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March 4, 2014

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Ambassador Ballroom

you make all the


in the world

50 Most Innuential Women in West Michigan Aquinas celebrates our alumnae: Bridget Clark Whitney, BA ‘03 Amy Marshall, BA ‘08 Sandra Frost Steensma, MM ’87 Beverly Fischell Wall, BSBA ‘83

prayer | study | ser vice | communit y

www.aquinas.edu • (616) 632-8900

prayer | study | ser vice | communit y www.aquinas.edu • (616) 632-8900

Photo Credit: Andrew McGuire

KCAD would like to congratulate alumna Kim Dabbs (‘02, Art History) on being named one of the 50 most influential women in West Michigan. Each year at WMCAT, she and her team provide hundreds of teens and adults with access to creative outlets, technological tools, educational resources, and support systems that move them from where they are to where they want to be—now that’s what we call making an impact! We’re proud to count her amongst our vast network of distinguished alumni and community partners who’ve joined us in a collaborative effort to change the world through art and design.

“To KCAD, the most important thing isn’t where students come from; it’s where they end up.”

Kendall College of Art and Design Ferris State University kcad.edu | 800.676.2787

President David Rosen VanDykeAd-v3B.ai



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CONGRATULATIONS MICHELLE! On being named one of "The Most Influential Women in West Michigan". We agree.

Michelle Van Dyke Regional President Fifth Third Bank


PUBLISHER John H. Zwarensteyn: jzwarensteyn@geminipub.com EDITOR Carole Valade: cvalade@grbj.com MANAGING EDITOR Tim Gortsema: tgortsema@grbj.com COPY EDITOR Donna Ferraro: dferraro@grbj.com ONLINE EDITOR Chris Ehrlich: cehrlich@grbj.com STAFF REPORTERS Pete Daly: pdaly@grbj.com Charlsie Dewey: cdewey@grbj.com Mike Nichols: mnichols@grbj.com Rachel Weick: rweick@grbj.com STAFF RESEARCHER/REPORTER Pat Evans: pevans@grbj.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS AliciaMarie Belchak NEW MEDIA, DESIGN & PRODUCTION MANAGER Scott Sommerfeld: ssommerfeld@geminipub.com ASSISTANT DESIGN & PRODUCTION MANAGER Chris Pastotnik: cpastotnik@geminipub.com ART COORDINATOR Kelly J. Nugent: knugent@geminipub.com DESIGNERS/PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Melissa Brooks: mbrooks@geminipub.com Kristen VanOostenbrugge: kristenv@geminipub.com Robin Vargo: rvargo@geminipub.com CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Johnny Quirin GENERAL SALES MANAGER Randy D. Prichard: rprichard@geminipub.com ADVERTISING SALES CONSULTANTS Christina McDonald Meister: cmeister@geminipub.com Drew Nelson: dnelson@geminipub.com Craig R. Rich: crich@geminipub.com ADVER. SALES ASSISTANT/ COORDINATOR Karla Jeltema: kjeltema@geminipub.com CIRCULATION & MARKETING MANAGER Scott T. Miller: smiller@geminipub.com CIRCULATION & MARKETING COORDINATOR Alex Fluegel: afluegel@geminipub.com CIRCULATION & MARKETING ASSISTANT Shane Chapin: schapin@geminipub.com FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION MANAGER Pamela Brocato, CPA: pbrocato@geminipub.com ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Tina Gillman: tgillman@geminipub.com RECEPTION/CLERICAL SERVICES General Inquiries: info@grbj.com Lorraine Brugger: recept@geminipub.com TO ORDER REPRINTS Karla Jeltema: kjeltema@geminipub.com, (616) 459-4545

Shattering steel ceilings


rand Rapids Business Journal is pleased to continue a biennial tradition that began in 1997 when the first list of GRBJ Most Influential Women was published. Their number then was less than 50. The importance of continuing the GRBJ 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan was underscored this year as women around the world — and especially in Michigan — applauded the announcement of Mary Barra’s new title of CEO with General Motors. She became one of 23 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in this country and the first ever in the automotive industry. Forbeswoman.com columnist Anne Doyle noted Barra had shattered not just a glass, but a steel, ceiling. The women profiled here were selected from 110 nominations. Those nominations came from co-workers, employees, civic community members — and proud sons and daughters. Those not represented on these pages this year are certainly “ones to watch” as West Michigan continues to expand the ranks of women in leadership positions in business, on community and corporate boards, in political appointments and elections. Readers may take for granted that this group of West Michigan women are involved in community well outside their professional areas of expertise, but would without doubt underestimate the extent of such involvement, far too numerous to include in each profile. Many of them are likely to host their own birthday party as a method of fundraising for a charity, issue or cause. The cause of supporting one another and mentoring other women is top of mind among this group. Many of the women profiled here hold dual titles and leadership responsibilities. The Business Journal elects to request the assistance and time of judges from outside this region, individuals who are influential from east Michigan: — Michelle Richards has been the executive director of the Center for Empowerment & Economic Development for more than 20 years. CEED provides small business training, counseling, financing and other assistance to women and minorities. One CEED program is the Michigan Women’s Business Council, which provides certification and procurement assistance to womenowned businesses. Richards has served as president of the Michigan council and as a board member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. She has been honored with the Michigan Small Business Administration Women’s Business Advocate of the Year Award, and was a participant in the Women’s Economic Summit at the White House. The city of Ypsilanti and the Women’s Council of Washtenaw County selected Richards as its 2010 Athena Award recipient. — Bob Thomas is executive director of Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which includes Leadership Michigan. —Christine Scharrer is executive director of Leadership Oakland and owner of a business leadership consulting firm. Congratulations to the nominees and the GRBJ 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. — Carole Valade




Changing lives and communities through the power of work for the past 47 years!

industries Goodwill congratulates KATHY CROSBY as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s

MIW Peggy Murphy 3.5x4.ai 1 2/20/2014 10:37:12 AM


Kathleen Vogelsang Director, Chief Investment Officer, Van Andel Institute









Congratulations to

PEGGY MURPHY, CPA The team at Hungerford Nichols salutes Shareholder Peggy Murphy for being selected as one of the Most Influential Women in West Michigan!


Named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.

THE 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN WEST MICHIGAN Patricia Barker Stacie Behler Rosalynn Bliss Doreen Bolhuis Mary Bonnema Julie Bulson Bridget Clark Whitney Kathy Crosby Kim Dabbs Jeanne Englehart Elizabeth Joy Fossel Christina Freese-Decker Mimi Fritz Floriza Genautis Jane Gietzen Meg Goebel Cynthia Havard Mary K. Hoodhood Shelley Irwin Jennifer Jurgens Cynthia Kay Leslie King Birgit Klohs Denise Kolesar Cindy Locklin Amy Marshall Janet Mason Jennifer Maxson Peaches McCahill Mary McLoughlin Rachel Mraz Peggy Murphy Bonnie Nawara Amy Proos Michelle Rabideau Mandee Rick Mary Ellen Rodgers Raquel Salas Ginny Seyferth Amna Seibold Diana Sieger Sara Smolenski Sandra Frost Steensma Michelle Van Dyke Tami VandenBerg Kathleen Vogelsang Linda J. Vos-Graham Beverly Wall Chris Willis Shannon Wilson 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 7


Artistic Director – School Director Grand Rapids Ballet A world-renowned prima ballerina, Patricia Barker serves two vital roles at Grand Rapids Ballet. As artistic director since 2010 of Michigan’s only professional ballet company, she is responsible for creating, articulating and implementing the artistic vision, and managing artistic personnel, budgeting, programming and fund development. As director of the ballet school, she sets curriculum, manages faculty/staff, and tends to parent relationships as well as the productions of the Junior Company. Each year, 2,000 children ages 5 to 19 benefit from the ballet’s outreach programs, helping create a place with active contributors to the social fabric of the area. As one of the few female artistic directors in the world, Barker works actively as a cultural ambassador for Grand Rapids and the West Michigan brand wherever she travels. Previously, Barker

served as artistic advisor for the Slovak National Ballet and Hungarian National Ballet. Her entrepreneurial endeavors include founding dance apparel company BKWear and consulting on design for a signature pointe shoe and a patented contemporary dance shoe at Bloch. Barker was the 2007 recipient of Seattle Storm’s 2007 Women of Inspiration Award, and her legacy includes the Patricia Barker Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Pacific Northwest Ballet, where she was principal dancer. Since 2005, she has been a spokesperson for the United States Bone and Joint Decade, part of a worldwide initiative to improve prevention of bone and joint disorders. She is currently a board member of the Tateuchi Center, a performing arts center in Bellevue, Wash., and on the advisory boards for Pointe Magazine, CriticalDance. com, California Ballet and Broadway Bound.


