, and it soon became her passion. Starting at Legacy Trust as an investment associate in 2009, Mills ascended the role of chief investment officer by 2017. “I have been blessed to have the resources and opportunities to accomplish this goal, and I hope that more young women will consider careers in analytical roles going forward,” she said. Mills leads Legacy Trust’s investment philosophy and asset management strategies and manages individual and family office portfolios with the firm’s wealth management staff. Since she took the reins as CIO, the firm’s staff has grown by 40% and its assets under management by over 30%, resulting in Legacy Trust being named one of West Michigan’s 2019 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. Mills was nominated for the 40 Under 40 honor by six people, one of whom said Mills has earned “the universal respect of her peers” through her competence and community leadership. She is a member of the board of directors for Grand Rapids Downtown Market, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Catholic Charities West Michigan and Opera Grand Rapids. Mills also volunteers as an investment committee member for St. Cecilia Music Center and — as a classically trained vocalist — sang in the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus from 2010-16.


Cathy Monton, 39

Ciciley Moore, 39

CATHY MONTON IS described by her nominator as a “people’s leader” who knows every facet of the staffing business. Between joining the global workforce solutions company Manpower fresh out of college in 2003 and now, Monton has been promoted six times and held roles in staffing, account management, branch oversight and directorship for increasingly large swathes of territory. Now, as regional vice president of the company’s Great Lakes territory — Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana — Monton oversees Manpower’s top-performing region, inclusive of 5,000 associates, 24 direct reports, 150 recruiters and 765 clients, with annual revenue of $190 million. Manpower employs six regional VPs in the U.S., and Monton is the youngest of them, she said. She credits her mother’s example of kindness to all people as the foundation for her success. “I am passionate about people, and that’s why I have been successful in my job,” Monton said. Monton is president of the board for the Employers Association of West Michigan and a member of the Talent 2025 CEO Council. She previously was board secretary for United Way of the Lakeshore and a member of the Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board and the Whitehall Schools Vocational Advisory Board. Monton has volunteered through Women Who Care and mentored high school students on job readiness. She said she is honored to have helped shape the careers of many HR professionals over the years. “I am proud when they tell me they learned so much from me and still call me a mentor,” she said.

AS PROGRAM OFFICER for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Ciciley Moore manages a $30 million portfolio of community investments, influences the organization’s national grantmaking strategies and builds strategic relationships with other funders all over the world. “The impact on families and children I am able to have and the relationships I have been able to build in this position rest at the intersection of passion and purpose for me,” Moore said. Recently, Moore has led the cultivation of a new cohort of 34 grantees across the U.S., Mexico and Haiti that will focus on growing philanthropy by and for communities of color and re-imagining who is seen as philanthropists. “As a result, these organizations will be changing the way that philanthropy across all communities gets practiced at a time when many of our old forms are shifting,” she said. Moore has served on various boards and committees for the city of Grand Rapids, including as a board member for the Downtown Improvement District and a committee member for the Neighborhood Match Fund. Moore has established networks of more than 1,200 black women as co-founder of Black Women Connect GR and more than 400 Latina women as part of the leadership team for the Latina Network of West Michigan. She also is a graduate of the Leadership Grand Rapids class of 2016 and won the Young Nonprofit Professionals of Grand Rapids 2017 Breakthrough award. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2003, Moore pursued an Executive Master of Business Administration from Michigan State University in 2019.

