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MARCH 6, 2013 In recognition of the West Michigan women-owned businesses adding strength and diversity to the local economy.


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Lighthouse Group is pleased to honor Jamie Mills for Grand Rapids Business Journal’s acknowledgment as one of the 2012 Top Women Owned Businesses. Welcome Jamie and the Mills Benefit Group team!

On January 1, 2013, Lighthouse Group merged with Mills Benefit Group, bringing together two of the leading employee benefits firms in Michigan. As combined organizations we will continue to be positioned as industry leaders relative to health care reform and the changing landscape of employee benefits.

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Made it through the most

difficult business climate in decades


rand Rapids Business Journal highlights the businesses in this region owned by women and intends to assure their inclusion in the broader business community and at the table of decision and discussion. The women profiled in this issue represent the finalists in four revenue categories and a broad range of products and services. These have not been easy years to maintain and grow a business — through a recession and in Michigan. These trials mark the psyche of every business owner, but can be especially crippling for those not on the “usual” list of B-to-B process and inclusion. Every study continues to report that women face far more difficulties securing business loans, equity capital and venture capital. Their ranks in the C-suites or on boards of major corporations have been falling instead of increasing across the country, and especially in Michigan. Inforum’s 2012 report showed those declines across the state. The finalists have made it through the most difficult business climate in decades and each shows stability, growth and innovation while jumping the unpredictable hurdles every owner has found impeding the path, often fueled by little more than determination. Still, the U.S. Bureau of Labor reports phenomenal growth in the percentage of womenowned businesses — to almost more than 50 percent of all businesses across the country. The Bureau estimates women will create 5.5 million jobs by 2018. Grand Rapids Business Journal will announce the Top Woman-Owned Business

owner in each revenue category during a luncheon March 6 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. We are grateful for the assistance of Carol Kirkland and Michelle Richards as judges for this recognition. Kirkland built a family business, AVE Office Supplies (initially while working as St. John Hospital and Medical Center medical transcription department director). Her business was named 2009 Outstanding Women’s Business Enterprise Council-Great Lakes division. She is currently president of the National Association of Women Business Owners Greater Detroit chapter. 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, and one of its programs is certification of women-owned businesses. She was named the Women’s Council of Washtenaw County 2010 ATHENA Award recipient. Eric Larson, CPA/ABV, Beene Garter accounting agency in Grand Rapids, has extensive practical and theoretical experience in the field of financial valuation, transaction negotiation, merger/acquisition representation and corporate financial analysis. He volunteered his time in confidential assurance of the revenue categories and review. The judges are profiled on page 4. Congratulations to the finalists! Carole Valade Editor, Grand Rapids Business Journal

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Meet this year’s TWOB judges Carol Kirkland has built her career on the principles of planning, innovation and leadership. She began as a medical transcriptionist and quickly ascended to department director at St. John Hospital and Medical Center, where Kirkland she led more than 65 individuals for more than two decades. Simultaneously, Kirkland built a family business, AVE Office Supplies. With a master’s degree in business management and a bachelor’s in human resource management, Kirkland’s expertise lies in making personal connections toward the goal of differentiating her company in the marketplace as the best resource for quality products, great prices and friendly faces. She is owner and executive vice president of the firm, responsible for all marketing, sales and accounting functions. In 2009 Kirkland was named Outstanding WBE of the Year by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council-Great Lakes. Kirkland is lauded for her devotion to the cause and commitment to supporting the Women’s Business Enterprise Council. Kirkland is currently president of the National Association of Women Business Owners-Greater Detroit Chapter.

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 Richards women and minorities. One CEED program is the Michigan Women’s Business Council, which provides certification and procurement assistance to women-owned businesses. The council provides information and assistance to more than 2,500 women business owners per year; it is affiliated with the national organization Women’s Business Enterprise Council. Richards has served as president of the Michigan Women’s Business Council and as a board member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. She has been honored with the Michigan Small Business Administration Women’s Business Advocate of the Year Award. She also 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 the 2010 ATHENA Award recipient.

Eric Larson, CPA/ ABV, is with the Beene Garter accounting and professional services agency in Grand Rapids. He has extensive practical and theoretical experience in the field of financial valuation, transaction negotiation, Larson merger/acquisition representation and corporate financial analysis. His business valuation projects have been performed for numerous purposes, including estate and gift taxation, succession planning, employee stock ownership plans, purchase and sale advisement, purchase price allocation, fairness opinions, marital dissolution, and other tax and corporate related matters. Larson has worked with a wide range of industries, including agriculture, general and specialty contracting, plastics and metal manufacturing, packaging and printing, automobile and truck transportation, finance and insurance, health care, professional and technical service, eating and drinking establishments, and retail and wholesale distribution of specialty and commodity products. Larson graduated with a B.S. in economics and an MBA in finance from Grand Valley State University.

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4 Top Women oWned Businesses Grand rapids Business Journal supplement

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Congratulations to all the honorees and thank you for your outstanding accomplishments in our business community.

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$0-$1.49 MILLION

Doreen Bolhuis

Denise Booms-Pepin

Julie Cronkright

Gymco inc. president and Ceo

CBi Telecommunications president

Jade Clothing LLC owner and president



$0-$1.49 MILLION ow in its 32nd year of operation, Gymco maintains two facilities focused on “teaching sport skills and building confidence” for children age 1 and older. That longevity is no fluke. “Gymco has achieved outstanding longevity and loyalty in employees due to an intentionally healthy work culture,” said Doreen Bolhuis, president and CEO. “Key leaders have been with Gymco for 29 years, 19 years, 16 years and nine years. The stability in staff has contributed to fiscal health, growth, strategic planning and corporate integrity.” There’s no doubt that stability also helped Gymco weather the economic downturn, which Bolhuis lists as her most significant business achievement to date: “Strategically navigating a difficult and threatening recession through adaptation and innovation, (and) emerging as a stronger company and opening a second location in October 2012,” she said. Gymco has been named Small Business of the Year by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and was honored as a Top Women Owned Business by the Business Journal in 2011. It’s also a five-time winner of Michigan Business and Professional Association’s 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work. In addition, Bolhuis is the creator and a managing partner of Gymtrix, an innovative DVD series that teaches physical literacy to children up to age 10, and she is a co-founder and partner of Motion Evolution, a licensed fitness and physical literacy program for children.