Group Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications Meijer Inc. A former lawyer, Stacie Behler often finds herself at the forefront of policy and community development in West Michigan as a result of her varied leadership roles. Behler fills dual positions in her career: overseeing communications, media and public relations for Meijer Inc., and serving as executive director of the Meijer Foundation. In addition to managing five state Meijer political action committees, she supervises the company’s political involvement and state and federal policy work. At Meijer, Behler directs all community and philanthropic work, which includes investing more than 6 percent of the company’s net annual profit back into the Midwest communities in which Meijer stores are located. Her work with the Meijer Foundation includes assisting trustees with their engagement in arts, education, health and economic develop-


ment of Michigan communities. A regular mentor, Behler said she takes leadership opportunities seriously in the hopes of making a positive and significant impact. She currently is chair of the board for Heart of West Michigan United Way and a board member for Michigan Women’s Foundation, Power of 100 Women, Experience Grand Rapids, Muskegon Museum of Art and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce where she also serves as policy chair for the executive committee. She lends her leadership to the West Michigan planning committee for the Michigan Political Leadership Program annual fundraiser and to the Grand Rapids Economic Club as recent chair for the program committee and annual dinner committee, which brought Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a speaker.


City Commissioner, Grand Rapids Director of Residential Services, D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s Home Now serving her third term as Grand Rapids’ 2nd Ward city commissioner, Rosalynn Bliss has been actively engaged in projects she believes are important to the community. She also works as director of residential services at D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s Home. She has been active in the child welfare system in Kent County and at the state level to advocate for the most vulnerable children. She has been recognized and honored locally and statewide for her dedication in the field of child abuse and neglect, as well as for her leadership in the community. Most recently, Bliss was tapped by the Michigan Department of Human Services to serve on a taskforce working on performance-based contracting for private agency providers. In her community leader role, Bliss has

worked to improve citizen engagement, economic development and quality of life. She has served on the campaign committee for Neighbors for Parks, Pools and Playgrounds for a dedicated millage for parks, and she continues to serve on the Uptown Corridor Improvement District, the Fulton Street Famers Market Redevelopment Committee and the Kent County Land Bank Authority. A city liaison with Friends of GR Parks, Bliss has supported policies and funding to increase urban tree canopy and has worked with the Urban Forest Project to enlist citizen support and volunteers. Currently, Bliss is a trustee with the Michigan Municipal League, a mentor with Grand Valley State University’s Hausenstein Center, and a board member of the Dyer-Ives Foundation and YMCA.

DOREEN BOLHUIS President and CEO Gymco Inc.

As a female entrepreneur and an advocate for diversity and women in leadership, Doreen Bolhuis has built and grown Gymco Inc. over the past 33 years while becoming a visionary leader for the community. With a $1 million budget and 30 employees, Gymco has been named Small Business of the Year by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, honored three times as a Top Women-Owned Business by the Grand Rapids Business Journal and listed five times on the 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work list by Michigan Business and Professional Association. Bolhuis also created the Gymtrix DVD series designed to get kids active and teach sport skills. A tireless small business coach, a mentor to female professionals and an adjunct fitness professor at Aquinas College, Bolhuis has garnered honors from Inforum of West Michigan and

Women’s Resource Center. On a state level, she works to promote business-friendly legislation through board service with the West Michigan Policy Forum and the GR Area Chamber. She is a member of the Michigan Fitness Foundation and sits on the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness, Health and Sports. As a former elite-level gymnastics coach and member of the Junior Olympic Committee for USA Gymnastics, Bolhuis regularly blogs and shares her expertise in physical literacy in the media. She also speaks on the subject of small business development and actively mentors women, business leaders and other entrepreneurs. She currently sits on the advisory council for Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Academy of Business, Leadership & Entrepreneurship.

MARY BONNEMA President and CEO McGarry Bair PC

As one of the first female managing shareholders of a West Michigan law firm, Mary Bonnema is a trailblazer. As president and CEO of McGarry Bair since 2000, she has developed a highly successful, high-tech, high-touch law firm specializing in all aspects of intellectual property. Her clients include several Fortune 500 companies and their global intellectual property portfolios. In fact, McGarry Bair was named a Go-To Law Firm for the Top 500 Companies by Fortune Magazine for the sixth consecutive year, and has been named a U.S. News and World Report Best Law Firm for 2014. Bonnema was recently named a member of the Bar Register for Pre-eminent Women Lawyers for 2014 by Martindale-Hubbell. In addition to leading the firm and serving as

an active practicing attorney, Bonnema holds many board and volunteer responsibilities and is committed to the West Michigan community. For the last five years, she has volunteered for The Dwelling Place Charity Event each April. Previously, she acted as girls soccer team manager for Grand Rapids Crew Juniors and coached Odyssey of the Mind teams for elementary students at West Side Christian School, where she also recently served on the school’s principal search committee. Bonnema currently sits on the board of trustees for Calvin College, speaks at local colleges and writes prolifically in her spare time. In addition to professional articles, she has published two historical romance novels under the pen name Ellie Cort.



Director of Emergency Preparedness Spectrum Health As Spectrum Health’s director of emergency preparedness, Julie Bulson brings a host of insights and leadership governance gathered during her 30 years in health care, 20 of which are in emergency preparedness. Bulson currently oversees emergency preparedness planning for eight acute care hospitals, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, long-term care sites and urgent care centers. In a field that is a traditionally male dominated, she said she finds she’s good at motivating and empowering people to get disaster planning work done through collaboration. Bulson regularly represents local hospitals on community emergency preparedness planning committees, and she has presented at several national and local conferences, including panel discussions for the Centers for Disease Control and for the Michigan Ethics Resource Network.

At Spectrum Health, Bulson has been integral in the development of disaster response and organizational readiness to support the community through any crisis and created the first hospital-based decontamination response team in the region. In 2010, her work related to regional planning around the H1N1 virus earned the Mitigation of the Year Award from the Michigan Emergency Management Association. Bulson has co-authored several professional articles and teaches senior-level nursing students as a guest lecturer at Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof College of Nursing. A GVSU Alumni Association board member since 2007 and board president since 2011, Bulson helped develop and implement strategic plans to better engage alumni and advocate on behalf of the university through her leadership.

BRIDGET CLARK WHITNEY Executive Director Kids’ Food Basket

From intern to executive director, Bridget Clark Whitney has guided the development and growth of Kids’ Food Basket through its inception to the powerful community-driven organization it is today. Over the last 11 years, the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit has attacked childhood hunger by providing sack suppers to children through schools and summer programs. Kids’ Food Basket now provides nearly 6,000 meals every day in Grand Rapids and Muskegon, relying on community donations and volunteers to accomplish the daily workload. Clark Whitney said she is proud of the evolution and noted how she has grown, as well, developing competencies in leadership, strategic planning, program development and organizational management. In 2013, Kids’ Food Basket was awarded Excellence in Fundraising from the Association of

Fundraising Professionals, honored as Nonprofit of the Year at WGVU’s I Have Made a Difference Awards, and granted the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce Agent of Change Award. Also in 2013, Clark Whitney was recognized by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber as the Athena Young Professional Award recipient. She has been a featured speaker at the national, state and local levels, presenting on anti-hunger issues, nonprofit governance, fundraising and volunteerism. As board member and civic engagement committee co-chair for the Michigan Nonprofit Association, she organized the first SuperConference, convening all Michigan nonprofits last fall in Grand Rapids. She serves as board member, fund development committee co-chair and planning committee member for Indian Trails Camp and on the Aquinas College Community Leadership Advisory Council.


President and CEO Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids Inc. Since assuming leadership at Goodwill in 2007, Kathy Crosby has grown the organization every year, increasing revenue, strengthening the balance sheet and growing employee numbers. As president and CEO, Crosby has overseen the approval and sale of $7.75 million in bonds for retail development and ensured the development of leased and built-to-suit stores in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Through it all, Goodwill has focused on building a trusted brand of service in the community for a great thrift shopping experience, environmental initiatives, job creation and work-force training programs. Crosby’s direction has led to an increase in revenue from $20.5 million to $34 million, moving from 13 stores and one attended donation center to 16 stores, two boutiques and seven attended donation centers. In 2013, Crosby received the P.J. Trevethan Award from Goodwill 10 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

Industries International for outstanding contributions in training personnel, and also accepted the 2013 Toastmasters International Leadership & Communication Award. She serves on Grand Valley State University’s Health Advisory Board, Blue Cross Blue Shield Advisory Board, CEO Leadership Council of Talent 2025, Grand Rapids Area Chamber’s Regional Issues Council, and on the board of directors for the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan and the nonprofit association for community service providers, MARO. Crosby develops emerging talent through MARO’s Leadership Academy, mentors through GVSU’s Hauenstein Center mentoring program, and is the only woman mentor currently in the Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Program. She is a member of the Grand Rapids Economic Club and Inforum of West Michigan.


2014 WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT & COURAGE IN WEST MICHIGAN HEALTH Community – Micki Benz, Regional Vice President, Communications and Advocacy, Mercy Health Education & Research – Marsha D. Rappley, MD, Dean, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University Advocacy – Terese Hendricks-Pitsch, Executive Director, Migrant Legal Aid Medical & Professional – Tammy Born Huizenga, DO, CEO, Born Preventive Health Care For more information contact Judy Welch at jwelch@miwf.org | miwf.org Michigan Women’s Foundation is devoted to fostering economic empowerment for the state’s women and girls through philanthropy and investment.