Regional vice president Manpower

Program officer W.K. Kellogg Foundation


Jordan Notenbaum, 31

Nick Nykerk, 37

CEO Mobile Defenders

President Lakewood Construction

JORDAN NOTENBAUM IS a man of humble beginnings, but his ingenuity and grit have manifested in the birth of a tech company that ranked No. 214 in the Inc. 5000. “We started selling iPhone screens on Amazon/eBay, and now we are an authorized distributor for Motorola and LG, and I am in regular conversations with companies like Apple, Google and other dominant tech industry players,” Notenbaum said. Mobile Defenders was formed as a spinout operation from Notenbaum’s first company, Genius Phone repair. Notenbaum never had a father or a mentor to encourage him, he said, but he was inspired by a co-worker who believed in what he was doing and told him he could start a successful business. “It was only a 60-second conversation, but that was the seed that blossomed into what I would consider my biggest professional break.” Genius Phone Repair’s legacy endured long after it was sold to a third party in 2018. Notenbaum and his co-founders Steve Barnes and Garry VonMyhr have since spun four companies out of their original enterprise, including Mobile Defenders; Tech Defenders, a tech repair and disposition group working with K-12 schools; Sonder Eatery in Hudsonville; and Podsix, a web development agency focused on back-end solutions for a variety of clients. “Jordan was the first of the group to start doing mobile phone repair of out his house in 2009,” Barnes said. “From there, Garry and I jumped on board and took the business retail. From there we grew our locations to 18 in Michigan and Indiana.”

NICK NYKERK BEGAN his career at Lakewood as an intern and project coordinator during the summers while he was still in college. After graduating, he was hired by McCarthy Building Companies in Missouri and spent over seven years as a project supervisor before returning to Lakewood in 2013. “After working across the country for seven years, my wife and I decided it was time to move back to Michigan to be near family and start our own family,” Nykerk said. A year after moving back, Nykerk’s dad, then vice president at Lakewood, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The following year, his first son was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome. Shortly after that, the VP of operations left Lakewood, catapulting Nykerk from project manager to president in just a few short years. “There were countless opportunities where a small misstep could have caused catastrophic emotions among employees,” Nykerk said. “Yet, with a talented, dedicated, and understanding team at Lakewood, a huge family support network and a lot of faith, we worked through those years.” During his Lakewood career, Nykerk has had a hand in projects up to $10 million in value. Outside of the company he currently owns, he has been involved in projects up to $30 million. His crowning achievement, he said, is starting a philanthropic fund at Lakewood. The company worked with the Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland Area to build a fund that supports a wide array of causes, including causes that support underprivileged youth, community development efforts, addiction support, diversity and inclusion.


Congratulations, Joe. Your leadership helps us continually provide real solutions and makes this company and this community better every day.

Joe Manica President & CEO


Luis Avila! A 2019 “40 Under Forty� Business Leader

n n n n

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 | Birmingham | Detroit | Grand Haven | Grand Rapids | Hastings | Kalamazoo | Lansing | Novi


Attah Obande, 39

Jon O’Connor, 38

DESPITE THE ECONOMIC growth in Grand Rapids, the city was named in Forbes as the second-worst economically for African Americans in 2015, and Attah Obande has been working to change that. He began working for SpringGR about five years ago. As an organization that teaches business principles to aspiring entrepreneurs, he hoped to remove that negative mark from the city. “We are making a significant impact toward changing that narrative,” Obande said. Since he started, the organization has grown to five sites and graduated more than 400 individuals — 85% of them minorities — who have then created “hundreds of jobs” and “millions of dollars in revenue.” He said many students have won pitch competitions and taken advantage of other entrepreneurial resources throughout the city. “With our efforts, we are helping to give more entrepreneurs access to resources,” Obande said. Beyond these numbers, Obande said what means the most are the stories of “personal and professional growth, redefined identities, reaffirmed visions and dreams, recognized dignity, revolutionary family legacy change and rebuilt bridges across previous divides.” Obande first got involved with SpringGR when his company, AGO Design Group, was contracted to grow the organization. Obande is a member of the business advisory council for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, a member of the advisory council for the Opportunity Resource Fund and loan review committee member for Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women. He also is board treasurer of Hispanic Center of West Michigan and Project GREEN, as well as board member of Solutions to End Exploitation.