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BI Telecommunications has been providing telecom expense management solutions since 1991. For more than 30 years, Denise Booms-Pepin has been a business owner and advocate for women in business. She is currently on the board of several local businesses and nonprofit organizations. Her enthusiasm to help others succeed is a trademark of her success. She is not only interested in her own career growth but in developing the growth of those around her. Her passion to succeed has resulted in at least a half-dozen successful companies throughout the years. Her focus in the telecom industry over the past 20 years has resulted in CBI being an industry pioneer in the TEM field. “The focus is and always has been on the customer and getting them results,” she said. “It was and still continues to be the driving force of our leadership and the entire team.” Booms-Pepin is currently involved with the Women’s Resource Center and is a key contributor to the Pillar Awards Committee within that group. The company also contributes to several local and national nonprofit funds and events. She also holds leadership positions with Whiteboard Small Business Development and Tamarack Power Sports. “Besides owning a successful business that did not downsize in the midst of a recession, Denise was the primary lead on obtaining the American Red Cross (account) on a national level,” read her nomination form.

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ulie Cronkright started the retail clothing store Jade in 2003 with a vision of providing cutting-edge fashion and a true boutique shopping experience. Since that time, the Rockford-based store has undergone several rounds of expansion. Cronkright’s relentless dedication to finding, sourcing and supplying the best fashion from around the world to West Michigan has been a major part of that success. “Julie exemplifies the very best in this country’s entrepreneurial spirit,” read her nomination form. “Vision, hard work and extreme focus have allowed Julie to create a thriving business and regional shopping destination. She is a loyal employer and contributor to many media outlets on the topic of fashion and related trends.” Jade also is a participant in numerous charity fashion shows throughout the community, including events for The Junior League of Grand Rapids’ Beneath the Wreath, Grand Rapids Symphony and Susan G. Komen Foundation. In addition to her work in the retail sector, Cronkright is a member with Cronkright Ventures LLC, a commercial property holding and development company based in Rockford, as well as a licensed cosmetologist. She is a member of the American Pool Players Association and in her spare time enjoys skiing, biking, swimming and walking.

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Kimberly Downey Complete investigations LLC owner

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imberly Downey wears many hats, and it wouldn’t be surprising if at least one of them is a disguise. Downey is the owner of Complete Investigations LLC, a multi-state detective agency. She also owns Admirroration, an interactive advertising business that uses multimedia advertising networks within communities by installing “smart” advertising mirrors in high-traffic businesses. She also has four years of clinical experience in the pharmaceutical industry while studying the physiology, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of FDA-approved drugs while interacting with more than 400 physicians in Michigan. “I have also attended the academy for the National Insurance Crime Bureau and specialize in surveillance and interviewing,” she said. “I have participated in various types of investigations throughout my professional career, including cause

and origin, auto theft, automobile accidents, home invasions, witness interviews, wrongful deaths, sexual harassment and internal business investigations.” Complete Investigations opened in 2004 and employs 10 people. Downey, who holds dual degrees in criminal justice and sociology from Central Michigan University, has worked in an undercover capacity for a mid-Michigan police department and worked for more than 13 years as an investigator for a private detective firm. She is certified by the Reid School of Interrogations and Interviewing and is considered an expert in cellular phone forensics. “I am a multi-business owner with an entrepreneurial mindset dedicated to creating a positive impact on our community’s economy by employing a local work force, as well as working to eliminate fraudulent insurance claims to keep our insurance premiums down,” Downey said.

Roxanne Dudicz Rivertown Finance owner

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n addition to her financial expertise, Roxanne Dudicz has a pretty good grasp on work-life balance. Rivertown Finance started from scratch in 2005, and the financial services company now employs nine people. But a closer look reveals Dudicz’s true mission. “My most significant business achievement is twofold,” she said. “I am extremely proud of being able to help small business owners take their businesses to the next level with the financial reporting tools and processes we’ve been able to provide. At the same time, I’m equally proud of growing a company from nothing to being able to employ eight other working women like myself who now find balance with their families and careers. “My business is not only womenowned, it is women-run.” Dudicz said Rivertown Financial is a bookkeeping firm specializing in provid-

ing all-inclusive accounting support, from daily operational bookkeeping functions to forecasting and analysis. Rivertown currently works with more than 80 small to midsize firms. Judges commented on the strength of her business, anticipating continued strong growth. She is passionate about filling a niche in the community by providing cost-effective, flexible, quality services alongside tax accounting firms with an untapped resource pool of working women. “In addition, we are an integral part of the rising entrepreneurial spirit in Grand Rapids women,” she said. A certified public accountant, Dudicz also is programming chair for the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs and is responsible for executing monthly events that educate, lead and connect women entrepreneurs.

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Floriza Genautis

Laura Holmes

Mary Kline

management Business solutions Ceo

FineLine Creative inc. Co-owner (with Yvonne mcKessy) and president

onsite Wellness LLC Co-owner (with Amy Ritsema)

$0-$1.49 MILLION


anagement Business Solutions has been around since 2006, but that doesn’t mean the business services and professional recruiting and staffing firm is set in its ways. “Succession planning is important to the continued success of MBS,” said CEO Floriza Genautis. “That is why we don’t hire employees; we hire future owners of the company. At MBS, the ownership track is available to all employees who are interested.” The reasoning behind that business philosophy is simple, she said. A five-year track that travels from new employee to owner is beneficial to both parties. “Coaching future owners in the MBS way, with community involvement as well as fostering the relationship-driven philosophy we embrace, means MBS will not sacrifice the relationship for the bottom line.” Putting an emphasis on diversity and inclusion also pays benefits for the firm. MBS, which employs 10 people, is WBE, MBE and 8(a) certified. It employs 100 percent women and/or minority workers. “I believe the success we have as a business is attributed to our team success,” Genautis said. “We are doing the right things, (and) it signals that we are on the right path and we will stay the course.” Genautis is involved with numerous community organizations, many of which revolve around diversity and minority- and woman-owned businesses.