Girls Who Code programs work to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.

THANK YOU Kim Dabbs, Mimi Fritz, Jane Gietzen, and Birgit Klohs for your contributions to Downtown Grand Rapids. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. is proud to congratulate these members of its leadership network for their nominations as part of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.

For more information about Girls Who Code, visit



Executive Director West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology Kim Dabbs is passionate about collaboration within and among sectors, and as executive director of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology, she serves the mission of creating a culture of opportunity for people to make social and economic progress in their lives and community. Since 2012, Dabbs has worked with the WMCAT board to set strategic direction, with a keen eye on stakeholder partnerships and fiscal sustainability. Previously, she spent six years leading Michigan Youth Arts in Royal Oak, where she managed programs for 250,000 high school students, building a statewide advocacy coalition to increase funding for youth arts education. In 2010, Dabbs received a Joyce Fellowship from Americans for the Arts to explore communities of color and their engagement as part of a

year-long study. A recipient of the Emerging Leader Award from Americans for the Arts, she also earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Art Education Association, the Friend of Music Education Award from the Friend of Music Education Association, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Ferris University’s Kendall College of Art and Design. Dabbs sits on the board for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and for Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. She serves on the Leadership Committee for the Extended Learning Opportunities Network, the Education Policy Committee for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and Varnum’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. In 2013, she was named to the 40 Under Forty list by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.


Vice President of Client Relationships, The Charter Group Interim Executive, Inforum West Michigan A long-time Grand Rapids leader, Jeanne Englehart continues to remain at the heart of the area’s business community despite several attempts at retirement. She currently holds a position as vice president of client relationships for the mergers and acquisitions firm The Charter Group. A successful entrepreneur as founder and president of Englehart Training Centers, Englehart now provides independent consulting services to West Michigan business owners in the areas of succession planning and valuation enhancement. Previously, she retired from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, where she developed an award-winning organization during her seven years as the first female president and CEO. Englehart’s experience includes a host of board and leadership positions in local and na-

tional organizations as well as a gubernatorial appointment to the State of Michigan Early Childhood Investment Corp., a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business, and working as community services director for Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers. Englehart most recently stepped in as interim executive and brand ambassador for both Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership in West Michigan, of which she is a founding member. She currently sits on the board and corporate committee for the Grand Rapids Symphony and serves Founders Bank & Trust as a member of the board of directors, executive loan committee, and governance and compensation committee. Among her many accolades, she was named the 2013 Athena Award recipient by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

ELIZABETH JOY FOSSEL Diversity and Inclusion Counsel Varnum LLP

In 2011, Varnum appointed Elizabeth Joy Fossel its first diversity and inclusion counsel, a position that has led her to foster greater inclusiveness throughout West Michigan and enhance understanding of the value of diverse perspectives, backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences. Beyond her legal work, which she offers pro bono when needed, Fossel views diversity and inclusion as essential for the equitable growth of the West Michigan economy and for talent attraction and retention in the community. To that end, she leads a portion of the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative that focuses on recruitment and is geared toward increasing the number of minority and women lawyers in the Grand Rapids legal community. She spearheaded the development of the “grabLAW” campaign, designed to attract millennials to careers here, and has led efforts to ex12 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

pand the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s minority clerkship program by working to increase the number of participating employers and expanding the applicant pool. In 2013, Fossel was recognized with the President’s Award for exemplary service by the Grand Rapids Bar Association and with the Diversity Business Leader Award by Corp! Magazine. In addition to her role on the board of trustees for the local bar association, she serves on the boards for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Gerontology Network, Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, and the Kent District Library Fund Development Board. She also provides civic education to ninthgraders at Ottawa Hills and teaches courses at Cooley Law School and Grand Valley State University.

CHRISTINA FREESE-DECKER Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Spectrum Health

In her new position at Spectrum Health, Christina Freese-Decker is involved in setting the strategy for the largest health care system in West Michigan, comprised of 11 hospitals, 173 ambulatory and service sites, 960 advanced practice providers and physicians, and 20,800 employees. Previously, Freese-Decker was president of Spectrum’s United and Kelsey hospitals, where she worked to increase access to health care in West Michigan by recruiting new physicians and advanced practice professionals, and looked for ways to remove barriers to care through community health initiatives and homecare appointments. Recognizing that decisions at the hospital directly impact the local community and economy, she learned to be mindful of this influence in supporting a vibrant region.

Freese-Decker joined Spectrum Health in 2002 as a fellow where she planned and implemented numerous projects, including a smokefree hospital campus and a bariatric business plan. She also developed the business plan for Spectrum’s affiliation with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and facilitated negotiations to bring the school to Grand Rapids with Spectrum Health as an active partner. Freese-Decker is president of the alumni board of directors for the University of Iowa Department of Health Management and Policy, helping to raise funds for new facilities and advise on curriculum. She is also an active member of the American College of Healthcare Executives Career Services Task Force and sits as vice chair of the David D. Hunting YMCA board.


President and CEO Grand Rapids Downtown Market For the last two years, Mimi Fritz has focused with single-minded determination on the construction, leasing, staffing and program development of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Her leadership has resulted in a stellar success for the community, food entrepreneurs and Fritz, personally. The indoor/outdoor market’s growth and vibrancy have become a model around the state and it has garnered national attention with its unique combination of fresh, local food paired with a strong educational component. Fritz is credited with successfully implementing the vision of the market, including the latest initiative to develop an education foundation that will provide low-income patrons with free courses, transportation, food assistance programs and subsidized entrepreneurial opportunities for food-related businesses.

She noted that creating and managing exciting urban places has been a rewarding and fulfilling part of her work at the market and throughout the last 10 years. Previously, Fritz served the city of Holland as marketing director for its downtown and farmers market, a role in which she focused on creative, strategic marketing and event planning to develop award-winning community and farmers market programming. She also formerly worked as marketing and event manager for Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, a newly created position at the time. She lends her expertise as chair of marketing and programming/logistics with the board for Tulipanes Latino Art and Film Festival, and she sits on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity Lakeshore and A Black Dance Company (Illinois).


CEO Management Business Solutions Inc. Floriza Genautis is the principal founder of Management Business Solutions, a Grand Rapids-based firm providing customized solutions for staffing and recruiting. The highly successful agency has seen employee growth and an increase of sales, even during the downturn of the economy. Genautis said her company is stronger now in its eighth year, and she has plans to expand ownership within the firm. She believes the key to her success has been the collaboration of a dedicated and empowered team, which she assembled specifically with future succession in mind. A certified woman-owned and minorityowned business, Management Business Solutions employs 100 percent women/minorities, consistently attracts skilled and diverse talent for clients, and gives back to the community through active participation in various organiza-

tions and passionate support for diversity and inclusion. Genautis is also the co-founder of Women In Successful Enterprises, which works to foster connections and support for businesswomen through quarterly events and other resources. She serves as board chair for the Women’s Resource Center and conducts site visits and application reviews as a certification council member for the Women Business Enterprise Council – Great Lakes. In these roles, she brings into play more than 20 years of experience and specialization in the professional staffing industry. Prior to calling Grand Rapids home, she recruited for well-known technology companies in Silicon Valley. She credits her independent and entrepreneurial ideals to her contrasting experiences growing up in Manila, Philippines, and her immigration to the United States in 1990.



Director of Information Services Spectrum Health As Spectrum Health’s information services department has grown, so too has Jane Gietzen’s role in leading and developing a team that runs a host of daily business functions that includes vendor and contract management, license compliance, asset and budget management, and human resources. Her expansive responsibilities cover an operating budget of $8 million and $20 million in capital. Under her leadership, the department has developed a robust internship program offering 25 paid internships each summer, filled with students from colleges throughout the state. Besides fostering young talent, Gietzen is an advocate for diversity and inclusion. A graduate of Leadership Grand Rapids, Leadership West Michigan and the Institute for Healing Racism, she points to these three programs, in addition to her personal experiences, as signifi-

cantly influencing her perspective and rounding out the way she thinks about issues facing the community. She played a key role in the inaugural Spectrum Health Jump Jam last year in partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools, which created a wellness opportunity for kids in a fun atmosphere. In 2012, Gietzen wrapped up a fouryear term as an elected school board member for GRPS, having served on its finance, education, liaison and executive committees as well as the superintendent’s succession planning team. She continues her leadership in education as a member of the Montessori Advisory Council and recently joined the board for Center for Community Leadership. She has served four years with the Downtown Development Authority, including involvement in the initial planning to create Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

MEG GOEBEL President and CEO Paul Goebel Group

In 1994, Meg Goebel decided to purchase her father’s insurance agency and has never looked back. As president of the Paul Goebel Group, she has developed a dedicated team of insurance professionals who have contributed significantly to the company’s strong growth. The firm provides approximately 50,000 lawyers, CPAs, engineers and key business professionals throughout Michigan with comprehensive insurance solutions and was a finalist for the 2013 Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Top Women Owned Business award in the $1.5 million to $3.99 million revenue category. Noted for her energetic enthusiasm in the insurance industry and community at large, Goebel is clearly proud of the small business, founded in 1932, that has allowed her to contribute both

time and treasure back to the West Michigan community. Goebel is the former board chair of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, which she still serves as a board member. Her list of industry and community leadership has included work with Broadway Grand Rapids, Davenport University Foundation, Planned Parenthood Centers of West and Northern Michigan, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Economic Club of Grand Rapids and YWCA Center for Women. She is also the former president of the American Institute of Professional Association Group Insurance Administrators and the Mid-American Association of Group Administrators, and she assists Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as a current member of its Business Advisory Board.