LONG ROAD DISTILLERS certainly has no plans of slowing down. Within the past year, the award-winning Grand Rapids distillery launched two satellite tasting rooms in Boyne City and Grand Haven. Through these major moves, co-founder Jon O’Connor served, and continues to serve, as 1st ward city commissioner, as well as lead an effort for the Michigan Craft Distillers Association to successfully pass legislation giving more rights for small Michigan distillers. “It is an exciting time to own a distillery and try to not only grow your own business but work with folks in Lansing to try and create a better regulatory environment for your industry so that other small businesses can succeed, as well,” O’Connor said. What really put Long Road on the map, O’Connor recalled, was taking home the Best in Show award for its Aquavit at the 2017 American Craft Spirits Association awards. “This is our most significant industry association, and for a 2½-year-old distillery to take home Best in Show with a spirit from a relatively unknown category really established Long Road as an important brand within our growing industry,” he said. O’Connor’s friend and co-founder of Long Road, Kyle Van Strien, praised him for his leadership skills. “Youth has not stopped Jon from holding numerous elected positions, including several years serving on the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education and now running for a second term as the youngest commissioner on the city of Grand Rapids Commission,” Van Strien said.

Director of dream fulfillment SpringGR


Co-owner, co-founder Long Road Distillers


BRITTANY We’re so proud to call you an Atom!


Managing Partner, Grand Rapids 40 Under 40 Class of 2019



for being nominated and selected as a member of the Grand Rapids Business Journal 2019 40 Under 40 BDO provides 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.

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Dr. Rosemary Olivero, 39

Division chief and section chief/co-founder and chief scientific officer Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital/Inspired Biometrics DR. ROSEMARY OLIVERO has focused her career on improving health care outcomes for vulnerable children. Not only is Olivero division chief of medical subspecialties and section chief of infectious diseases for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, but she also is co-founder of the company Inspired Biometrics, which has created a patentpending wearable pediatric biometric monitoring device. Olivero said she worked hard to prepare for medical school, and when she finally interviewed at Northwestern University and later accepted, she felt it all had been worth the effort. “Not only have I been able to follow my true passion since I was in my early educational years, but I have demonstrated that hard work, commitment and innovativeness can lead to an impactful career in both medicine and business,” Olivero said. Olivero said she’s most proud of developing of the pediatric HIV program over the past seven years at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, which she said now exceeds national standards and reaches many previously underserved vulnerable children. In this program, she also has done state and national advocacy work to improve care for this patient population. She is a member of the International Scientific Committee for the World Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases and the Committee on Pediatric AIDS for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She also is on the International Affairs Committee for the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and is chair of its Domestic Global Health Subcommittee. Olivero has published many medical articles and book chapters and has presented numerous medical lectures.


Kelsey Perdue, 29

Kids Count project director Michigan League for Public Policy AS FORMER ASSISTANT technology campus director, Kelsey Perdue said her work helped the establishment and growth of Grand Circus in Grand Rapids. Grand Circus is a tech-training institute that prepares individuals through workshops and boot camps to launch careers in the growing technology field. “Being able to understand and develop code is one of the most beneficial and essential skill sets of our generation,” Perdue said. To those who question whether they have what it takes for the tech industry, Perdue said you do, no matter your age or educational levels; it’s all about a love for critical thinking and problem-solving. During her time at Grand Circus, Perdue secured a large government contract, grew the sales funnel 3½ times in three quarters, achieved “excellent” Net Promoter Score and hired numerous new employees. “Initiatives that I’ve envisioned and work I’ve led has directly impacted our growth. I’m super proud of that,” Perdue said. In September, she started her current job as Kids Count program director for the Michigan League for Public Policy. Perdue also works as a digital communications consultant for Urban Core Collective, managing and growing the company’s digital presence. She is the social action chair for the Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated and a member of the Equitable Economic Development Strategic Planning Committee for the city of Grand Rapids. She also is a board member for the Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission and was a board member for the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. Perdue was a member of the Leadership Grand Rapids class of 2019.