$0-$1.49 MILLION


ometimes there is a fine line between success and failure, but Laura Holmes and FineLine Creative have managed to stay on the positive side of that marker for the past decade. “Our most significant accomplishment would be slow, managed growth and sustainability of our business model over a 10-year timeframe,” said Holmes, who is a partner with Creative Director Yvonne McKessy (shown at left) in the Muskegon-based communications, media and advertising company. “We’ve maintained our goal to be a successful, small marketing/creative services boutique with integrity of design, strategic planning and customer service for 10 years,” Holmes said. “We began as a two-person firm in 2003 and now have four full-time employees. We’ve maintained a specialty: marketing service to small business and nonprofit organizations.” Although small, Holmes said FineLine Creative has been able to use innovation and creativity to keep pace with some of the region’s bigger players. “We’ve learned to adapt and integrate marketing technology services in the past five years, which has kept us profitable in the current economic climate,” she said. “Our small size allows all our staff the flexibility of managing work, family and play.” When it comes to play, two of Holmes’ favorite pastimes are writing and music. She is a published travel author and a board member and marketing director for the Michigan Irish Music Festival. She also was a member of the Midwest Professional Volleyball Association for the past 10 years.

$0-$1.49 MILLION


ary Kline and Amy Ritsema (shown at right), the owners of OnSite Wellness, have been involved in corporate fitness since the 1990s. Like its name implies, OnSite Wellness implements programs within Michigan companies to improve the health of their employees and reduce health care costs. “We have endured economic downturns and have continued to provide wellness services to improve health and productivity,” Kline said. Originally, both Kline and Ritsema worked directly for a West Michigan employer delivering wellness programs to its employees and families. They then started a wellness department for a health care company that was eventually spun off to create OnSite Wellness LLC. “Some of our clients date back to 2002, even though OnSite Wellness was not technically founded until 2006,” Kline said. That loyalty is evident in the firm’s growth curve over the past several years. OnSite Wellness started with half a dozen clients and just Kline and Ritsema as employees. Today, the firm has more than 30 clients and 18 employees. “The key to OSW’s success is our people,” Kline said. “Our staff is a fun and caring group who connect with our clients’ employees and families to build relationships and promote healthy lifestyles.” The judges commented on Kline’s documentation indicating the business is very strong, as evidenced by double-digit growth. Kline and Ritsema also practice what they preach. Both are certified worksite wellness program consultants and are active in sports and recreation.

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Bonnie Knopf

Denise Kohler-Kolesar

Rhoda Kreuzer

intrepid plastics manufacturing president

Kohler expos inc. president

partners in Action inc. president



$0-$1.49 MILLION

ven for a company with Intrepid in its name, Bonnie Knopf’s story of perseverance is hard to fathom. “I started this business with a partner, but after one year, my partner and I went separate ways,” said Knopf, the president of Intrepid Plastics Manufacturing. “He had the money, but I had the dream, so I took my customer base and had a friend make the parts I needed to fill orders until I was able to land at a location that was co-located with another company. “(That) company was a one-shift company, so they allowed me to utilize their equipment in the evenings and on weekends,” she said. “Sixteen-hour days and 100-hour weeks were the norm. I did that for three years until we were able to get an investor team to move (us) to our new location.” That was August 2008, and Knopf expected smoother sailing. “We had no idea that the economy, for us, would turn in December 2008. As I thought our struggles were behind us, I had no idea they had just begun.” While the investor team remained incredibly supportive, Intrepid was on the verge of closing its doors. Deep concessions were made to the remaining customers just to stay afloat. “Then we put on our fighting gloves and said, ‘No more!’” Knopf said. Intrepid went to its customers with price increases, hoping their relationships were solid. “Today, we are on an upward trend with incredible opportunities in sight,” she said. The judges commented that Intrepid is a very strong company and Knopf’s work is “huge testimony to her ability to hang on and move the business forward to new heights.”

$0-$1.49 MILLION t first glance, Kohler Expos Inc. would appear to be all about fun. The 15-year-old firm orchestrates the West Michigan Women’s Expo in Grand Rapids, the Mid-Michigan Women’s Expo in Lansing, several bridal shows, the West Michigan Moms Sale and several other lifestyle events, career fairs and industry-specific gatherings. But the company is about a lot more than just having a good time. “I have personally given assistance to enable a number of women-owned businesses to get their feet off the ground without increasing their start-up debt,” said President Denise Kohler-Kolesar. “Our events have also been incubators for women-owned and womenfocused businesses. We provide a safe and tested venue for entrepreneurs to introduce new products and services into the market, meeting face-to-face with potential clients and fine-tuning their messages.” Kohler Expos now employs three full-time and two part-time workers, as well as up to 50 seasonal employees during the shows. Additionally, it has donated more than $300,000 to womenand family-focused nonprofits. “I reach for professional excellence,” Kohler-Kolesar said. “Professional excellence to me is when you can run an honest and thoughtful business. We have developed, from the ground up, the largest events for women in two key markets in Michigan. “We are focused not only on helping businesses, but also bringing the women of the community education on many levels in an entertainment setting.” Kohler-Kolesar was named the 2011 Top Woman Owned Business in this revenue category.

$0-$1.49 MILLION


hoda Kreuzer likes to accept challenges. She also likes to issue them. Kreuzer created Partners In Action Inc. to “revolutionize the workplace and equip as well as challenge leaders and organizations to grow.” She does that by offering companies help with public relations, consulting, executive coaching, marketing, customer service and community relations, along with “overseeing all operations.” That’s quite a workload, but Kreuzer is up to the challenge. “We have developed a four-level leadership institute for a client that is an ongoing program,” she said. “All of their current and emerging leaders are enrolled in the program. We started the program this year and they are expanding it to include their affiliates, as well. There are about 70 leaders currently enrolled and the results have been … successful. As a result of delivering projects like this, we have grown 80 percent this year, moved into new office space and added another staff member.” Partners In Action also has published a leadership book, “The Art of Natural Leadership,” that has been well received not only locally, but internationally, as well. “It is a very exciting time for us to be realizing our dreams,” she said. “It is great to see doors opening for women entrepreneurs. We believe that each of us can make a difference and we are striving to that end.”