CYNTHIA HAVARD COO and CFO Cole’s Quality Foods Inc.

Cynthia Havard holds two vital roles in the success of Cole’s Quality Foods Inc. while working in a world traditionally dominated by men. During her tenure, the company has grown from $25 million to $75 million, a magnitude of growth that creates opportunities as well as challenges for the chief financial officer. Known for its frozen garlic bread and toast, the Michigan-based baker distributes products throughout the eastern half of the United States and to selected markets in the Southwest and West. Havard views herself as a role model for other young women in West Michigan and proudly points to her progression through the ranks from staff accountant to principal tax advisory in entrepreneurial services at Ernst & Young LLP and then her 1995 transition to her current position at Cole’s.


She seeks to be actively involved with organizations making a positive impact in the community. Most recently, she’s filled leadership roles as vice chair of the board at Porter Hills Retirement Communities and as chair of the executive leadership team for American Heart Association Go Red for Women. She currently sits on the finance committees for Gerontology Network and YMCA Governing Board. Havard previously lent her talents to the Huntington Women’s Advisory Board and the boards of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, The Right Place and Family Owned Business Council. Her honors include being an Athena Award finalist in 2005, Inforum Inner Circle in 2009, and one of GRBJ’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan in 2010.


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MARY K. HOODHOOD Founder Kids’ Food Basket

No one questions the vision Mary K. Hoodhood brought to the table when she founded Kids’ Food Basket in 2001. She first conceived of the idea to provide children with sack suppers after hearing the story of a young girl who rummaged for food in the trash for her evening meal. Since then, she has inspired and led Kids’ Food Basket in a myriad of ways. She is the past chair and a current member of the board and volunteers 30 hours each week for the nonprofit, concentrating her efforts on public relations and fund development. She remains tenacious in giving adults and children alike the opportunity to become involved in eradicating childhood hunger in West Michigan. Despite a traumatic car accident that left her a quadriplegic in 1980, Hoodhood has shown a

“can-do attitude” that encourages and motivates others. She has gone on to complete a master’s degree in social work, work full time as manager of volunteer services at God’s Kitchen and found Kids’ Food Basket. She serves as board vice president for Indian Trails Camp and is a board member for Michigan Community Quality Care and the Center for Independent Living. She also advises the city of Grand Rapids and Kent County Juvenile Court on behalf of citizens with disabilities. Hoodhood’s many honors include the Invest in Ability Award, Art Van Hope Award, Celebration of Soul – Dr. Malinda P. Sapp Legacy Award, U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal and YWCA Tribute Award.


Shelley Irwin is a woman about town and wellknown as the voice and face of Grand Rapids’ public broadcasting at Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center. She is host and producer of “The WGVU Morning Show” with the West Michigan NPR affiliate and hosts several PBS programs including “Family Health Matters,” “Ask the Expert” and “Community Connection.” As a journalist and talk show host, Irwin shines the spotlight on many worthy people, organizations, activities and events. She freely shares her enthusiasm and energies by participating in a host of committees, boards, civic events and other volunteer opportunities, all while training for and competing in several races and triathlons each year. Irwin currently serves the boards of the

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Press Club of Grand Rapids, Mind Meets Music, Alternatives in Motion and Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore. She has blazed a trail as the first female president in 80 years of the Grand Rapids Lions Club and the third female president of the University Club in 90 years. An advocate for women, she contributes to the committees of the Athena Award Program, Michigan Women’s Foundation, Habitat for Humanity Women Build, Gazelle Girls Half Marathon, American Heart Association Go Red for Women, and Women and Girls Lead. Her honors include five consecutive American Women in Radio and Television Gracie Allen Awards for Outstanding Program Host. In 2013, she was named the West Michigan PRSA Media Person of the Year and the Face of GR.

JENNIFER JURGENS Executive Director Susan G. Komen West Michigan

Jennifer Jurgens combines her professional experience and personal passion in her position as leader of Susan G. Komen West Michigan, the local affiliate covering Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo and Ottawa counties. Since youth, she has been deeply affected by breast cancer, Jurgens said, so she is fervent about early detection and dedicated to finding a cure. As executive director and a breast cancer survivor herself, she fights for those affected by breast cancer and breathes new life into the organization. Since joining Susan G. Komen in late 2012, Jurgens has restructured the organization, launched a five-county campaign sharing local breast cancer survival stories, and planned their “Sweet 16” Race for the Cure. As the spokesperson for the affiliate organization on both the national and local levels, she is responsible for bringing information on breast 16 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

cancer research, national and global developments and resources back to West Michigan. Her prior position was as the vice president of sales and marketing at a software company where she provided consulting to companies like Konica Minolta, HON, The American Heart Association, Safety-Kleen and others. Jurgens actively serves on the boards for West Michigan Multi-Sport Racing, which hosts the Millennium Triathlon benefiting regional organizations serving children, and TEDxGrand Rapids, where she was co-organizer, speaker and selected representative of West Michigan at the 2013 TEDx Global Summit in Qatar. Jurgens also is a founding member of aimWest, served the cabinet for LaughFest, and has spoken at Gilda’s Club, TEDxMuskegon, and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s on the topic of breast cancer and young survivorship.

CYNTHIA KAY President and CEO Cynthia Kay and Co.

After a dozen years in the broadcasting business as anchor, host and producer, Cynthia Kay founded her own media production company. Her firm, Cynthia Kay and Co., produces high-quality communications used nationally and internationally. Over the years, the company earned recognition as a Top Woman-Owned Business by GRBJ, Small Business of the Year by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber, a Corp! Magazine Michigan Diversity Business Leader honoree, and one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in West Michigan. Kay holds more than 30 broadcast awards, several Addy and Telly awards, and multiple listings on the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women. Her recently published book from Career Press — titled “Small Business for Big Thinkers: Unconventional Strategies to

Connect With and Win Big Business” — offers business strategies learned from her own experience on how to run and grow a small business. As a small business owner, Kay said she has been a passionate spokesperson for small business on a national level. She is a board member of the National Small Business Association, serves as chair of three political action committees for the Small Business Association of Michigan (in addition to past board chair), and blogs about small business for TheCEO Magazine. Kay continues to sit on the advisory board for the marketing department at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business as well as a steering committee for a new initiative at GROW aimed at programming for accomplished women business owners.


Chairman and Founder Sacred Beginnings Women’s Transitional Program Leslie King is a true unsung hero and a survivor of what she calls “modern day slavery.” She uses her own personal story, which entails being coerced into prostitution at the age of 15 and subsequently enduring more than 20 years of human trafficking in Grand Rapids, to shed light on the local street scene and to reach out and empower those affected by sex trafficking. In the eight years since she founded Sacred Beginnings Women’s Transitional Program, King has rescued or served the needs of more than 400 prostituted women in the Grand Rapids area, providing them with the means to escape victimization and lead educated and productive lives. Although her work often goes unseen and unrecognized, she has been changing lives through intense advocacy on behalf of sex victims and

her caring, intentional work with the women and girls trapped into working the streets. She is working toward a systematic recognition that the real lawbreakers are the pimps and johns who solicit the women and enforce the indentured lifestyle. She regularly informs law enforcement and policy makers about human trafficking in their own backyards. King sits on the committee for the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, is president of the Kent County Recovery Housing Coalition, and chairs the board for Sacred Beginnings in addition to running the all-volunteer organization. A strong advocate of higher education as part of rehabilitation, she is now pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Grand Valley State University.

BIRGIT KLOHS President and CEO The Right Place Inc.

Simply stated, few other women in West Michigan have done more to impact the long-term economic growth of the region than Birgit Klohs. As president and CEO of regional economic development organization The Right Place since 1987, Klohs is responsible for marketing Greater Grand Rapids to an international audience. Through her knowledge of the area’s business community, assets and unique strengths, she has been instrumental in the retention, expansion and attraction of businesses to West Michigan. The Right Place has spurred more than $2.5 billion in capital investment and encouraged the creation of more than 37,000 jobs under her leadership. A native of Germany who speaks three languages, Klohs has led numerous trade missions and private gubernatorial business trips to Europe, the Far East and Israel as the state’s leading

international economic development specialist. Most recently, she worked to convene and lead a 13-county economic development collaborative never accomplished before in West Michigan’s history. She said her vision for this new collaborative potentially poises West Michigan to become a leading economic region in the Midwest. Klohs is a frequent speaker on economic development at national and international conferences. Active in many local and statewide activities, she currently serves on many boards and advisory councils, including Macatawa Bank, ADAC Automotive, Kent County Aeronautics, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Van Andel Public Museum, Grand Action Executive Committee, Kent County/Grand Rapids Convention and Arena Authority, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and Michigan Israel Business Bridge.