Amanda Reed, 33

Dave Riley, 36

Director of virtual health Spectrum Health

Director of business intelligence and research The Right Place Inc.

SINCE AMANDA REED began her role in 2016 as director of virtual health for Spectrum Health, she said she has developed and led a team that has pushed the telehealth strategy forward and matured the program beyond the startup phase. New to the subject matter, she focused on how she could learn and lead the new, young, tech-savvy team. “There were many uncomfortable times, but it was during and through them that we were able to find innovative ways to make things work,” Reed said. “It didn’t take me long to realize that our work was introducing radical and limitless change.” Recently, Reed’s team launched a telemedicine program that offers Spectrum behavioral health virtual visits to patients dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. “This launch marks just the beginning of a journey to radically improve access to behavioral health services, reduce stigma and create a new market,” Reed said. “Building this service has been a culmination of purpose, consumer necessity, community partnerships and tremendous collaboration. I am proud not only because we are working to meet a genuine need in our communities but also because we have shown how speed and results can drive innovation. We have persevered to fill a need and serve a purpose.” Reed also is an adjunct instructor of allied health sciences at Grand Valley State University. She is a member of the Joint Commission Telehealth Technical Advisory Panel, the Michigan Telehealth Collaborative, the SPNHA alumni board and WGVU Engage.

DAVE RILEY SAID The Right Place took a calculated risk in offering him a job as business research manager in 2013. “My biggest professional break was being selected for the business research manager position at The Right Place in 2013,” Riley said. “This role provided an opportunity for me to grow professionally and personally in ways I never could have imagined. I consider it a big break because not only was the position highly competitive, but I came to the interview with zero economic development and zero nonprofit experience. The organization’s leadership took a big risk bringing me on board.” Since then, he has provided custom research assistance to hundreds of West Michigan businesses and nonprofit organizations, according to Riley’s nominator, Renee Tabben, West Michigan director for Bank of AmericaMerrill Lynch. As director of business intelligence and research, Riley developed and led the West Michigan Regional Dashboard, which established a common set of shared metrics that tracks the region’s progress on critical economic, social and environmental indicators. “Since joining The Right Place, I have spent much of my time actively pushing to increase the data capacity of the organization in an effort to improve our effectiveness, efficiency and transparency,” Riley said. He is chair of the West Michigan Research Network and a member of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.’s Goal 3 Alliance, as well as Kent County Gateways for Growth. Riley also volunteers for a number of organizations, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kentwood Public Schools and the United Way.


Amy Schoonover, 39 Owner Flirt Fitness

FLIRT FITNESS IS not your conventional fitness club. Amy Schoonover founded the pole fitness studio designed for women seven years ago. She has opened three locations in West Michigan: Grand Rapids, Byron Center and Muskegon. “The biggest influence in my life are the women that my company impacts,” Schoonover said. “Hearing their success stories reminds me of all of the reasons that I started this company and what I sacrificed building this company.” In addition to learning pole tricks, the studio offers a 90-minute session that includes workouts combined with Pilates, dance moves and yoga. “(Schoonover) built a safe haven for all women from nothing,” said Amanda Wiggers, an instructor at Flirt Fitness. “She has created a space for women of all walks of life to meet and feel free to be the truest form of themselves. She is the pillar of love, encouragement, support and success for all of these women. She owns and runs three small businesses successfully, but ones that are pivotal in a movement to give women the tools they need to reach self-love and self-confidence with a side of fitness. I have never in all my life been prouder to be a part of a company. I have never felt more confident and stronger inside and out.” Schoonover’s support for women also goes outside the studio. She is a board member of MomsBloom, which provides support for women in early motherhood, and is the studio owner symposium coordinator for the United States Pole Sports Federation.