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Catherine Lazarock symplicity Communications inc. president

$0-$1.49 MILLION


hen Catherine Lazarock, president of telecommunications consulting company Symplicity Communications, lost out on a multi-million project for a huge West Michigan-based retailer, she didn’t mope. In fact, she celebrated the achievement with her team of five employees. “While (the retailer) chose to stay with the incumbent, AT&T, during this contract round, I see this as a win because I successfully educated their IT team about Symplicity and they are now looking at other products and services from my company,” Lazarock said. “A direct quote from (their) staff was ‘we were so impressed with you that we want to find a way to give you business.’ In six years, Symplicity earned

the opportunity to present to (their) team, successfully garnered their attention, and is now working with their staff on future opportunities.” But these things don’t just happen by themselves. “Success to me is hearing great feedback from clients about their experience with Symplicity and giving my employees the opportunity to make a living in an environment that is positive. Growth in sales or revenue does not play a role in my feeling of success. … Since day one, this has been a journey of evolving my company into a safe, friendly environment where my staff can come to work and enjoy it every day, and a place where clients know they will be treated well.”

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Cindy Locklin

Julie Lough

Barbara Meconis

Busy Bea’s services inc. president and Ceo

micro Visions inc. president

Holistic Care Approach owner and Ceo



$0-$1.49 MILLION


janitorial services company might not be the first place one would look for technology that is “changing the world,” but Cindy Locklin would beg to differ. Locklin, the president and CEO of Busy Bea’s Services, is raising the bar for the quality of services delivered by her industry, and she’s using environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility to do it. “We are trying to make a difference in the world, trying to make it a better place to live by doing what we can for our employees, including paying them for volunteer time, giving back to the community while putting our customers and their satisfaction first.” One way in which this is being accomplished is through a partnership with Organicycle, a company that picks up and composts organic waste from commercial and industrial customers. “We are a leader in environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility within our industry and the community,” she said. “We also try to think outside the box. Spectrum Health considers Busy Bea’s Services to be one of the leading environmentally sustainable janitorial companies in West Michigan. Without satisfied customers, you do not have a job or a business, and every one of our environmental buildings techs understands that.” The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce certainly recognizes that, naming Busy Bea’s its Woman Owned Business of the Year in 2012.

$0-$1.49 MILLION alk about getting involved early in the process. Julie Lough founded Micro Visions Inc. in 1989, when the information technology firm might have been considered somewhat of a novelty. Nearly a quarter-century later, that longevity in a constantly changing industry has carried her through the good economic times and the bad. “We started with $5,000 in savings and have remained debt-free,” she said. “For nearly 24 years, my passion for business, technology and the strategy we’ve developed to assist our clients in effectively utilizing technology to achieve their business goals has enabled a remarkable team of people to achieve their personal objectives and add outstanding value to the marketplace.” Throughout the years, Lough has picked up a number of industry and community awards, including twice being named Woman of the Year by the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs. One of Lough’s passions is education. She is a founding parent of Trinitas Classical School and serves as chair of the organization’s finance committee and co-chair of its marketing committee. Whether working in the community or in the business world, Lough said she knows the key to success is surrounding herself with good people. “I am so proud of our team to have achieved such longevity in a dynamic marketplace within a fluctuating economy and look forward to many more years of serving the West Michigan community.”

$0-$1.49 MILLION

arbara Meconis is proof that holistic and traditional health care can work well together. The owner and CEO of Holistic Care Approach opened the natural healing center in northeast Grand Rapids in 2003 after having spent time as director of system quality improvement at Spectrum Health and as director of health care management programs at Priority Health. Since then, she has negotiated an exclusive contract to provide holistic health services to the staff of the largest health care provider in West Michigan. “I have established and expanded a business during a very difficult economic environment,” Meconis said. “Holistic Care Approach provides the widest range of holistic health services in a clinical setting and is unique to any business in all of West Michigan.” Meconis isn’t shy about sharing her knowledge, either. She is an adjunct faculty member with Grand Rapids Community College where she leads a series of classes on holistic wellness, and at Ferris State University where she teaches an alternative medicine course for pharmacy students. She also provides internship opportunities to students at Grand Valley State University and onsite presentations to schools for free. Judges noted Holistic Care Approach shows very good growth. Meconis is also a frequent public speaker on health-related topics and is a regular guest on local television and radio stations.

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Elaine Meyers meyers Cleaning service president

$0-$1.49 MILLION


laine Meyers is a woman of strong faith. But that faith was tested severely in 2012, a year of the highest highs and the lowest lows. “I think the one achievement that stands out is that, in 2012, we will for the first time hit $1 million in total revenue,” she said. “This was a financial goal that I have strived for the last several years, but with the weak economy in recent years, I was not convinced that we would achieve that goal before my retirement. “However, this financial accomplishment was coupled with the most personally challenging and difficult time of my adult life: the death of my husband, Bob.” Bob Meyers died of lung cancer just 43 days after his diagnosis, which caused

Elaine to think about the business and the role it played in their lives. “I reflected on the reason that I started this business in 1984, which was to provide supplemental income in our household to pay for Christian education for our children. In the beginning, it was a one-person operation — just me — with two small cleaning accounts totaling $2,100 in revenue in the first year. It has grown through the years, now employing 70 individuals with the possibility of adding several more. We have enjoyed 28 successive years of revenue growth.” On the wall in Meyers’ office hangs a sign that says, “Excellence: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” That sounds like a pretty good business plan.

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Barbara Pietrangelo

Amy Ruis

Natalia Schotte

The pietrangelo Agency Financial planner

Art of The Table owner and president

La Vie de la Rose Flower essences owner and president




$0-$1.49 MILLION

arb Pietrangelo started The Pietrangelo Agency in 2009, but she’s been working with Prudential Insurance Company of America for more than 20 years. That type of consistency, both with the company and her clients, is a hallmark of Pietrangelo’s success. “For Barb, her most significant achievement is not an award or plaque she can hang on the wall,” read her nomination form. “She believes that her most significant achievement is having almost all of her original clients she started with still working with her. While most individuals in the financial services industry can see up to a 30 percent loss in clientele, Barb has had under 1 percent after all of these years.” Pietrangelo’s financial planning acumen is of obvious benefit to her clients, but her personal philanthropy might be even more impressive. She is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table Foundation, where her giving nature is well-documented, according to Executive Director India Alexis Ehioba. “Barb is at our highest donor recognition level of Royal Order Knight, giving over $250,000 in her lifetime,” Ehioba said. “Additionally, she has been actively involved at every level of volunteering and service, from packing meals for hungry children, to building a playground for children in disadvantaged areas, to building a home for a homeless family. Over the past 13 years, she has served on every committee, the board of trustees, every officer position, and most recently as president of the foundation.”

$0-$1.49 MILLION n the surface, Art Of The Table is a successful 10-year-old retail store like many others located in its neighborhood. But that would be selling it short, because Art Of The Table’s roots run deeper than most neighborhood retail outlets. “I feel that I have made a significant investment of energy, heart and finances in the Grand Rapids area — from Wealthy Street to Uptown — to neighborhood growth in general that Grand Rapids needed,” said Amy Ruis, owner and president. “I have created a business from scratch that has been well accepted in the community and continues to flourish. I feel honored to be one who is given some of this credit in having worked with fellow business owners, city leaders and friends for change over the last 10 years.” Judges noted the business shows strong growth and called Ruis an innovator and risk taker. She is a resource and catalyst for redevelopment of the Wealthy Street business district and surrounding neighborhood. She also serves on the boards of the Wealthy Street Business Alliance and the Uptown CID, and most recently accepted a position on the board of directors of the new Downtown Market. When asked what she hoped to accomplish in a leadership position for one of downtown’s most important developments in years, her reply was succinct: “I hope to say that we achieve opening a $30 million market by next summer.”

$0-$1.49 MILLION

ne could say that La Vie de la Rose Flower Essences’ roots are in Grand Rapids. Or, more specifically, in about an acre’s worth of gardens across four properties in a historic area of downtown. According to the firm’s website, flower essences are natural healing agents that work in the subtle energy system of the human body to create changes that are reflected in a person’s consciousness and life. Some flower essences are created to assist in physical healing, others to balance the mind and emotions. President Natalia Schotte was running an alternative healing practice in Grand Rapids in the 1990s when the number of abused women seeking her services became almost overwhelming. Schotte switched gears and earned a Ph.D. in therapeutic counseling. “There came a point when I intuited there was a way to address our personal wounds unlike anything I had learned to date,” she said. “My private practice became a living lab. The result is a body of work to accelerate our path to empowerment and wholeness. A key part of this original work was the development of a nature-based healing system, specifically flower essences.” She calls the essences “a profound form of energy medicine that have long been part of the tradition of Earth-based healing.” Schotte has customers in 42 states and 12 countries, and recently established partnerships with distributors in Australia and China.

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Sandra Frost Steensma Parrish Consulting President

$0-$1.49 MILLION


andi Frost Steensma knows how to raise money. As the former chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, it was a job requirement. As president of Parrish Consulting, it’s her livelihood. “The company’s most significant achievement is the development and implementation of its fundraising model for annual fundraising for nonprofits,” she said. “This model includes a strategic framework partnered with ‘nuts and bolts’ technical support and training.” She said this approach has increased the annual operating budgets of more than 35 nonprofits in just six years. “Additionally, Parrish Consulting completed the successful campaign for the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center for the Salvation Army — $15 million in fundraising for a $62 million project — and

50 Top Women


the Cherry Street Health Services Heart of the City project.” The latter raised $4.5 million for the $30 million project. Parrish Consulting supports more than 30 nonprofits each year, including many that provide critical support and services to women. Steensma said the company’s goal is just simple math. “Organizations that raise more money annually are fundamentally able to serve more people,” she said. “Further, the explosive growth experienced by Parrish Consulting over the past six years is contributing to the growth in our local and regional economy through expanding its own work force and the work forces of those organizations that have expanded their staffs as a result of raising more money.”

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Janice Vanderbilt

Sheila VanZile

Ann Vidro

Vanderbilt CpA Group president

Watermark insurance services owner

Creative studio promotions Co-owner (with menda Wright) and CFo



$0-$1.49 MILLION

anice Vanderbilt sets goals. Then she meets — or exceeds — them. In 2007, the president of Vanderbilt CPA Group set a goal of quadrupling gross sales receipts in the first five years of business. Mission accomplished. Now, she has her sights set on giving other women business owners a boost. “My goal was to help women start businesses, promote women in business, and educate and encourage women to be entrepreneurs,” she said. “If I can do it, they can do it, as well. I am passionate about my business and pursuing my goals relentlessly.” While she may be relentless, Vanderbilt also understands the value of listening to sound advice and using all available means to build a successful enterprise. She participated in the Blast! Count Me In business accelerator program, which is sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and designed to create “million-dollar businesses.” “I understand the significance of the business accelerator program and I desire to help more women become million-dollar business owners,” she said. But life is not all about business for Vanderbilt. She’s currently treasurer for Family Crossroads Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to children with special needs and their families. Family Crossroads provides low-cost assistive technology devices, such as the iPad2, to help children and families with communication for academic and social needs.

$0-$1.49 MILLION

heila VanZile lists the title of “Queen” on some of her Watermark Insurance Services business cards. And why not? Since 2004, Watermark Insurance Services has fulfilled her vision for a concierge approach to the business, serving as a personalized resource for each client. The agency offers a comprehensive selection of personal property and casualty insurance services, including homes, autos, boats, collections and umbrella coverage. The focus is on competitive pricing supported by impeccable service. “(I have) a dynamic personality with a commitment not only to my successful business, but also with a history of contributing to the community through volunteering,” VanZile said. “I started what is now a successful independent property/casualty insurance agency from scratch in 2005. It is very rare to find a woman-owned insurance agency, and even more rare for one to be founded as a startup by a woman.” Her volunteer work spans many of her personal interests. She is vice president of development for the Cascade Community Foundation and a board member of St. Cecilia Music Center, where she participates in fundraising for sponsorships and Maestro Society memberships. VanZile also is a cabinet member of the Kendall College Capital Campaign Committee and participated in the project that turned the former Federal Building into a new campus for Kendall in downtown Grand Rapids.

$0-$1.49 MILLION


ommunications and marketing firm Creative Studio Promotions is making a brand for itself by strengthening the brands of other organizations. Started in June 2012 by Ann Vidro and Menda Wright (shown at right), Creative Studio Promotions helps clients develop and maintain brand strategies through screen printed, embroidered and other promotional products. Vidro and Wright have more than 30 years of combined experience in the industry and put an emphasis on eco-friendly and USA-made products. “If you ask our staff, you will find that we embrace their creativity and trust them to do what is best for the customer,” Vidro said. “If you survey our clients, you find they see the commitment by our staff to provide the best service possible. We also encourage having fun at work.” Creative Studio Promotions already is providing branded merchandise and building e-stores for some of the largest companies and nonprofits in West Michigan. Vidro lists American Seating Co. and Porter Hills among its clients. “In addition, we are in the process of launching the first retail online store for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital so shoppers may purchase goods branded with the hospital’s logo,” she said. When asked to list her most significant business achievement, Vidro’s response was straightforward: “Starting Creative Studio Promotions and growing it into a successful company with my business partner, Menda Wright.”

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Beverly Wall Languages international inc. Ceo

$0-$1.49 MILLION


anguages International Inc. CEO Beverly Wall speaks a business language many women entrepreneurs can understand. “This business was a turnaround situation when I purchased it nine years ago,” she said. “I have defeated obstacles such as lawsuits, companies that went bankrupt, the Great Recession and having the bank call my loan. Learning how to scramble and prevail is a woman-business-owner skill that I have mastered!” Wall, a former ATHENA Award winner, works with many businesses, including some of the largest in West Michigan. Languages International also is certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a women-owned small business, meaning it is authorized to pursue federal contracts,

as well. “The newest corporate account is Kellogg, and soon will be Whirlpool and Wolverine Worldwide,” she said. That’s a far cry from 2003, when Wall purchased a company that was “in distress and outdated,” with poor equipment, very little strategic thinking and a small sales staff. “We spent the next 18 months developing a team that could turn the business around, leading the company to a 200 percent sales increase,” she said. Now, Wall believes it is her mission “to help the next generation of women entrepreneurs have the courage and wisdom to step forward onto a success path that will carry the future economic viability of the West Michigan area.”

Congratulations 2013 Nominees! The team at Symplicity Communication Inc. is thrilled to congratulate this year’s nominees for Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Top Women Owned Business Award! Symplicity Staff is excited to have Catherine Lazarock nominated among this year’s distinguished group of women.

Wishing everyone great success in 2013!

Busy Bea’s Services, Inc Commercial Janitorial

Phone: (616) 284-4000

Finalist Top Women Owned Business Award West Michigan for 2013

“Congratulations to our fellow nominees!”

At Symplicity Communications, Inc, “We Make Telecom Symple”.

-Cindy Locklin, President & CEO Busy Bea’s Services, Inc.

2012 Michigan 2012


Entrepreneurs of Distinction

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Meg Goebel

Joyce Lovse

Peaches McCahill

paul Goebel Group president and owner

AngelCare Home Care president and owner

The mcCahill Group president



$1.5-$3.99 MILLION


hen Meg Goebel took over the family’s insurance business, she expected to follow in her father’s footsteps. She just didn’t expect them to end so soon. “After purchasing the agency in 1994 from my father, Paul Goebel, I kept him involved to ensure a smooth transition and help with the agency in perpetuity,” she said. “The agency survived — and grew — after his death in 1996.” Paul Goebel Group was founded in 1932, so the firm’s longevity certainly had something to do with its success. But Goebel refused to trade on the company’s longstanding goodwill and energetically inserted herself into the insurance industry and community at large. “I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a dedicated team of insurance professionals who have contributed significantly to the organization’s strong growth,” she said. Goebel is a former president of the American Institute of Professional Association Group Insurance Administrators and the Mid-American Association of Group Administrators, and a former board chair of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Her list of industry and community involvement includes Broadway Grand Rapids, Planned Parenthood Centers of West and Northern Michigan, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Economic Club of Grand Rapids and YWCA Center for Women. “Complacency is not acceptable and it is important to continue personal and professional growth,” she said.

$1.5-$3.99 MILLION oyce Lovse opened AngelCare Home Care in 2000, a company that provides its clients with home care options to enhance quality of life, independence, dignity, safety and in-home comfort. AngelCare’s revenues increased steadily through 2008. The recession took its toll in 2009, but the growth pattern returned in 2010 and continues today. During that time Lovse joined a number of industry and community groups, tested her political prowess by helping to draft a state licensure bill for home health care workers, and worked with underprivileged and abused women to help them find employment. Life was headed in the right direction. “On Jan. 30, 2012, our 23-year-old receptionist was rushed to the ER with a sudden and rare pneumonia. Lauren spent the next five weeks in ICU at two major hospitals, fighting for her life,” Lovse said. “She passed away March 6. As Lauren was our daughter as well as an integral part of our AngelCare administrative team, the loss hit our company hard.” Lovse spent those five weeks in the ICU. “Our administrative staff, made up entirely of women, not only ‘held down the fort’ but continued to grow the company. … We were not only blessed in a time of tragedy, we were also reminded that delegating and empowering women at work is the right thing to do.” Judges commented on the strength of the business, noting national statistics show a 40 percent decline in home health care businesses through the recession.

$1.5-$3.99 MILLION eaches McCahill could be considered a pioneer in the field of corporate wellness programs. “The McCahill Group has been an innovator in the corporate wellness and fitness industry for over 25 years,” she said. “We have been experts in our field and have been promoting the need for customized employee wellness programs that inspire positive change and cultures of healthy behaviors long before the recent trend where wellness programs have become more prevalent.” The firm has 65 full-time and more than 30 part-time employees, many of whom have been added in just the past few years. “I am a mother of five children and have grown my business significantly over the past four years while dealing with both the loss of my husband, who was previously part owner of the company, and my youngest child fighting a winning battle with brain cancer,” she said. “As a woman-owned business, I have both provided a positive example of leadership for other working women in our community and have also empowered many women through The McCahill Group as employees.” McCahill is an appointed member of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports and works on the capital campaign for the Grand Rapids Boys and Girls Club. She also helped found Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids and the River City Classic Run/Walk, now known as Relay for Life.

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Inner Circle is not an Awards Program. It’s a Call to Action. Inner Circle celebrates our region’s most accomplished and admired women – those in the “inner circle” of the business community – and gives them a forum to share practical know-how and inspire leadership in others. Facilitated small-group dialogue taps into the wisdom of top female executives, combining real-world insight and unparalleled access for young professionals and women breaking into senior leadership roles.

April at the forefront of what’s to come

For more information and to register or 616.588.9400

5 - 7:30 p.m. Noto’s Old World Dining Grand Rapids


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 “Top Women-Owned Businesses” alumni honorees: Elaine Meyers ’70

President of Meyers Cleaning Service Inc.

Mary Kline ’81

Co-owner of Onsite Wellness

Roxanne Dudicz ’02

Owner of Rivertown Finance

Amy Ruis ’93

Owner and President of Art of the Table

Coming to Calvin College Friday, May 10, 2013 Register at Sponsored by the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business 3201 Burton SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 (616) 526-6106 or 1-800-688-0122

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Jamie Mills mills Benefit Group president

$1.5-$3.99 MILLION


hen Jamie Mills moved to West Michigan from New York in 1984, she had few friends here and no business network. Undeterred, she set out to open Mills Benefit Group just two years later. She has a message for entrepreneurs. “I have been a business owner in West Michigan since 1986. I was not raised in West Michigan, but in New York. Many felt that I would not succeed when I opened my business. I have, and I have thrived,” she said. “I want other women to know my success so they will be inspired to move forward themselves and take the risk. I am extremely proud of 26 years as a woman-owned business. But I also believe that being a woman today does not make it harder in business. What it takes is com-

mitment, hard work and honesty. I am very involved in the West Michigan community and I believe for anyone to be successful in business, you must give back to the community that helped your success.” Mills does that through her work with the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Junior Achievement of Michigan-Great Lakes, United Way, Gilda’s Club and, most recently, a partnership with Van Andel Institute that resulted in an educational forum on breast cancer that covered new treatments and care options. “There are few women who would move to Grand Rapids in 1984 and open a business without any network of business associates. I have shown it can be done. It is not who you know, but what you know.”

Karen Scarpino promotional impact and Green Giftz president and owner

$1.5-$3.99 MILLION


aren Scarpino believes most growth occurs outside of one’s comfort zone. “To be in the top 10 percent of your industry, you need to do what 90 percent of your competition is not willing to do or not innovative enough to do.” That’s why her sister companies, Promotional Impact and Green Giftz, are always “thinking big.” In 2000, Scarpino began overseas direct manufacturing and brought custom-designed products into the U.S. by the container load for industry leaders such as Bissell and Herman Miller. In 2012, her company began servicing, selling and shipping goods all over the world, including orders for clients in France, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Thailand. The judges noted Scarpino’s continued success through 2012 and elected to move it to the $1.5-$3.99 million revenue catego-

ry, up from the smaller revenue category in which she was nominated. The global clients are just one part of Scarpino’s business model, however. Green Giftz created a line of products designed and manufactured in West Michigan using scrap from unused seating fabric, thereby keeping people in West Michigan employed. “We also provide this service to companies in Michigan where we take their scrap and convert it into useful gifts, such as the award we made for Chrysler’s Environmental Leadership Award using timber brought up from the bottom of the Great Lakes — so no new trees were cut down — and recycled glass. We also make photo frames from scrap leather.” These projects contribute to another part of Scarpino’s business model: the triple bottom line of planet, people and profit.

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Ginny Seyferth seyferth public Relations president

$1.5-$3.99 MILLION


inny Seyferth’s public relations business is based on talent, so it should be no surprise that she spends some of her time making sure plenty of talent is developed in West Michigan and stays here. She is a founding member of TALENT2025 and serves on its executive board. Seyferth helped set the guidelines for the organization while engaging CEOs throughout the region in developing a talent measurement baseline for West Michigan. Today, more than 75 CEOs are on board, representing more than 85,000 local jobs. She’s doing her part professionally, as well. “I think the fact that there are more than two dozen people practicing public relations in very high corporate roles in our

region, and they all have one thing in common — they got their start training with me — is my personal recognition of success.” Seyferth “graduates” are in place at Gentex, Meijer, Wolverine Worldwide, Amway, Haworth, the Grand Rapids Art Museum and area hospitals. “We have helped recruit, train and seed some of the best communications people in our region,” she said. More recently, Seyferth Public Relations is helping companies develop a more engaged culture within their organizations. She said this work has evolved from basic research and understanding of how the next generation of talent looks at today’s jobs, and the communities in which those jobs are located. “This work is directly aimed at helping Michigan companies attract and retain good talent,” she said.

Mary Reagan Shapton Reagan marketing+design LLC member

$1.5-$3.99 MILLION


ary Reagan Shapton has guided Reagan Marketing+Design through more than two decades of slow and steady growth. She lists her most significant achievement as “growing and sustaining a business for 21 years now — all while managing through many different economic cycles and constant change and uncertainty. We constantly challenge ourselves in our business, staying current with our skills, exposing ourselves to new markets. Most important, however, is managing work-life balance and demands for myself and my team. It’s not always perfect, but it is a priority.” Shapton’s priority is the team she has built at RM+D, which now numbers 21 employees. Since 1991, she has expanded the firm one client, one project and one

employee at a time. Initially working out of her home and drawing on relationships with freelancers, she gradually added to her staff, diversified her client base and moved up through a series of larger office spaces. The firm now occupies space in a historic building she purchased and renovated in a historic Grand Rapids neighborhood. RM+D has captured numerous awards throughout the years, and Shapton has personally served on the boards of foundations, life sciences startups, nonprofits and arts organizations. But that’s not how success is measured, she said. “To me, our business is about our team, our clients and our partnerships that we have had and our ability to sustain them,” she said.

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Congratulations! Celebrating our members and students on their entrepreneurial success and achievement!

To join AWE or take advantage of GROW services, visit

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$4 MILLION-$6.99 MILLION Holly Lookabaugh-Deur Generation Care president

$4-$6.99 MILLION


olly Lookabaugh-Deur certainly knows how to survive. She is the president of Generation Care, a Muskegon-based health care company that provides land-based and aquatic rehabilitation therapy programs and services. “My most significant business achievement occurred in 2009, following a threeyear investment in securing property and building a second 25,000-square-foot clinic in Grand Haven that we opened in 2008 in response to a progressively monopolistic health care environment,” she said. “I made the decision to expand to a new community and be more competitive, and expand specialty services such as pediatric therapy, women’s health and Parkinson’s programs.” The bank financing the construction

was purchased mid-project, and she was forced to seek alternative funding. “The new location opened in the worst economic environment possible, in August 2008, so I took it one more step and sought a major contract with North Ottawa Health Systems, which is also independently owned. We doubled our company size.” She has learned about doing business in a region where large health care systems dominate, and is trying to even the playing field, working with the Michigan Physical Therapy Association on legislation that would allow direct consumer access to PT and rehabilitation services. The judges lauded Lookabaugh-Deur’s strong growth and noted her “strong values,” evident in the manner in which she leads and staffs her business.

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$7 MILLION OR MORE Deb DeGraaf deGraaf interiors inc. president and owner



or Deb DeGraaf, owner and president of DeGraaf Interiors, a residential and commercial flooring and carpet business with three West Michigan locations, her education in the industry began at her father Daryll’s side. “I have been a part of DeGraaf Interiors for 15 years, ever since I began helping my father with paperwork shortly after he opened DeGraaf Interiors in 1993. After some time working in the industry, I began selling on the showroom floor and managing our sales staff. And when my father retired in 2006, I began purchasing the business and have been president ever since.” DeGraaf Interiors remains very much a family business, however. “As the majority owner of DeGraaf

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Interiors, I am proud to say that without the help of my business partner and brother, Dean DeGraaf, we would not be where we are today,” she said. “He provides a balance of skills and expertise that I alone could not. As a mother of two young children, there are days the business has to wait, and Dean, along with the rest of my team, allows me to do what I love most — be a mom.” That attitude also shapes DeGraaf’s management style. “The people that work alongside me in this business are my family at heart,” she said. “I create an environment at all three of our stores that is productive and yet fun. As long as you love what you do and who you work with, productivity and life are so much easier.”

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Linda Vos-Graham Vos Glass inc. president



ed by Linda Vos-Graham since 2002, Vos Glass Inc.’s commercial projects have been honored with awards of excellence for eight of the past 10 years. These include some of the most prominent projects in the area: Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Calvin College Fine Arts Center, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, DeVos Place, Steelcase Learning Center, Van Andel Institute and Lacks Cancer Center. Vos Glass also has won numerous safety awards from the National Associated Builders & Contractors. The judges commented that Vos-Graham owns a business in a non-traditional and sometimes discriminatory field for women, and noted her 25-year sustained and innovative leadership in an industry heavily impacted by the recession. “Participating in the community and construction industry is rewarding,” Vos-

Graham said. “I would like to believe my business success and leadership are an example that encourages other women to consider construction-related careers.” Vos Graham was the first female president of the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan and just recently ended her term as the group’s past president. She also was the founding president of the Michigan Glass Association and has served on the board of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Michigan. U.S. Glass Magazine recently listed Vos Glass as one of the top 10 woman-owned glazing contractors in the country. While the accolades are significant, Vos-Graham said the achievement of which she is most proud came during the Great Recession: “Successfully leading Vos Glass through the economic downturn, providing for over 50 employees and their families.”

Helen Zeerip Teddy’s Transport president



elen Zeerip is going places. As president of Teddy’s Transport, she oversees 70 employees and operates a fleet of 50 trucks, including tractor-trailers, straight trucks and cargo vans. In 2012, her firm made Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing, privately held companies in America. In November, Zeerip and her husband, Craig, took a 10-day “discovery tour” to the Volta region of Ghana, specifically to the Adidome Vocational Training Center, where young girls from the village are taught a trade so they can eventually support themselves. Knowing she plays a role in this mission is an integral part of Zeerip’s big-picture goal in life. “I’m very compassionate and passionate about people,” she said. “My whole life is dedicated to helping people who are unfortunate. I can’t stand the fact these girls are enslaved and don’t

have any rights.” Zeerip also has contributed her time to Wings Home, a hospice center in Allegan; Paradise Bound Ministries in Guatemala; Love INC; and Pathways of Michigan, an agency that provides counseling, early childhood programs, foster care, and support and education to children and families in West Michigan. “As far as work is concerned, we have had a lot of business achievements, so it is hard to pick just one,” she said. “But being around after all the hardship we have gone through and celebrating our 30th anniversary (recently) with our employees was probably one of the happiest moments I can remember.” Judges noted Zeerip’s business is untraditional for women business owners and that it shows strong growth despite the recession dip.

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

Contact Lyda Wilcox for more details 616-771-6213 Member FDIC. Huntington® is a federally registered service mark of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated. Huntington.® Welcome.TM is a service mark of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated. ©2013 Huntington Bancshares Incorporated.

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Top Women Owned Businesses - 2013  

Grand Rapids Business Journal presents a celebration of women entrepreneurs

Top Women Owned Businesses - 2013  

Grand Rapids Business Journal presents a celebration of women entrepreneurs