DENISE KOLESAR President Kohler Expos Inc.

When Denise Kolesar started her own expo business in 1998, she had little idea that 16 years later she’d be running five women-centered events annually covering the West Michigan and the Mid-Michigan markets. What began in 1999 as a small show for consumers has become a much-anticipated event, and today the three-day West Michigan Women’s Expo attracts 17,000 people to downtown Grand Rapids annually. Kohler Expos also produces several successful bridal shows each year, has revitalized the Alpha Women’s Center charity event with mom-to-mom sales, and is developing another brand new event focusing on kids and family. Kolesar said her goal has been to create events that support women by blending education with entertainment and enjoyment. The growth of Kohler Expos signals the

strength of a business model that has seen a doubling of sales. The expos have proven a testing ground and incubator for many female entrepreneurs and those offering women-oriented products and services. Kolesar is pleased to note that dozens of products have debuted at her shows, offering opportunities for businesses to meet face-to-face with potential clients and fine-tune their messages before going on to success in the wider marketplace. Kohler Expos currently employs up to 50 seasonal workers and has donated more than $350,000 to women- and family-focused nonprofits since its inception. Kolesar was recognized as a finalist for the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs Leadership Award in 2013 and has been listed three times as a Top Women-Owned Business by Grand Rapids Business Journal.

CINDY LOCKLIN President and CEO Busy Bea’s Services Inc.

Cindy Locklin considers herself a connector of people and businesses. She aims to have her commercial cleaning company be one that mentors and leads through action, setting an example of how to take care of employees, customers and even the planet. Although Busy Bea’s Services Inc. started in 2000 as a residential cleaning company, Locklin sold the residential services portion in 2004 to focus exclusively on the fast-growing commercial janitorial and medical side of the business. With a staff of 60 in 2013, the firm has experienced 160 percent growth. An outspoken leader on small business issues, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, Locklin proudly notes the company’s growth has enabled her to provide health care coverage for all of her full-time employees. Additionally, Locklin has committed to

business decisions about purchases, process and procedures at Busy Bea’s that put the cleaning company firmly in the “green category” for sustainability practices. A board member for West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, she has created business partnerships with other green companies and has written about and been interviewed on the subject of sustainability. Locklin encourages her employees to give back to the community by reimbursing several hours of volunteer time. The company has sponsored GROW for young women entrepreneurs, the Grand River clean up, AIDSwalk, Health Homes, Legal Aid and chamber events. Locklin has earned status as a Top WomenOwned Business by GRBJ, an EPIC Award Winner for Women-Owned Business of the Year, and Entrepreneur of Distinction in Michigan from Corp! Magazine.


Managing Partner Management Business Solutions In the last five years, Amy Marshall has demonstrated herself to be a highly motivated individual who strives for excellence both personally and professionally. Since joining Management Business Solutions in February 2009 as a part-time recruiting assistant during the economic downturn, Marshall has proven her resourcefulness and passion for finding qualified professionals to meet client needs and staffing requirements. Fast-tracked during her first year to a lead recruiter role, Marshall put in hours of hard work toward learning the business as she pursued a unique opportunity to be part of the Five-Year Employee Ownership Plan. She has been able to build a successful team of committed recruiters, develop a thriving internship program, and gain the trust of long-lasting repeat clients. She expects to be officially onboard as a part-owner 18 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

of Management Business Solutions in February 2014 and looks forward to growing the business and working to attract and retain talent in West Michigan. Marshall also continues to serve as an inspiration for other young professionals, giving back to the Grand Rapids community and serving on many boards and committees. Among them, she counts current service as the youngest board secretary ever for the American Red Cross, where she also has co-chaired its largest fundraiser for the past three years, raising more than $150,000. She is also board secretary and events chair for the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and also has joined the advisory board for Grand Rapids Young Professionals after four years of board leadership for the organization.

PREPARED FOR WORK + LIFE Employers appreciate how Calvin’s rigorous liberal arts education shapes the whole person with the faith, knowledge and skills to walk confidently into a career and life. Calvin congratulates our “50 Most Influential Women” alumni honorees: Mary C. Bonnema ’90

Attorney at McGarry Bair P.C.

Michelle VanDyke ’85

Regional President of Fifth Third Bank

Tami VandenBerg ’97

Executive Director of the Well House, Co-Owner of The Meanwhile Bar and Pyramid Scheme

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President and General Manager WZZM 13/Gannett Among her many notable achievements, Janet Mason can point to successfully leading the charge to transform Grand Rapids’ local ABC affiliate, WZZM 13, into a buzzing multi-media operation designed for the digital era. Since 1997, she has overseen the development of additional TV newscasts, the launch of a 24/7 local weather channel, the creation of community lifestyle program “Take Five & Company,” and the evolution of online news sites and mobile apps. Today, the entire staff at WZZM 13 is cross-trained for the digital age, and the company has expanded to offer additional services like search engine optimization and marketing, social media campaigns and online reputation monitoring. All this, and Mason brought back the iconic Grand Rapids weather ball, too. Outside the four walls of business, Mason

shares her leadership skills with the community, industry and early-career professionals. She is active on the board of governors for the ABC Television Affiliates Association and on the boards for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Davenport University Foundation. She previously served six years as vice chair for the Gannett Leadership and Diversity Council, and she served the boards and executive committees of the Economic Club and YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. A returning 50 Most Influential Woman of West Michigan, Mason has also been recognized as a finalist for Gannett Manager of the Year, as an Inforum Inner Circle honoree, and recipient of the Amazing Asian Award from the Asian Center of West Michigan.


Practice Group Leader, Relationship Manager and Coach Varnum Consulting For the last eight years, Jennifer Maxson has led the strategic direction and organizational management of Varnum Consulting as practice group leader and relationship manager. She also has continued to design and deliver customized coaching, executive-level coaching, and group training for clients throughout Michigan and across the United States. Under her leadership, Varnum Consulting continues to grow, attracting clients in all industries and working to enhance the credibility of leaders through a tradition of excellence in leadership development. Last year was a particularly notable year, Maxson said, pointing to mounting statewide speaking engagements and several large client requests for consulting on sales and marketing. Maxson said her coaching focuses on helping internal and external leaders communicate with

impact to influence others. Within the Grand Rapids community, Maxson takes an active role as a connector between leaders and organizations and enjoys helping to create a legacy of leaders for the future. She said she is honored to watch clients grow in their careers and advance in their organizations, especially the emerging leaders she witnesses go on to become key players in the community. Her community leadership includes serving as board vice chair for the Wolverine Worldwide Family YMCA, chair and past marketing and recruitment chair for Leadership West Michigan, and a member of Huntington Women’s Advisory Board. Since 2010, Maxson has mentored through the Hauenstein Center Cook Leadership Academy at Grand Valley State University, and she joined the Van Andel J-Board in 2009.

PEACHES MCCAHILL President The McCahill Group

For more than 25 years, Peaches McCahill has demonstrated leadership in the field of sports, fitness and wellness. Having founded The McCahill Group in 1986, she has a proven track record of designing, developing and operating profitable health and fitness programs and spas in both corporate and private environments. The McCahill Group services are effective in creating a culture of health within companies that result in healthier people and health care savings for employers. At age 26, McCahill designed, created and managed her first wellness center for Steelcase. Now, her company employs more than 65 talented professionals, many of whom are women. McCahill said she sees her role as a business owner to help her employees reach their full potential.


Besides being an entrepreneur, McCahill considers herself a philanthropist and health and fitness activist. Last fall, she was elected the first female board chair for the Michigan Fitness Foundation. She is serving her third term on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, an organization that aims to increase physical activity among Michigan’s residents. McCahill was previously involved in the early days of Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society and was a founding member of Gilda’s Club. Today, she co-chairs the capital campaign for Boys & Girls Club Grand Rapids, chairs the scholarship fund in honor of her late husband Ray, and promotes entrepreneurial mentorship among the Jandernoa Ambassadors.

Grand Valley State University congratulates our alumni and faculty and staff members who have been named to Grand Rapids Business Journal’s list of the “50 most influential women in West Michigan.” Their leadership and accomplishments positively impact our region, and are examples of how Grand Valley

Julie Bulson, 1997 & 2007 Shelley Irwin, WGVU NPR/PBS Jennifer Jurgens, 2003 Jennifer Maxson, 1994 Michelle Rabideau, 1993 Mandee Rick, 1997 & 2004 Ginny Seyferth, 1983 Kathleen Vogelsang, 1995 & 1999 Beverly Wall, 1987 Chris Willis, 1983 Shannon Wilson, 2003 & 2005

is fulfilling its mission of educating students to shape their lives, professions, and societies. gvsu.edu | (616) 331-5000


pyramidschemebar.com 68 Commerce Ave SW Grand Rapids MI 49503 P: 1 616.272.3758 Like us facebook.com/ThePyramidScheme

Congratulations to our CEO and owner, Amy Proos, on being one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan! Since 1919 Proos has been supplying high quality, cost-effective metal fabrications and value-added assemblies to customers located throughout the Midwest. Customer support, problem resolution and providing solutions with ingenuity are cornerstones of the Proos family business. We are proud to be honored by the fantastic community we’ve called home for almost 95 years!

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Principal/Owner McLoughlin Communications & Public Relations Mary McLoughlin is an award-winning public relations/communicator turned expert fundraiser. She started her communications and public relations firm in 1993 and during the last 20 years has had the opportunity to work with literally every hospital in West Michigan as well as others throughout the state. Her experience includes consulting for major health insurers, local nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies on everything from marketing strategies to corporate and public communications. Particularly skilled at sorting through thorny or complicated issues, McLoughlin prides herself on earning numerous Gold PRoof Awards from West Michigan Public Relations Society of America, two of which were “Best of Show.” She has found time to serve on various boards for local and statewide organizations, often con-

tributing to fundraising and public relations efforts. Her fund development successes and board involvement eventually led her to pursue certification as a professional fundraiser, and since then, she has assisted her clients more fully with their development efforts. For the past decade, she has volunteered for the board of the Children’s Assessment Center, increasing fundraising by 30 percent while chairing the development committee over the last seven years. She also sits on the development committee as a board member for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. In addition to serving the Michigan Women’s Foundation as board secretary, McLoughlin was instrumental in creating the Power of 100 Women that has provided additional fund stability by attracting nearly 200 women who pledge five years of annual contributions.


Wealth Management Advisor Merrill Lynch Rachel Mraz leads through example, both in her financial acumen professionally and through her commitment to philanthropy and community service. As wealth management advisor for Merrill Lynch, Mraz endeavors to fulfill a family legacy by serving the individuals she works for at the DeVries, Freeburg & Mraz Group. She takes great pleasure in assisting with clients’ financial planning and portfolio management, and has attained several professional designations and certifications requiring rigorous testing, ongoing education and adherence to high ethical standards. Mraz is also a passionate philanthropist who has spearheaded local and national initiatives to inspire the next generation of philanthropists to get involved. In 2010, she and her husband successfully completed a project to raise funds

and break ground for a new building at an AIDS orphanage in Zimbabwe, an experience Mraz found helped her develop an even deeper appreciation for the philanthropic community in West Michigan. More recently, she visited Costa Rica through her global philanthropy and has formed a giving group to connect West Michigan resources in an effort to provide sand-based water filters to Earth University and the local communities there. Mraz sits on the boards and committees of the Family Business Alliance, Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, Davenport University Foundation and Saint Mary’s Doran Foundation. She also co-chairs the Van Andel Institute J-Board Ambassadors. Mraz was the inaugural Youth Trustee for the Council of Michigan Foundations board of directors, where she continues to chair the investment committee.


Shareholder Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors With 32 years in the tax preparation and advisory business and a regular guest expert spot for WOOD Radio’s “Morning News Show,” Peggy Murphy is a Grand Rapids business star in her own right. She joined Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors in 1995 and is one of seven shareholders who own and manage the second-largest locally owned CPA firm in West Michigan, which employs approximately 70 people in Grand Rapids and Greenville. Murphy serves closely held and family-owned businesses in West Michigan with a passion for keeping these companies healthy, focusing on the areas of taxation and assisting business owners in achieving greater profitability and meeting their goals. Her expertise is relied upon by company decision-makers on issues such as purchasing or selling, adding or retiring owners, han22 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

dling real estate transactions, downsizing and growing, obtaining financing, succession planning and tax issues after life-changing events. Murphy has been called upon to provide litigation support on financial data and exhibits and offer expert witness testimony. She regularly presents technical topics in client seminars and association meetings in addition to her radio and TV appearances. In 2013, Murphy received the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs Leadership Award and accepted the chair position overseeing a new sustainability division at GROW. She has recently joined the board of directors for Grand River Bank and supports Grand Rapids Civic Theatre as treasurer of the board and finance committee chair. She is a past president of the Grand Rapids Economic Development Corp. and Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs boards.


CEO Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women Bonnie Nawara readily concedes she has been given an incredible opportunity to develop and expand the entrepreneurial resources available for women-owned businesses, one that dovetails nicely with her skill set and community connections, setting her up to have a direct impact on the economic vitality of the Grand Rapids community. As CEO of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women for the past three years, Nawara has revamped and expanded entrepreneurial trainings to better reflect today’s learning styles and time constraints, and she has deepened the organization’s outreach within the business community. Those efforts have included the addition of second-stage business services, the launch of a micro-lending program for the region, and the development of strong alliances with the Hispanic Chamber of West Michigan, LINC and the

South East Neighborhood Association. A former business owner, Nawara cut her teeth in three different career lives, two of which were in nontraditional industries for females: as a parts manager for a freight company and as owner of a printing franchise. Nawara later spent six years as planned giving officer for the American Cancer Society, where she was named top fundraiser in the Great Lakes division five years running. Nawara’s accomplishments include being the first female board member of the Golden K Kiwanis Club, founder of a Toastmasters chapter, and leadership positions with Heart of West Michigan United Way, Economic Club of Grand Rapids, The Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, Michigan Women’s Foundation, Kent County Silent Observer and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.


CEO and Owner Proos Manufacturing Inc./Proos Fabrication Inc. Amy Proos prides herself on honesty, and that trait has proven crucial to the survival, revival and growth of Proos Manufacturing Inc. In January 2009, she was in the midst of completing the purchase of Proos Manufacturing from her father when sales were down 70 percent during one of the worst recessions in years. Her solution: initiate a business plan and budget full of painful-but-necessary cuts, then communicate openly and honestly with employees. Ultimately, Proos had to slash staff from 70 to 33, reduce work hours and eliminate bonuses. She did not take a salary for several months and continued operating presses on the shop floor when headcounts were low. By the end of 2009, however, her tough decisions paid off with several profitable months, allowing her to complete her purchase in 2010.

Since then, Proos Manufacturing has rebounded to 84 employees and she has opened a sister company, Proos Fabrication. Combined sales of the two businesses now total $13 million. In 2013, Proos was honored for the amazing turnaround with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Michigan and Northwest Ohio. She has also been recognized as a Michigan 50 Companies to Watch, several Small Employer of the Year awards, the Urban Entrepreneurship Award, and as Enterprising Woman of the Year. She volunteers with GROW and other organizations, and she actively supports work-force diversity through Goodwill Industries Power of Work program, offering job opportunities for all levels of abilities.

MICHELLE RABIDEAU President Saint Mary’s Foundation

Michelle Rabideau is committed to the betterment of the community. Over the past decade, she has led the overall fundraising efforts for the Saint Mary’s Foundation, the charitable arm of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Under her leadership, the organization has raised more than $65 million in support of additional programs such as the Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences Center and Sophia’s House, the newly built guest house for patients and their families. She is proud of the services provided by the programs made possible by the foundation’s philanthropic efforts and notes that the everchanging health care landscape means the role of philanthropy will be increasingly important in impacting the overall health of the community. Rabideau advocates for encouraging younger individuals to find organizations with missions

they believe in and then getting them involved in volunteering and leadership roles. In addition, she is a strong believer in mentoring individuals, particularly women, in their career and community service choices. She meets almost weekly with people who have been referred, reviewing résumés and helping make connections to foster career opportunities. As an invested community trustee, Rabideau has been elected to the East Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education, where she currently serves as president. She also sits on the boards for the Michigan Women’s Foundation, the National Kappa Delta Foundation and the Health Care Advisory Board for the Philanthropy Leadership Council. In 2013, she was honored with the Benjamin Franklin Outstanding Fundraising Professional Award.



Senior Vice President and Portfolio Management Team Leader Huntington Bank As senior vice president and portfolio management team leader, Mandee Rick oversees a group of 11 portfolio managers and credit analysts at Huntington Bank who work with significant loan portfolios for companies with annual revenues from $25 million and up. She took on the commercial banking leadership role last year after nearly 12 years at Huntington Bank and an additional three years elsewhere in the financial services industry. In 2010, Rick helped implement an internal mentoring program through Huntington’s Women Initiative Committee, designed to provide opportunity for high-potential individuals within the bank to learn more about career paths available to them, an all-volunteer effort by a small group of colleagues that she

continues to chair. Rick said she finds great satisfaction in the successes of her team and the individuals she has managed or mentored over the years, and sees helping others reach their goals as a primary role for her within the bank. She also hopes to inspire others to find ways to get involved in and give back to the community. She volunteers for the auction committee for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women event and the host committee for Saint Mary’s Doran Foundation Up on the Roof event. For the last three years, Rick has been event chair for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Grand Rapids, reaching a $100,000 fundraising goal in 2013. Other involvement includes the Grand Rapids Young Professionals Advisory Board and Davenport Alumni Board.