Jen Schottke, 37

Vice president of operations Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter VOLUNTEERING IS AT the center of Jen Schottke’s personal life. The vice president of operations for Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter supports hundreds of volunteers who advance the merit-shop commercial construction industry. “I understand deeply the impact a single volunteer can make on advancing a program, a policy or an entire movement,” Schottke said. Schottke also has taken on numerous roles with the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education, including secretary, treasurer, vice president, finance committee chair and legislative chair. “I give my time whenever possible to the district by attending graduation ceremonies, groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings, school sporting events and serving as a classroom reader or visitor,” she said. Recently, Schottke was invited to participate in the Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative led by Bill Pink, Grand Rapids Community College president, and Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. As part of the GRREI, she coordinated a hiring event at GRPS Innovation Central High School for junior and senior students, as well as their families and the community at large. The hiring event was focused on bringing diversity, equity and inclusion-focused employers to the school to provide career opportunities. “As a woman in a male-dominated industry, being included in the 2019 class will serve as evidence that women not only have a place in the commercial construction industry, but that our work can be significant and exceptional,” Schottke said. “If a young woman reading my bio sees herself in my career pathway, I cannot think of a more valuable contribution I could make to the future.”

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Allison Sleight, 36

Nate Smith, 29

Co-founder Thacker Sleight PC

Co-founder, COO Digital Industry Group

ALLISON SLEIGHT HAS the distinct honor of owning the title of lawyer and entrepreneur. As an attorney, she, alongside her partner Connie Thacker, co-founded Thacker Sleight PC, a family law firm. “When I decided to resign from my previous firm, I had spent several years after law school navigating the old-firm model, leveraging associates to meet billable hour goals, competition among partners/associates and technology inefficiency; at one point, I did not even have a laptop,” Sleight said. “I watched very few women nominated for partnership positions. I always believed that it could be something different; however, fear often keeps you in place, and starting a law firm is an enormous undertaking for one person. I decided the risk of leaving something known to pursue my belief in what I could accomplish was worth it.” After starting with three attorneys, the firm now has 14 attorneys with offices in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Saugatuck. They specialize in divorce litigation, parental alienation, business valuation, child custody, domestic violence, mediation, estate planning, business formation and property settlements. “I took a chance on myself and my abilities to help create a different way of practicing law, one more humanistic and less institutional,” Sleight said. Sleight is president of the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s Family Law Section and is a member of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors and Van Andel Institute’s JBoard. Her awards list includes winning Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars from 2016-19, as well as being named one of the Top Women Attorneys in Michigan in 2018.

NATE SMITH GOT his big break founding his first business, Wavelength Digital, in 2017. The company provided program management services and consulting for major health care and furniture industry clients. He had spent several years previously navigating the corporate world and felt he had hit the career ceiling. “My plans always included self-employment, but it took quite a long time before I finally made the decision to jump into entrepreneurship,” Smith said. “The steady paycheck, normal schedule and relatively low stress simply weren’t cutting it.” If he hadn’t made the move, he wouldn’t have been able to start his second company, Digital Industry Group, in 2018, he said. “After spending a few years in the freelance consulting arena, I knew it was time to start surrounding myself with talented people that could take the business to the next level,” Smith said. Smith helped grow the new business to over $2 million in annual revenue in the first year of operation. “Today, DIG is delivering marketing and technology services that clients previously could not find in West Michigan,” Smith said. “I’m incredibly proud of the team and their capabilities we bring to our clients daily. Navigating the digital ecosystem is far from easy, and at DIG, we specialize in helping brands connect with their customers in meaningful ways.” Michael Simon, DIG’s other co-founder, said Smith has exceptional leadership qualities well above his age. “He’s smart, disciplined and passionate about the West Michigan community and organizations that help local veterans,” Simon said.


Randy Tharp, 35

Laura Traxler, 33

Director of veterans health Leidos

Director of membership Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

RANDY THARP IS a leader both in the public and private sector. As director of veterans affairs for scientific research company Leidos, he advises the company’s senior leadership and VA senior officials on strategies and approaches for technical modernization, solutions and delivery of veterans care. “I believe my experiences through life and career are unique and highlight the traits of courage, dedication and stepping out of our comfort zones to push ourselves to the next levels of our careers,” Tharp said. “I consistently put the needs of our veterans at the top of my list and work tirelessly in my career, nonprofit work and with Kent County to ensure we uphold our promise to serve them when they return.” A passionate advocate for veterans, Tharp himself served eight years in the U.S. Army, during which he was stationed in Germany and did two tours in Iraq. He also served three years at the White House, providing oversight for the federal IT budget of $90 billion. “I was asked to provide oversight of the federal IT budget and thanks to that work under President Obama and the federal CIO Steve Van Roekel, my career went on an upward trajectory in a field I never saw myself in as a child,” Tharp said. Tharp also is the founder and president of VETSports, an organization that helps veterans overcome injuries and live a healthy lifestyle through sports that includes a large chapter in Grand Rapids.

LAURA TRAXLER WAS hired in July 2017 as the director of membership at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce to help reestablish revenue generation and raise dropping retention numbers. After more strategically connecting with members, the chamber began maintaining members at an industry standard of 85%. Traxler also helped book event sponsors and build a fundraising plan, along with the VP of sales and marketing. Since then, the chamber has hired three new sales managers focusing on new sales and member retention, who oversee 2,400 members that generate $1.7 million and have brought in nearly $400,000 in new membership dues. “The last couple of years proved to be challenging, but I didn’t give up,” Traxler said. “I proved that I am able to create an action plan, prioritize and think strategically for the future. Most importantly, what makes me proud is that I changed the trajectory of a 132-year-old organization that is supporting a thriving business region for all.” Traxler showed her ability to meet goals early when she opened a Regis salon at age 20 and later received an award for highest salon growth in the nation. Traxler is a member of the membership development division for the Association for Chamber Executives, community/nonprofit chair of Holland Young Professionals and co-chair of the ambassador council for the Grand Rapids Chamber. She also is chair of the West Side Walk Steering Committee for Gilda’s Club, volunteer manager for RunGR’s Bridge Run steering committee and member of the Conductive Learning Center’s River Bank Run fundraising committee.


Nathan Vanderploeg, 33

Zach Verhulst, 32

TWO YEARS AFTER returning home to join his mother in growing MessageWrap, Nathan Vanderploeg is seeing the benefits. The company has garnered national recognition by being on the 2019 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America. MessageWrap, which produces a printed, antimicrobial conveyor belt cover that rides on top of rotating black belts at checkouts in stores, was ranked No. 904. The ranking comes after retailers such as Target, Walmart, Costco Wholesale, Giant Eagle, Coborn’s, Kroger, Ahold Delhaize and Albertsons started using the covers. To grow the business, Vanderploeg used experience he gathered from being a management consultant for businesses and government agencies. He also learned how to grow a successful company in venture capital and private equity space before joining his mother to expand MessageWrap throughout the world. “Launching and building a company in West Michigan that has landed on the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies in America in MessageWrap (is one of my greatest accomplishments),” he said. “Not for the award itself, though I am thrilled for our team, but because it is exemplary of the difference we are making in the marketplace, for our clients, our team, the community, creating jobs and serving well.” Vanderploeg is co-founder of the New Canaan Society of Grand Rapids, which provides personal and leadership development for men in West Michigan, as well as part of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s Great Gardens Committee, where he helped raise over $250,000 to support the park’s mission to promote the gardens, sculpture, the natural environment and the arts.