National Managing Partner of Workplace Services Deloitte LLP It is hard to sum up Mary Ellen Rodgers’ influence locally and on the national stage. Not only does she oversee all workplace services operations in the U.S. and India offices for Deloitte LLP, but she also has direct responsibility for more than 2,900 Deloitte employees across more than 100 offices and holds a significant portion of the entire U.S. operations and assets under her care. Rodgers is a dynamic leader and role model who mentors the next generation of professionals, provides visibility to the issues facing women and minorities in the work force, and champions change in business and social environments. In the early ’90s, Rodgers created a new national culture of diversity and inclusion at Deloitte by establishing the case for diversity and setting the foundation for the firm to eliminate

its gender turnover gap and enjoy a 500 percent increase in women partners, principals and directors. The third woman in more than 100 years to be appointed to office managing partner in 2000, Rodgers tripled revenues and increased client satisfaction scores for the Grand Rapids office. She continues to shape national strategic direction and leads the design and implementation of Deloitte’s Next Generation Workplace initiative that is creating more open, collaborative and productive work environments. Rodgers has held many positions of responsibility among community organizations, including founding member of Huntington Bank’s Women’s Initiative Advisory Board, first woman board chair for the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids and ArtPrize board and finance committee member.


Attorney and Managing Member Avanti Law Group PLLC A well-rounded attorney and a co-founding partner of Avanti Law Group, Raquel Salas is a self-described business-savvy Dominican immigrant with a knack for client development and negotiation. Together with her partners, she has built a fast-growing law firm with a heart of gold, taking on pro bono legal work and making financial investments in the community. Named one of Michigan Super Lawyer’s Rising Stars in 2013, Salas claims launching and growing Avanti without incurring any debt is her greatest achievement, and impressively, the three-person team has taken Avanti from zero to a multimillion dollar per year business in under three years. Today, the woman- and minority-owned fullservice law firm offers legal representation to businesses and individuals on a wide range of issues from corporate to family and immigration 24 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

law. Salas proudly points to the firm’s efforts to successfully end discriminatory practices when county clerks were refusing to issue marriage licenses to immigrants. In 2011, Avanti was named a top womanowned law firm in West Michigan, and Salas received a Corp! Magazine award for Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Multiculturalism in Michigan. Her true penchant, however, seems to be starting new organizations. She co-founded and then served as the first board president of the Michigan State University Hispanic Law Society to enhance the quality of education, extracurricular activities and cultural awareness of law students. Her latest endeavor is the formation of Super Kids Together, where she is developing a new board to set goals and establish the organization.


TO THE 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN WEST MICHIGAN With sincere appreciation for your leadership and for all of your contributions to the community, thank you!




On behalf of our 10,000 Girl Scouts and future leaders, we congratulate the 50 Most Influential Women honorees!


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GINNY SEYFERTH President SeyferthPR

This year, Ginny Seyferth is celebrating 30 years in business with her award-winning public relations firm, SeyferthPR. She founded the company in 1984 after beginning her career in corporate and nonprofit health care public relations and public affairs. Over the years, Seyferth has brought extensive strategic counsel experience to her Michiganbased agency. Today, SeyferthPR employs 26, operates with a $2.6 million budget and is recognized as one of the Midwest’s leading public relations firms. Seyferth has counseled some of America’s top executives and companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Huntington Bank, Perrigo, Mercy Health Partners, Cascade Engineering, Grand Valley State University, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Group and others. She is one of just a handful of PR experts to have served 25

years as counsel to McDonald’s restaurants and as a member of its test-market team for product launches. Seyferth has cultivated an extensive knowledge of the millennial generation and provides cities with a deeper understanding of how to attract and retain young talent. She currently lends her expertise on the topic to TALENT 2025 as a member of the board and executive committee. She also leads committees and chairs the boards of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids and Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids Inc. Seyferth is a founding member of the board for Ronald McDonald House Charities and previously served the Grand Rapids Art Museum board, Grand Valley State University Foundation board, TEDxGrand Rapids Advisory Team and Huntington Bank Women’s Advisory Board.


Mayor, East Grand Rapids Director of Pathology, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Amna Seibold may be the only woman mayor in the county right now, but she is on a mission to see more women in public office and wants to see a more gender-balanced governmental representation. Seibold proudly holds two leadership positions as mayor of East Grand Rapids and director of pathology at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Her public service began in 2000 as city planning commissioner, and she first ran for office in 2005 when she was elected city commissioner. Now as mayor, she serves as head of a city with national recognition as a great place to live and raise a family, and she points to the city’s balanced budget and AAA bond rating as a sign of continued excellence. At Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Seibold manages the pathology laboratory, running approxi-

mately 2 million tests annually and staffing 105 employees who take pride in delivering highquality testing for physician diagnosis and patient care. She is also the project manager for the new 100,000-square-foot building being constructed in Rockford to house Mercy Health Physician Partners. Seibold is active in the community, serving in such capacities as an appointment by Gov. Rick Snyder to the State Board of Accountancy, board member for The Rapid, and past board chair for Michigan Blood. She is a member of the West Michigan host committee for the Michigan State University Political Leadership Program, where she works to recruit, train and inspire tomorrow’s public policy leaders and prepare them for effective governance.


President Grand Rapids Community Foundation For nearly 27 years, Diana Sieger has led, served and fostered philanthropic and community initiatives in Kent County as president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Through the foundation’s permanent endowment covering assets of more than $300 million, Sieger’s team of 26 employees fulfill the nonprofit’s mission to lead the community and strengthen the lives of its people. Recent work includes creation of the Challenge Scholars program that assures students who graduate from Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Union High School have the needed funding and educational support to pursue a college degree. The first class of Challenge Scholars will graduate in 2020, and while Sieger admits it’s not the Kalamazoo Promise, it is the largest effort the foundation has ever undertaken and will assist many students in affording 26 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

higher education. This month, Sieger will accept the Diversity Visionary Award from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the foundation in recognition of its commitment to and sustained efforts toward creating a community and a community foundation that is diverse, inclusive and racism-free. Sieger has received many accolades, including, in 2013, the Edward Frey Sr. Distinguished Achievement Award from Junior Achievement of West Michigan. She also was honored by the Michigan Women’s Foundation with the Woman of Achievement and Courage Award. She sits on committees and boards of the Council on Foundations and Kent County Family and Children’s Coordinating Council, and is a member of the non-partisan Office of Foundation Liaison within the governor’s office.

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SARA SMOLENSKI Chief Judge 63rd District Court

A native of Grand Rapids, Judge Sara Smolenski was first appointed to the 63rd District Court of the Michigan Supreme Court in 1996 and has been re-elected every six years since. Smolenski has earned a reputation among peers as a distinguished judge and a proven strong community leader. She has spent countless hours outside the courtroom as a legal advocate, contributor and activist for nonprofit groups and organizations. In particular, Smolenski is a strong advocate for education, believing it not only improves lives but also the community. Her community service includes serving on the boards of the American Cancer Society, the Kent County Literacy Council, Resources Against Violent Encounters to Women, Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, Kids’ Food Basket, YWCA, Hospice of Michigan, Michigan Women’s Foun-

dation and Senior Neighbors. A frequent speaker for charitable organizations and civic and community groups, Smolenski has established herself as a popular local humorist showcasing her unique “real life” humor. She is the former chair of the Michigan Judicial Conference as well as former president of both the Women Lawyers Association of West Michigan and Michigan District Judges Association. She earned the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s Donald R. Worsfold Distinguished Service Award in 2013 and the Jean King Leadership Award in 2012 from the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. Other accolades include the YWCA Tribute Award, the Grand Rapids Chamber’s Athena Award, and the Salute to Women Award from Grand Rapids Community College several years running.

SANDRA FROST STEENSMA President Parrish Consulting

Sandra Frost Steensma is president and founder of Parrish Consulting, a nonprofit consulting business specializing in annual fundraising, capacity building and endowment fundraising. She brings more than 20 years of experience to the consulting table, having worked at another regional firm for eight years before founding Parrish Consulting. Previously, she served as statewide corporate director of development for Hospice of Michigan and executive director of its Grand Rapids office. In 2008, Steensma was named a member of the prestigious Kellogg Foundation College of Consultants. Steensma points to the transition of Parrish Consulting from sole practitioner to a full-service consulting company as the best work of her professional career. In doing so, the company went from servicing 10 to 12 nonprofits per year

to now reaching a broader base of 35 to 40 clients from southern Michigan to the Upper Peninsula, growing to a staff of six and an $850,000 annual budget. In addition to her career, Steensma has played a role in local government over the last 20 years. Her first appointment to the Cascade Township Planning Commission was in 1993, and she just recently resigned her position on the Kent County Board of Commissioners. As the immediate past chair of the county commission, Steensma helped balance the budget, merge zoo operations with the John Ball Zoo Society, and expand the Aeronautics Board. She is currently the president of the Republican Women’s Forum and was a founder/founding board member of the Cascade Community Foundation.

MICHELLE VAN DYKE Regional President Fifth Third Bank

Having moved through the ranks since first joining Old Kent Bank in 1985, Michelle Van Dyke now serves as Fifth Third Bank’s regional president responsible for the performance of eight of 17 affiliates covering four Midwestern states and representing almost half of Fifth Third’s territory and net income. She oversees a portfolio totaling nearly $25 billion in assets and more than $35 billion in deposits. Van Dyke is deeply committed to ensuring businesses have the capital and resources necessary to grow even in the face of economic challenges. She has led the bank’s partnership with the Michigan Bankers Association and Michigan Economic Development Corp. to become a Pure Michigan Business Connect leading lender, investing $5.9 billion in the state’s consumer and wholesale loan programs and committing


$2.5 billion in lending directly to Michigan businesses in 2012. Van Dyke is actively involved in Business Leaders for Michigan, a roundtable of leaders and executives from the state’s largest job providers and universities. She has concentrated her efforts on developing strategy, raising awareness, advocating on policy and championing initiatives that grow the state’s economy. She has been named one of American Banker’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking as well as a Woman to Watch. The Michigan Women’s Foundation recognized her as a Woman of Achievement and Courage in 2013. Van Dyke serves on the boards for Davenport University, Calvin College, Grand Valley State University Foundation, Spectrum Health System, The Right Place Inc. and Grand Action.


Co-Owner, The Meanwhile & The Pyramid Scheme Executive Director, Well House Tami VandenBerg is a business woman, a community leader and an activist willing to take enormous risks, blending a love for community, event organizing, the arts and helping vulnerable people. VandenBerg is co-owner of two popular neighborhood pubs — The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme — and has successfully breathed new life into Well House, which was at risk of closing in 2012 after 35 years of housing the homeless. Well House has now purchased four additional houses under VandenBerg’s leadership, doubling capacity for permanent housing. As one of few female bar owners in the city, VandenBerg has created 60 jobs in the last six years with her business partner brother, and has opened the stage to countless entertainers.

VandenBerg also co-founded Ladyfest, an annual showcase of women musicians and artists in the area. She continues to work toward ending the stigma against those who use drugs or have HIV. She has chaired the board of the Grand Rapids Red Project, which spearheaded efforts to reduce the number of new HIV cases in Kent County, and she helped fund and organize the DecriminalizeGR campaign to lessen penalties for marijuana possession in the city. She sits on the Mayor’s Gun Policy Task Force, is a member of Cure Violence, and formerly served the host committee for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks’ Green Gala. VandenBerg’s many accolades most recently include receiving the 2013 Good to Great Award from the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

KATHLEEN VOGELSANG Director and Chief Investment Officer Van Andel Institute

Kathleen Vogelsang excels at working from the ground up. She was hired in 2005 to start the Van Andel Institute Investment Office, made possible by a generous $1 billion endowment from Jay and Betty Van Andel’s estate. She wasted no time in creating an investment policy and strategy as the markets were moving up, and put into place a well-diversified endowment portfolio with high-quality investment managers in a very short amount of time. She also developed departmental systems and a budget that currently sits at $900,000, and has grown the office to four employees who assist with the endowment. In the community, Vogelsang is a founding member of West Michigan Youth Ballet and the Circle of Red women leaders for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women cam-

paign and previously co-chaired the annual Go Red luncheon. In 2011, she and two friends started the charitable group called West Michigan 100 Strong, where members individually donate $100 each quarter to collectively contribute to local charities through a group nominating and voting process at quarterly meetings. Over the last two years, West Michigan 100 Strong has raised almost $70,000 for 20 different organizations serving the community. Vogelsang also serves the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s investment committee, the Seidman College of Business Finance Advisory Board and Seidman College of Business Alumni Association. In 2013, Vogelsang joined three additional boards, adding her voice to the World Affairs Council of America, the Michigan Women’s Commission and Ele’s Place Grand Rapids.

LINDA J. VOS-GRAHAM President/Owner Vos Glass Inc.

During eight of the past 10 years, Vos Glass has earned awards of excellence for its many technical and high-profile commercial glazing projects while growing its retail business under the leadership of Linda J. Vos-Graham. President since 2002, Vos-Graham has nearly tripled the size of the full-service commercial and retail glass company, and she expects the 60-person company to gross sales of over $12 million in 2013-2014. Vos-Graham’s innovative leadership in a traditionally male-dominated field has brought her company success, despite working in an industry heavily impacted by the recession. Her achievements merited recognition last year as a Top Women Owned Business by GRBJ and a spot on the Top Ten Women Owned Glazing Contractors in the Country from U.S. Glass Magazine. In 2013, she became the first female

inducted into Michigan Construction Hall of Fame. Vos-Graham also was the first female president of the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan, elected by her mostly male peers. She recently finished her term as the group’s president and has gone on to help fund the first construction-subcontractor scholarship endowment. She previously served on the board of the Associated Builders and Contractors of West Michigan and was the founding president of the Michigan Glass Association, where she successfully led a 10-year advocacy effort for legislation to ban insurance companies restricting consumer choice for their auto glass repairs. Her company also donated several thousand pounds of scrap and cutoff glass to help build the 2011 Top Ten ArtPrize entry, “Metaphorest.”



CEO Languages International Inc. Beverly Wall lives in two cultures as CEO and owner of Languages International Inc.: the culture of business and the culture of international communications. Through Languages International, she helps individuals, companies, nonprofits and governmental organizations embrace the nuances of linguistics and fragility of communication in other languages. Wall’s true passion, however, is mentoring West Michigan’s future female leaders and helping women-owned businesses grow. She started her own marketing consultancy, Wall2Wall Marketing, specifically to help women business owners. She is active with the Michigan Center for Empowerment and Economic Development, certifies women-owned businesses through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, works with Inforum’s Activate program train-

ing women for business and assists the Michigan Women’s Foundation. Wall also chairs the advisory committee for Davenport University’s Maine School of Business. Her successes as an entrepreneur are worthy of note, having revitalized Languages International after purchasing the company in 2003. She led the company to a 200 percent sales increase. Wall has been recognized as a leading women-owned business and received awards from Toastmasters International, VIEW 100, Grand Valley State University’s Siedman College of Business, and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber’s Athena Award program. Wall has been a Grand Rapids Township planning commissioner since 2008 and has served numerous boards including Susan G. Komen West Michigan, Community Rebuilders and American Heart Association.


Chris Willis is calling for a revolution in human capital, and she’s actively leading the charge to change the way large corporations measure and value their people. A recognized authority on corporate learning and performance improvement, Willis is the visionary entrepreneur behind Media 1, the award-winning $1.5 million consultancy driving measurable performance improvement for some of the world’s leading Fortune 500 brands since 1993. As CEO of the Grand Haven-based company, Willis leads a team of experts providing companies the insights and assistance needed to align people, process and technology to achieve business goals. Passionate about helping people envision a positive future, Willis regularly presents at industry conferences and writes extensively in her field. She recently published an eBook, “Return

On People,” and presented “I Am Human Capital” at TEDxMuskegon last fall. Although her business has evolved significantly over the years, Willis noted it is the constant metamorphosis that has given her a unique perspective on entrepreneurship and the skills today’s students need to be successful. In 2013, she helped launch Mosaica Online Academy of Michigan, serving as board vice president for the online public charter school. Through Working Together for Youth, she seeks solutions against youth violence in the Muskegon and Muskegon Heights communities. She also founded and chaired Friends of Muskegon Dog Beach. An active chamber board member, Willis helps support and promote area entrepreneurship and is currently developing a business model for launching a co-working space in her Grand Haven office building.


Executive Director Grand Rapids African American Health Institute Shannon Wilson is a rising, dynamic leader focused on improving the health and well-being of Grand Rapids area residents. Passionate about strengthening the health care safety net for vulnerable populations, she has devoted most of her career to studying the intersection between health and race. Wilson is motivated by a desire to improve the health care experience for minority populations and seeks to build partnerships that facilitate the reduction of disparities at the systemic and grassroots levels. As executive director of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, Wilson leads efforts to improve the health and health care of the African-American community and is responsible for strategic planning, community outreach, research initiatives and advocacy. She has repositioned the agency as a premier institution 30 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

in Michigan, brokered strategic relationships with Grand Valley State University for research and mentoring/teaching opportunities, and led the Strong Beginnings consortium to reduce African-American infant mortality. Wilson is a founding member of the newly formed Anchor Organization Network, a collaboration of six organizations funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to improve the safety net of the urban core. She concurrently serves as assistant vice president of the Alliance for Health. In this role, Wilson oversees grant management, talent development and retention, community relations and several health quality improvement initiatives. Previously, Wilson worked as the state of Michigan’s first health disparities epidemiologist and held positions within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Profile for Grand Rapids Business Journal

The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan - 2014  

Grand Rapids Business Journal presents "The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan"

The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan - 2014  

Grand Rapids Business Journal presents "The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan"

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