ZACH VERHULST’S COMMITMENT to the Grand Rapids community and contributions to the architecture profession have earned him the honor of being the first person of color to have ownership in TowerPinkster in the company’s 70-year history. Verhulst’s biggest professional break was in the fall 2016 when TowerPinkster interviewed for and won two major construction projects for Grand Rapids Public Schools. “I am a proud product of GRPS, a proud Union Redhawk, and the opportunity to directly impact an environment that shaped my life is something I’ve dreamed of doing,” Verhulst said. “Although the district is doing amazing things academically, the facilities need a ton of work with an expectation of an equitable and economical outcome.” Today, Verhulst is a licensed architect managing commercial and educational projects ranging from $2 million to $95 million. In May 2019, Verhulst was offered an equity position, along with a promotion, due to the successful outcomes of these projects, as well as being given responsibility to develop and help lead TowerPinkster’s commercial architecture practice in Grand Rapids. In addition to being named a Grand Rapids Business Journal 2019 40 Under 40 honoree, Verhulst this year was nominated for Young Architect of the Year for the American Institute of Architects’ Grand Rapids Chapter. “To me, Zach epitomizes this award by having made significant contributions to our profession and our community,” said Steven Hoekzema, senior principal and director of K-12 for TowerPinkster. “If selected, he will represent AIA Grand Rapids and its long history of outstanding young architects very well.”

CEO MessageWrap


Architect, project manager TowerPinkster



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Ashley Ward, 29

John White, 31

Founder, owner, CEO Hire for Hope

Senior applications engineer Steelcase

ASHLEY WARD WASN’T content with fine when she left a comfortable job to start her socially conscious recruiting firm, and she — and the community — have been rewarded. In 2017, Ward launched Hire for Hope, a recruiting and talent consulting agency that gives back 10% of its profits to Grand Rapids-based Safe Haven Ministries. She supports the nonprofit because she and her daughter stayed there years ago to receive help exiting an abusive relationship and rebuilding their lives. “I have personally donated tens of thousands of dollars from my business to Safe Haven, supporting their lifechanging work,” Ward said. “I always had it on my heart to repay (them) in some way.” Ward also has raised thousands of dollars for Safe Haven through fundraising — sharing her story at events — and has been a member of its board of directors during the organization’s transition to a new $3 million shelter that doubled its capacity. During the past year, Ward also moved Hire for Hope to a new space downtown, grew its staff to five individuals from two and saw 250% revenue growth. She is a member of the Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Board and vice president of SENATE, an entrepreneurial networking collaborative. She volunteers at city events such as the Mayor’s Grand River Cleanup and the Mayor’s Greening Initiative. Ward was a finalist for the Business Journal’s Top Women-Owned Business awards in March and received the 2019 Bronze Stevie Award for Startup of the Year from the American Business Awards in June.

JOHN WHITE HAS devoted his life to helping students — especially young men and women of color — find career callings. White has worked as a speaker, mentor, job shadow host and internship facilitator alongside his role as an information technology professional at Steelcase during the past almost eight years. For White, it’s personal. After graduating from high school on the south side of Chicago, he said he experienced “culture shock” during freshman orientation at Grand Valley State University, where he was set to pursue a bachelor’s degree on a full-tuition scholarship. He almost changed course but then met a black female bank teller in Allendale who urged him to stick it out, to invest in his future and discover how “the other side” lives and learns. White went to GVSU and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in management information systems, met his now-wife, Josephine White, who helped him get an internship, and soon after was hired by Steelcase. He is paying it all forward as a River City Scholars mentor and a panelist and speaker for numerous GVSU events on the topics of black male scholarship, as well as STEM careers. He has increased the diversity and hiring conversion rates of Steelcase interns as the most recent IT internship coordinator — a position he retired from at the summer’s end after creating a model the entire company is adopting. White also serves as a trustee and black history actor at his church, New Hope Baptist, and he is a board member for Family Futures in Grand Rapids.


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From the Heart

Spectrum Health System

When people love what they do, you feel it, because it matters to them. Congratulations to Amanda Reed and Rosemary Olivero, MD, our 2019 40 under 40 honorees. Thank you for bringing your hearts to work and sharing your curiosity and compassion with your teams and our communities. Improve health, inspire hope and save lives.™

Amanda Reed Director of Virtual Health, Spectrum Health Rosemary Olivero, MD Divison Chief of Medical Subspecialties and Section Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital