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Klask!: "Silly wooden game" proving addictive in West Michigan breweries

Late December 2013, Danish carpenter, Mikkel Bertelsen, turned to his garage workshop to make Christmas presents for friends and family. He devised a wooden board-game using magnets and small balls, something like air hockey but small enough to play on top of a table. Before long, he began receiving orders for the game from individuals, cafés, bars, and workplaces. In 2014, he built 3,000 more of the wooden games in his garage. He named the game Klask.

By 2014, Klask was featured on Danish national TV and named "Danish Game of the Year." Soon after, the World Klask Foundation was founded; national Klask associations formed in Denmark, Austria, Germany, France, Poland, Slovakia, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada, and United States. In September 2018, the Klask World Championship and World Cup will take place at The Beerhouse in Manchester, England—where a West Michigan player will have a chance to compete.

Two Klask players, Michael Pyne and Cece Riley, work together in social services in Muskegon. They also serve on the board of the US Klask Association.

“It’s all about trying to grow the game of Klask in the United States,” Riley says.  We’re building that infrastructure for local clubs, for sanctioned tournaments, how you compete in this game and climb up the tournament structure all the way up to the World Championship.”

“And, hopefully have fun,” adds Pyne. “I like board games, though Klask is not so much a board game but a game made of boards. I had seen it on the Internet, all these great reviews, won all these awards.”

Pyne bought his first Klask game as a Christmas gift for his grandchildren. When he and his wife took it out of the box, they started playing it—and kept it for themselves. Pyne enjoyed Klask so much that he reached out to the US Klask Association.

“Before you know it, we were on the board,” he says. “A lot of what I do in social work is mental health and suicide prevention. Klask is just about laughs and having a good time. You go to a public space, you’re making eye contact with your opponent, joking, and not on your phones.”

Pyne and other West Michigan Klask players have introduced the game to their favorite pups and breweries along the Lakeshore. Grand Rapids watch out! Klask is invading!

Playing Klask

To play Klask, two players face each other over the wooden game board. Each places one hand under the board to control a magnet that maneuvers a striker on the playing surface.  Players attempt to score goals while avoiding white “biscuit” magnets that affix to the strikers. (If a player moves his striker too close, he picks up a biscuit. If the player picks up two biscuits, the opponent scores a point.) Riley notes that picking up biscuits is the game’s main source of laughter. The opponent also scores points if the player loses control of their striker or falls into the goal (Klask!). According to the World Klask Association, the game takes 15 seconds to learn and five minutes to play one round.

Pyne and Riley regularly play at Grand Haven’s Odd Side Ales taproom. They and fellow board member, Kevin Reder, are planning qualifying tournaments there and at Grand Rapids’ City Built Brewing. (Reder, a Midland, Michigan resident, currently holds the Klask World Championship title.) The player who wins the qualifiers will travel to the Klask World Championship in Manchester for free. Both breweries also host regular Klask events and have games on-hand for patrons to play any time.

“It’s just fun,” says Pyne. “You look at this game—it’s a silly wooden game. But, it has this really oddly attractive and addicting sort of quality to it. As soon as you put it on the table, people start to play.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Michael Pyne


Doula group changing the paradigm in West Michigan

Gold Coast Doulas, a group of 16 doulas living throughout the greater Grand Rapids area, provide a wide range of services to women giving birth primarily in the hospital, but also at home. While having a doula is not a new idea, the image that comes to mind is that of a white woman helping a white woman give birth. Here in West Michigan, Gold Coast Doulas is changing the paradigm.

Their doula team includes African-American and Spanish-speaking doulas, doulas from different income levels, and doulas from all types of West Michigan communities. Co-owner, Kristin Revere, CD, believes that because doulas play a very intimate role with their clients, it can be important that they share a similar background with those clients.

“We’ve been intentional about seeking out diverse doulas,” she says. “Doulas are more associated with white women giving birth. We are also trying to change that paradigm by doing more education, getting involved in the community, and offering free events. “

Gold Coast Doulas also offers its doulas cultural competency training so that they can support clients no matter what their race, religion, ethnicity, class demographic, or sexual orientation.

What does a doula do?

During labor, doulas support in three ways: they provide emotional support, serve as an informational resource, and provide hands-on physical comfort measures like light massage, counter pressure, hip squeezes, and help with position changes. Because nurses have several patients and additional responsibilities such as charting and monitoring, they are not able to provide the continuous, one-on-one support that all laboring women truly require.

“We love working as a team with the nurses and provider to support the couple,” Revere says.

Gold Coast Doulas has expanded the traditional doula role to include classes, lactation consulting, placenta encapsulation, gentle sleep consultation, infant massage, and postpartum doula services. Postpartum doulas can also assist pregnant women who have been prescribed bed-rest due to high risk pregnancies.

“Other cultures really put an emphasis on letting the mother heal and bond with the baby,” says Alyssa Veneklase, CD, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas. “Here, moms have to go back to work in a few weeks and dads rarely get paternity leave. We struggle with breastfeeding, depression, and anxiety. With postpartum doula support, we help address needs that might change day to day within the same family. Usually within the first few months, parents are struggling.”

Postpartum doulas can take care of the newborn and siblings while mom naps or showers, pick up the house, do a little laundry, and give advice on nerve-wracking concerns like cutting tiny fingernails. Mothers can also engage postpartum doulas overnight to help relieve sleep deprivation.

Because health insurance does not usually cover doula services, clients must come up with the fees, which start at $750 for a standard prenatal package. This includes one prenatal visit, attendance at birth (however long it takes), and one post-partum visit. Gold Coast Doulas also offer a wide variety of classes, like childbirth education, breastfeeding, and infant massage.

“For that price, they receive care from the moment that contract is signed, even if they are hiring us at 11 weeks. We are also there the entire birth. There’s not an additional fee if it is longer. We stay for an hour after baby is born and go to their home within 14 days of their birth to give them one post-partum visit to process the birth, answer any questions, and provide resources.”

Considering the dollars that can be saved by having a doula present only during labor, enlisting a doula is highly cost-effective in the long term. According to a study by 2017, Bohren et al., having a doula present increased likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth while need for pain medication, epidurals, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and Cesareans decreased. Labors were also shorter by about 40 minutes. Also, babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores (a quick test that assesses a newborn’s condition one and five minutes after birth). Women who used a doula also experienced fewer negative feelings about childbirth. Some evidence indicated that doula support in labor can lower postpartum depression in mothers.

“In the United States, only 3 percent of healthcare dollars are spent on preventive care,” Veneklase says. “The presence of a doula lowers C-section risk by 39 percent and the cost for a C-section is double in the healthcare system.”

Good for mothers, good for Mother Earth

To support their mission of inclusivity and diversity, Gold Coast Doulas recently moved into Eastown’s Kingsley Building. They are excited about operating from a LEED certified, green building that supports them in reducing their environmental footprint and attaining their next goal, becoming a Michigan B Corporation. Companies earn this designation by focusing on environmental and social change, in addition to monetary profits. The doulas are also looking forward to accommodating more women in expanded classroom space and giving even more back to the community.

Since opening three years ago, the staff has raised awareness about postpartum depression, collected diapers for low-income mothers, and worked with the March of Dimes. Revere and Veneklase actively encourage the doulas they employ to give back to their own communities in the Greater Grand Rapids and Lakeshore areas. Mayor Rosalyn Bliss also recognized Gold Coast as a 2018 Local First Good for Grand Rapids business.

“We don't have numbers from our entire team yet, but so far we've tracked over 350 volunteer hours for 2017,” Veneklase says. “Ultimately as we grow, we want to find more things we can do for our community.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Gold Coast Doulas


Writing our Her-story: The womxn shaping our city

March is Women’s History Month, and as we take the time to learn and uncover the countless ways womxn have made an impact on our everyday lives, we here at Rapid Growth would like to take a moment to highlight just some of the amazing womxn our city is fortunate to have. We asked them to tell us about what they do and what inspires them.

Let this list show that Grand Rapids has talented womxn / womxn of color and that they are here and they are busy!



Anel Guel, Developer at Spectrum Health Application Development Intern
“What excites me is the possibility of solving problems creatively in a dynamic team.”



Brandy Arnold, Youth & Inclusion Specialist at Kids' Food Basket
“I engage schools, students, and families that we serve; work a bit in fund development; and co-lead our equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.”



Brittany Schlacter, Public Outreach Coordinator of Digital Media at The Rapid
“What excites me most about my work is being able to serve the various mobility needs of the community and continually look for new ways to improve our service.”



Denavvia Mojet, Strategic Communications Coordinator at Linc Up / Host of Political Pulse on 97.3 the Beat
“As Host of 'Political Pulse with Denavvia Mojet,' I introduce urban listeners and views to candidates, organizations, and current events in local politics. As Strategic Communications Coordinator for LINC, my focus has been innovating new ways to holistically engage residents and hold leaders accountable for their response to resident voices.”



Erika VanDyke, Kent School Services Network Coordinator
“As a KSSN coordinator, I do a lot of behind the scenes work to make sure that families have access to the resources they need for their kids to be able to arrive at school ready to learn. I build relationships with individuals, other nonprofits, and businesses to get family needs met. I think of my job as leveling the playing field a little, especially for our families of color and newly arrived who don't always have a social or economic safety net when they fall on hard times.”



Jackie Hernandez, Bilingual Community Liaison at Linc Up
“As a Community Liaison I help connect people with opportunities for involvement in civic engagement at the local (city and grassroots) level. I also provide information and resources to effect and create change on a personal level. Everyone is capable of making change once they KNOW what’s is going on.”



Janean Couch, Program Director at Grand Rapids Community Foundation
“What I love about our work is that we can have a long-term impact on the community. To do my work effectively requires building trusting relationships in the community and a building a knowledge base of systems, resources and networks. I’m excited to help lead some of the efforts at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and leverage all of our community’s resources for more equitable outcomes.”



Kaitlyn Califf, Program Manager, Grand Circus & Social Media Specialist, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids
“Foster a positive learning environment to ensure success for Grand Circus students. Inform and engage the Grand Rapids Community through digital communications at YMCA.”



Kelsey Perdue, Assistant Campus Director at Grand Circus
“It's exciting to literally help people level up. Seeing people double their salary by starting a career in tech and be able to do more for themselves and their family is amazing. “



Keyuana Rosemond, Program Manager at FitKids 360-Health Net of West Michigan
“In my role, I strive to create community within our participants by providing fun opportunities for families to learn and practice healthier habits with the support of their neighbors. FitKids360 is about supporting families on their healthy lifestyle journey and celebrating the small changes that lead to lasting improvements. My role is to fulfill the vision of "creating a healthier community one FitKid at a time" by building a full spectrum of support for families that struggle with obesity to see that they are not alone and part of a larger community that will support that journey”



Lajanae Smith, Director at Cinema Bijon Enterprise
“My day is what I make it and growing up I never imagined being my own boss. The joy of opening up new possibilities every single day keeps my work exciting.”



Lisa Ann Cockrel, Managing Director at Calvin Center for Faith & Writing
“As managing director of the Calvin Center of Faith & Writing I curate and engineer the biennial Festival of Faith & Writing; help develop and produce various other CCFW initiatives including author talks and the Hudson-Townsend Publishing Institute; create educational opportunities for Hudson-Townsend Student Fellows; and consult on and/or help produce various CCFW publications and media production.”



Lis Bokt, Executive Director at The Geek Group National Science Institute
“I help guide the overall educational and vocational programming within The Geek Group, working with both the staff and our community to continuously gauge what services are needed and what priority they have.”



Lorena Aguayo-Márquez, Adult Education Program Assistant at Grand Rapids Community College
“Is the program assistant for Adult Education. She has worked at Grand Rapids Community College for the past 11 years and currently helps leads the Adult Education English Language Acquisition, Citizenship and
Cruisin' to College Success programs.”



Lydia VanHoven, Team Lead of Creative, The Distillery Project/Meijer
“Every day, I get to lead a team of Copywriters and Art Directors in solving problems with creativity. We create beautiful and hardworking advertising for the biggest grocery store in the Midwest, Meijer.”



Michelle Jokish-Polo (our very own!), On the Ground and Defining Division Editor at Rapid Growth Media / Director of Storytelling at Urban Core Collective
“My current job excites me because it allows me to take responsibility in highlighting the voices on the margins.”



Mercedes Barragan, Talent Programs Specialist at Spectrum Health
“I serve as a consultant to our internal resource groups. Together we help create a diverse and inclusive culture. I also manage communication projects for Inclusion & Diversity”



Steffanie Rosalez, Program Director of Cook Arts Center
"I work to develop and administer multidisciplinary arts programming for neighborhood youth and families on Grand Rapids’ Southwest side. I lead programs and initiatives surrounding the arts, race, culture and community and use the arts as a force of positive change. " 



Synia Jordan, Cosmetologist, Realtor, CTA
“Being a service to others has always been my passion, both personally and professionally. I'm a licensed cosmetologist and have owned my own salon for over 18 years. I believe a healthy spirit and body go hand-in-hand and I treat every client with special care and detail in my salon as well as in my real estate profession.”



Tonisha Begay, Department Assistant at Calvin College / Program Assistant, Office of Multicultural Affairs at Grand Valley State University
“I connect Native American students to resources on campus to promote their academic success, cultural learning and sense of belonging on campus. GVSU can be an isolating environment for students of color on campus, so part of my work includes developing programs that help them feel welcome”


Adriane Johnson, Chief Creative Director at Rebellious Creatives Web Design
“Providing affordable design services that are personable and hands on.”


Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

3 women in design you should get to know

Grand Rapids is a design city teeming with talent, and in honor of Women’s History Month and West Michigan Design Week, we chatted with three that you may not know, but absolutely should have on your radar.

We asked these talented women to tell us what is on their minds about design, their careers, and what they do here in the city.

Adriane Johnson, Owner, Rebellious Creatives

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Why is design important to you?

Born Adriane Latrice Johnson in Saginaw, MI I grew up having a very colorful and animated imagination like many children do, but I took mine for what it was and ran with it only to become an adult that has a wild and colorful imagination to come up with unique ideas and designs for advertising and web designs as a career. I always had the mentality that I wanted to be an owner of a business or a designer of a fashion brand, so I spent a lot of time coming up with designs for clothing and logos for my business I wanted to run.

My actual first logo design was printed on a refrigerated truck for our family business called the Louisiana Cajun Restaurant. I drew a catfish flipping out of the water with the name over the top of it during junior high school. After that, during my high school junior year I came up with a logo and fashions for what I called “Diamond Bee Wear,” so I drew a bee that had diamonds for eyes and wings that were shaped like diamonds as well. 

The importance of design to me is to be able to convey a message to the viewer’s eyes. This could be through an illustrative drawing, a mix of photography and a unique font, painting, drawing, writing, etc. Without design, life would be pretty boring, colorless, and flat.



Where do you work and how are you involved in the local community?

I am the owner of Rebellious Creatives, a web design company for small businesses and startups. Seeing as Grand Rapids has become an incubator for people to start their own businesses through certain programs, grants funded by the city or philanthropy, I thought I would find my own way of giving back in providing affordable design services that are personable and hands on when it comes to working with new clients and building a lasting relationship, while growing a business for myself.

As a WoC, what current issues are most pressing to you?
To be fair, there isn’t anything pressing me personally, because I usually get what I want when I go for it, and if I don’t get it, then it’s not for me and I am not for them. My time is precious and isn’t to be wasted on the foolishness of others personal prejudices or hatred. But as for those who do experience issues depending on what the subject of the matter is and I get wind of it, I will find a way to get the message out, find resources to help correct the situation or make sure I am present to stand up for someone else, because sometimes you need reinforcements and to know that you are not alone in the fight for fairness and equality.



How has Grand Rapids faired in helping support you as PoC?

Support can be obtained in any city really. It’s the people in it that make the city what it is. I think that’s the main part that some people miss when talking about what a city has to offer. I think we are trying to do better when it comes to POC in business ownership, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Not only am I a woman of color, but I also represent the LGBTQ community, so I can be pulled in either direction when it comes to who is being faired the least or the most. Without the people, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, gender or disability status, you don’t have a city.

FB: @rebelliouscreatives, IG: aj_rebels2016, www.behance.net/AJohnsonDesi



Sam Cornwell, Designer, Well Design Studio


Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Why is design important to you?
Design is important to me, and should be to everyone, because of how large a role it plays in our day to day lives. It can be a powerful force that influences, inspires, and engages. I always strive to be a positive influence in this way. 



Where do you work and how are you involved in the local community?

I work full-time at Well Design Studio in downtown GR. Well Design Studio is a community-minded studio, meaning we make a conscious decision to use a good piece of our design power to improve our community.



What has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?

As a recent graduate, my career path has many years to grow. Now working as a full-time designer, much of my immediate struggle has been keeping myself inspired and creating really good work that gets recognition. I have found that keeping open interests in things such as reading, movies, and handicrafts keep the creative juices flowing more than anything else.

Instagram: samcornwelldesign and welldesigngr Portfolio website: samcornwell.co and welldesignstudio.com.


Naomi Silas, Principal Designer and Creative Director at Seventh Creative


Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Why is design important to you?
Design is important to me because, it’s something that exists that most people don’t even think about. Everything around us, is designed. Something that is designed well can be beautiful, inspiring, fun or solve real world problems.

Where do you work and how are you involved in the local community?
Currently, I am the Principal Designer and Creative Director at Seventh Creative, an independent design studio. In other words, I’m self-employed... with plans to grow. I’m also the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for AIGA West Michigan. I lead a great committee, and we are actively working on creating an inclusive design community in West Michigan. We also advocate for Designers of Color, and work to expose youth to design in underserved communities. I have a personal goal to advocate for authentic representation in media. As Creative Directors, Art Directors, and Designers we are decision makers in what a campaign or advertisement looks like, and that can be good or sometimes disastrous.

What has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?
Can we talk about the wage gap? According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinas make 55 cents for every $1 that a Caucasian male makes. Caucasian women make 77 cents, and African-American women make 64 cents.

My career path has taken a lot of turns. I graduated from college in 2008, and I always say it was the worst time to graduate and start a career. I was laid-off [from] a paid internship, and like so many other people couldn’t find work. Most of the positions I’ve held have been contracts. I’ve been on great teams and worked on some amazing brands, but being mostly in-house I didn’t have much opportunities to grow like I knew I could, which lead me to freelancing and starting my own company.

How has Grand Rapids faired in helping support you as PoC?
Grand Rapids is sometimes a bubble. As someone who’s not from here originally and as a POC, it’s sometimes hard to feel welcome. It’s sometimes hard to feel like you have a seat at the table. I constantly feel underestimated, but I love surprising people.

There are places that, I’ve definitely found a place at, like AIGA WM and Little Space Studio (creative co-working space). Those have been insurmountable in advancing my career as an entrepreneur.

I’d like to circle back to representation in the media, and if anyone has any questions about what that means, please reach out to me. Or if you’d like to know how you can design for inclusion, I’m here to help.

@seventhcreative on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Young Professional Spotlight: Brandy Arnold

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was once asked “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?” Justice Ginsberg quipped “There will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine.” The Supreme Court of the United States consists of nine justices. The question then is, when will there be enough women in leadership in Grand Rapids? There will be enough when all positions of leadership are filled by women.

The future is decidedly female, and our city’s future is in good hands. 

Of all the many strong women leading our city, we had the pleasure of catching up with Kid’s Food Basket’s very own Brandy Arnold. 

RG: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? (Are you from the area, how do you identify, etc.)

BA: Oh you know, 30-something young professional. From a teeny tiny town about two hours north of Grand Rapids called FreeSoil. Yes, that’s the real name. You can Google it. I moved down here 15 years ago to go to GVSU and never left.

RG: Where do you work and how are you involved in the local community?

BA: I work at Kids’ Food Basket as youth and inclusion specialist. In this role, I engage schools, students, and families that we serve; work a bit in fund development; and co-lead our equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. I hear from students about their favorite items in their Sack Suppers, nutritious evening meals we serve in schools where 70 percent or more of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. I hear from parents who say ‘thank you, it’s one less thing I have to stress about this week’ because they’re trying to figure out how to pay rent, keep the lights on, and keep the car running to get to work and after all that, sometimes there’s just not enough money for groceries.

We’re moving into an exciting new phase of programming with the addition of urban agriculture.

Our capital campaign right now is to build a new headquarters, giving us more space that is vital to serving schools currently on our wait list. The campaign will also support the farming of nine acres of land to grow produce for our Sack Suppers while connecting kids to where their food comes from through experiential learning. The great thing is that we’re able to increase the variety of produce that kids are introduced to. It is very empowering for students to help grow and harvest produce that is going to end up in their Sack Suppers. There is agency and ownership in that. I see food as a catalyst to explore economic justice, environmental justice, and racial justice. We have to be honest about systems that result in unequal access to food, especially healthy food, and work to reform them. Food is also community. It can bring people together, and that is the beautiful part.

I’m also involved in my neighborhood through the East Hills Council of Neighbors and serve on the board of The Spoke Folks, a nonprofit that’s connecting people to affordable, reliable bikes and providing cycling education so that all people no matter their cycling experience, background or economic status can ride safely and with confidence.

RG: Let's talk Grand Rapids. Are the city's culture and people supporting you as a person of color, and as a woman? Where can the city improve to attract more young talented professionals of color?

BA: There have been some important improvements in this area. Racial equity is being talked about in a way that was not happening when I first moved here. I’m grateful to many of our city leaders, Mayor Bliss, the City staff, and Commission for prioritizing this. It feels like we’re on an exciting precipice. There’s a buildup of energy, planning, and intention I don’t think we’ve seen before. But we as a city are still afraid to get uncomfortable. Many white people are afraid to give up a bit of their privilege to create a meaningful shift in our culture. I realize the benefit in meeting people where they are, but people of color in this city are travelling way too far for that meeting. We’re tired. POC who aren’t from here recognize this as soon as they move here, and it’s why many don’t stay.

I do feel supported, and it’s because I’ve found my spaces and my people. I’m incredibly grateful for this. There are some really great spaces, businesses, and initiatives being spearheaded by POC in GR, they just doesn’t always get as much publicity. Thank you to Rapid Growth for prioritizing some of it in your publication. It’s hard to know where your people are and where your safe spaces are as POC in this city, especially if you’re new. 

Recently, I sat down with a couple WOC who are fairly new to the city and I’m asking what are you interested in, where can we can we get you plugged in, where can you find the support you need. Because they’re telling me ‘I work and go home.’ They don’t have that connection yet. Supporting each other in those one-on- one ways can work on a smaller level. On a larger level, I’m not sure what the solutions are, to be honest. There are some really great programs and identify groups in GR that are supporting POC like Latina Network, Black Women Connect, Transformational Leaders Program, Latino Talent Initiative, Sisters Who Lead, and BLEND, among others. Let’s make sure employers are aware of those programs and can connect their staff. Let’s look to DC, Atlanta, Oakland, New York City, and others to see what they’re doing to support thriving multi-cultural spaces and places. More access to financial capital for POC to build those spaces and places. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the progress of new Start Garden initiatives. Less residential segregation–easier said than done, I know. More organizations and business should have cultural competency and bias training to create better workplace culture for diverse staff.


RG: As a woman of color (WoC) what current issues are most pressing to you?

BA: Intersectionality. Identity is so complex. I feel so fortunate to come from my family. It gives me such perspective. I’m biracial, as are two of my siblings and quite a few of my nieces and nephews, and we span the spectrum in terms of physical features and experiences. I talk to my one niece about what it means to her to be Afro Latina. I talk to other family members about the complexity of being biracial, but presenting as white. I talk to others about what it means to live life when people are thoroughly confused about your racial identify and make it their mission to put you in a box no matter how uncomfortable it may make you. For me, I’ve spent the last five years really diving into what it means to be a black woman, a biracial woman, and claiming all of those. Because I can. It was empowering to recognize that no one can define my identity but me.

I studied the Civil Rights movement quite a bit in college and what was amazing to me is the way that black woman were the backbone of the Movement. And for many of them, being black was their focus. They were not showing up in droves in the Women’s Rights Movement. It did not feel like it was for them. It did not recognize the heightened oppression of being both black and a woman. We’re still seeing this today. I struggle with any movement or person that can’t recognize intersectionality in a real way.

RG: What has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?

BA: I spent six years after graduating at a job that was fine, but wasn’t ultimately what I wanted to be doing. I’ve always had a passion for social justice and community building. I realized I wasn’t fulfilling that passion in a real way, and decided to shift my career into the non-profit space as well as getting more involved in the city.

My biggest obstacle so far also led to my growth. I think we’ve all heard it’s about who you know, and this is maddeningly true for Grand Rapids. I had the hardest time getting an interview, even after going back to school and getting my master’s degree. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even get so much as a form rejection email. I realized if I was going to stay here, I was going to need to hustle hard. Networking does not come naturally for me–it’s very energy depleting and can feel disingenuous. I try to do it in a way that works for me. I worked for a while as a freelance writer and put those journalist skills to use. I found people that interested me, that I admired, that were doing work that I wanted to get more involved with and asked them if we could get coffee, lunch, a drink so I could hear more about their story. I was on a mission! And I think it paid off. I still do it all the time. Having people that were connected to Kids’ Food Basket put in a good word for me when I applied made a difference. I’m thankful to all those I look to on a daily basis to help support my growth. An area that I’m focusing on is growing my leadership skills and supporting and connecting others, especially POC, so I can pay it forward a bit.

RG: What plans do you have for your career/projects/personal goals this year?

BA: This is a year of slowing down and zeroing in. I worked hard to get plugged into this community and there are so many important organizations and movements to get involved with that I have a hard time saying no. But I’ve been spreading myself too thin, and I’m really resonating with the phrase ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup.’ At Kids’ Food Basket, we talk about growth years and planning years, as we’ve grown so explosively over the last decade. You have to prioritize planning just as much as growth, and this year I’m slowing down, I’m planning, I’m learning, I’m figuring out how my skillset best matches with personal fulfillment and doing good–both personally and professionally. I need to get more grounded in home. I kind of live like I might move tomorrow, so 2018 goals are about getting some art up on my walls, staying home a bit more, keeping a couple houseplants alive.

RG: Anything else you would like to add, discuss, or share?

BA: Yes! Don’t sleep on our youth. I’m fortunate to be in our schools quite a bit through my role at Kids’ Food Basket and I am in awe of the beautiful talent and drive these students have. Just a couple weeks ago I was talking to three fourth grade girls in a robotics program. They were describing their most recent project, and I couldn’t understand half of what they were talking about. I was like ‘hydro what now?’ I loved it. These kids are so smart, but they need us.

Please, give a couple hours to mentor, speak in a classroom, donate resources schools might need, volunteer and financially support organizations like Kids’ Food Basket and so many others that are helping meet basic needs, support public education. These students are our community’s future and deserve the whole community’s support.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Heart of West Michigan United Way pledges $589,000 in STEM program funding

"We have been investing in Kent County for over 100 years," says Michelle Van Dyke, Heart of West Michigan United Way president and CEO. A century-old nonprofit designed to reduce poverty in West Michigan, United Way raises money, vets partner agencies, fund solutions, and mobilizes volunteers, according to their website. Recently, Van Dyke and the nonprofit set its sites on education, specifically in math and science, of youth in Kent County.

Conducting an assessment of the education needs of the community, United Way identified a gap in middle school STEM programming. Aiming to prepare this cross section of students in the area with adequate training in math and science, the nonprofit designated $589,000 of their 2017-2018 Community Investment Fund Grants to education in these arenas.

"A broad array of what we're funding around the issue of middle school math and science. We need better achievement in those subject in order or kids to be ready for the jobs in this community," says Van Dyke.

Part of this funding, announced yesterday at Westwood Middle School, was allocated to a one-time gift to Grand Rapids Public Schools of a leading STEM curriculum by Discovery Education. After meeting with GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall McNeal last year, Van Dyke quickly determined that this partnership fit perfectly with both the nonprofit and the school district's missions of preparing students for future jobs.

This, says Van Dyke, is United Way's principal goal with specially tailored programs. "[We want to] make sure kids get a quality education and that they get opportunities that they need to get living wage jobs when they're adults. That's our aim," she says.

In addition to partnering with GRPS and providing this specialized curriculum for middle schoolers district-wide, United Way has teamed up with Camp Blodgett to form a STEM Academy and STEM Club, Kent Intermediate School District "training teachers how to be better science teachers and math teachers, as well as professional development in STEM subjects," and the Expanded Learning Opportunities Network (ELO) to create a new STEAM strategy.

United Way is also working with The Refugee Education Center to provide funding for academic intervention for those students who are learning English alongside their math and science curriculums.

Over the next three years, Van Dyke aims to equip Kent County students with the tools they need to master STEM and prepare themselves for careers in engineering, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing, among other industries.

For her, for GRPS, and for the many partner agencies throughout Kent County, it's simple:

"Our kids need to know math and science," says Van Dyke.

Startup Spotlight: Parliament the Boutique

Sometimes things are right under our nose when we’re looking for them high and low everywhere else.

If you haven’t had a chance to go to Avenue for the Arts' First Friday’s events, then not only have you been missing out on one of the most intriguing events of the week, but you may have also not had the chance to stumble upon the dynamic duo of Elyse Marie Welcher and Jake Vroon’s shop known as Parliament the Boutique, which houses both of their respective businesses, Littlewings Design and Harbinger Leather. 

We caught up with the business duo and couple to find out the latest rumblings on the avenue.

RG: What date did you launch? Why did you start Littlewings Designs and Harbinger Leather?

EW: Littlewings Designs launched in 2010 while Elyse was still a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and was technically her senior capstone project, before she first put it into the world using Etsy in the summer of 2010.

JV: Harbinger Leather Design launched in 2012, after Jake discovered leather working in college when he was hunting for the perfect messenger bag, and couldn’t find just the right thing, so he decided to make it for himself. After rebuilding that first bag around half a dozen times, he decided he liked working with leather and to just keep making stuff!

EW&JV: We both launched our businesses and stuck with it because first, we are both really independent people and didn’t want to see our energies poured into systems and places that didn’t value people; and second, because it was right after the economic crash of ‘08/’09, and for both of us, it was like why not, we aren’t getting hired anywhere else! My (Elyse’s) degree is literally in Accessory Design, and my industry had been in a virtual hiring freeze for three years at the time I graduated college in 2010, with that many years of graduates ahead of me to compete with for jobs if I was going to get involved in the traditional corporate scene. For Jake, he was entirely self-taught, and breaking into that corporate scene was of zero interest to him. Both of us came at it with an attitude of “There’s no better time than now,” and have kept that up!

RG: What is at the core of Littlewings Designs and Harbinger Leather? Where have you been and how has the journey been?

EW&JV: The core of each of our brands has always been centered around the value of handcrafted quality, from both an economic and an eudaimonic perspective; how is owning handcrafted, locally made goods not only a wiser economic choice in terms of products being better made and longer lasting, as well as keeping economic energy within your own community, but how supporting those goods and their makers also leads to a higher quality of life and well-being. 

Starting out, it’s really tough to launch a business alone, and be able to grow it to the point that it becomes your full-time gig. We were really lucky to meet each other in that stage of growth, and to be able to combine our talents together to support each other’s work, while still maintaining our own creative brands and voices. Maintaining the two brands has been intentional, and we’re able to voice a myriad of our artistic visions and problem solving skills by keeping them that way, which is also super rewarding.

The other portion of our journey has been owning and operating Parliament the Boutique together. I (Elyse) launched the business in 2013, but Jake was involved from the get-go. It has been a tough and crazy journey of navigating a business that frankly started out as an experiment, that had a third partner involved for part of it, and that in many ways has grown to be bigger than its combined parts. We now have finally landed in an ideal location on South Division that allows us to operate our retail shop, have our studio and production on-site, and has room for our continued growth over the next several years; we’re very excited about how this space has allowed us so many opportunities for collaboration, and can’t wait to see where it’s going to take us next!

RG: What are Littlewings Designs and Harbinger Leather's plans for this new year? Any new releases or shows you are looking forward to?

EW&JV: This question leads nicely from the last! Actually, this year, we are launching a new business and rebranding Parliament. Over the course of the last five years, we have learned extensively that our retail space serves not only as a shopping destination for those who are passionate about handcrafted, high quality goods, but also as a showroom for potential wholesale and large-scale production clients. Much of Harbinger Leather Designs’ work over the years has been private label work for local brands such a Woosah, Victor Axe + Tool, and even Horween Leather out of Chicago, and Littlewings Designs sells wholesale to around 35 boutiques around the country; our store has proved to be a fantastic little “garden” for seeding and fruiting independent, private label, and wholesale client work.

We also recently had a partner exit Parliament, and have thusly decided this is the perfect juncture to rebrand and take a new direction that better reflects those goals. From a public perspective, it will still be the same shop focused on creating a space that is a crossroads for makers and their community, but with a new name and branding that is more focused on Jake and I as a couple, and our back story (we’re not releasing the name yet, but it is centered around us being both born under the sign of Gemini), and with an internal value proposition of formalizing our offerings in private label, wholesale, and collaboration work for other brands. Keep tuned for the announcement of our new brand the first of March, and an official transition party at the end of March!

RG: What is it like having a live/work space on the Avenue for the Arts?

EW&JV: Similarly to our business journey, it is tough but also really rewarding, and very educational. Jake and I both came from fairly sheltered backgrounds, and getting involved in this community has been very humbling and has had a steep learning curve. There are some fantastic perks: we have awesome neighbors, live in a community of talented makers and artists, we’re within walking distance to an awesome food and nightlife scene here in GR, and have been fortunate enough to live in/next to our working spaces for the last five years.

We’ve learned that as able-bodied community members, it’s not just to our advantage to advocate for neighborhood improvements and additional measures to ensure safety, but that we have a duty to do so. Many of our close neighbors and fellow Heartside dwellers are disabled, elderly, shut-in, and often are without transportation; many of them lack the ability and energy to advocate for themselves in terms of basic human rights, such as working toward getting a public restroom in this neighborhood, or demanding more pedestrian lighting and law-enforcement to make safe transit by foot more possible for everyone. We are constantly thinking about how our actions both impact our own financial security, as well as how that advocacy is making positive change for the well-being of all our neighbors, not just us. For us, that comes down to working toward more safety measures, increased community cooperation, and public awareness/education about the realities rather than the rumors, of living and working in Heartside.

RG: What role does making/crafting have in our society? How does making/crafting fit into your everyday life outside of work?

EW&JV: We truly believe that making and crafting is a critical conduit for processing our human experience; making art or goods is a way of physically manifesting the energetic ideas within our hearts and minds. For us, it is a continued extension of our values, of living a life well-lived and not just financially earned.

Our wedding was one of the biggest demonstrations of this. We made most of it ourselves—the decor, the flowers, our gifts for our wedding party—we even made our own rings with Abbey Hunter at the Hot Spot GR! And I wore my mother’s wedding dress, both as a way to reuse a beautiful heirloom with family value, and also to not waste money on a very expensive gown that I would only wear one day.

Currently, we’re looking at buying a house, as we love living downtown, but it’s difficult to have a family in a one-room flat. As we house-hunt, we’re looking for spaces with history that we can preserve and renovate utilizing our DIY skills, and that also continue to allow us to be sustainable in our commute and live/work balance, by sticking within a couple miles of our current shop and therefore being able to walk, bike, and/or take the Silver Line into work everyday.  

RG: What are some of your favorite things about owning your own business? What are the downsides?

EW&JV: We love the freedom, of being able to make decisions for our life/family in a way that holistically support our values. We choose our work hours, and are able to bring the skills we love into our work every single day. And we both love being designers! It’s our passion, and to share that together is an amazing blessing. The downside is that managing it all is really tough. No one thinks about how difficult it is to write your paychecks, manage the finances of three businesses, and keep everything running smoothly while also remembering to eat, sleep, and be a healthy human! And taxes are really an annual nightmare, haha. But we wouldn’t trade it for all the world; Jake and I often say, we are ride or die when it comes to this life.

RG: What are your hopes for the small business scene in Grand Rapids and Michigan at large?

EW&JV: We have a rich and deep history here in Michigan of design, production, and businesses that when started, had the intention of working toward the common good. In a lot of aspects, we lost our way in the last 50 years: the fall of Detroit, the fall-out of manufacturing, the shipping overseas of valuable jobs and production that were the backbone of our local economy. My hope is that the many small businesses like ours, who are creating a sustainable network of production and collaboration, will continue to be a foundational part of Michigan’s economic recovery for years to come. You can’t build a strong foundation without bricks and mortar; the big businesses are the bricks, and the little ones like us are the mortar that holds it all together.

With continued clarification and activism, I think Grand Rapids is poised to be a leading location in this type of economic rebuilding for a long time, so long as we work together and continue to broaden the web of communication between these many entities, and understand that there aren’t “black/white” solutions to these problems. Big business isn’t all bad; small businesses aren’t all heroes. If we can see the complexity of our ecosystem with more clarity, we will continue to see abundance and growth; if we devolve into dividing and segmenting, we will fall back into the same scarcity-based thinking that led to much of the greed and crumbling of our local economy in the first place.

You can visit Parliament the Boutique at 136 S. Division or here. Elyse’s work with Littlewings Design can be seen here and Jake’s work at Harbinger Leather is here.

Their Instagram accounts can also be found here: Parliament the Boutique, Littlewings Design, and Harbinger Leather

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Images courtesy of Parliament the Boutique.

WestSide Collaborative bands together nonprofits for the common good

10 years ago, when Grand Rapids and the nation was hit with the Great Recession, GR's Westside, a predominantly working class neighborhood, felt the heat. "West Grand Rapids was particularly hit hard, housing had huge vacancy rates, people [were] struggling to find employment," says Westside Collaborative Executive Director Jim Davis. The decade that followed witnessed the transformation of a neighborhood increased diversity, a changing workforce, and eventual reinvestment into the area.

After eight years of struggling to serve the neighborhood and find their individual and communal voices, Westside nonprofits decided to band together to be better partners, to each other and to their shared clientele.

With the shared values of "equity, inclusion, and hope," resulting in "access and opportunity for all," these nonprofits—like The Other Way Ministries, the YMCA, Challenge Scholars, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids—formed the West Town collaborative. For the next two years, the group worked toward identifying their shared needs and those that were unique to the residents of their neighborhood. "They saw value in getting to know one another," says Davis, referring to a trait uncommon to nonprofits who are often competing for precious resources.

However, after two years, Davis says, "They were invested in an idea that hadn't come to fruition." Despite the passion and labor that went into the project, the group still hadn't cemented their mission, and in August of 2017, hired Jim Davis to serve as the executive director to assist them with the task.

Davis, at heart a music director with experience working at the local Interlochen Music Camp, was no stranger to combining the talent, skill, and personalities of many people into a smooth, working ensemble. Having also worked in public education for eight years outside of Flint, he is no stranger to poverty and the constant struggle for resources.

Knowing that this passionate group of people and organizations needed to define their mission to move forward, he began reviewing data and conducting interviews throughout the neighborhood. The common response to the mission of collaborative was "we become the neutral party that allows both space and staff assistance and financial support when needed for other organizations to get together and to amplify that work."

But what was "that work?" Seeking to further define "collective impact work," or the tasks that these nonprofits embarked upon together, Davis worked with member organizations to define their three main jobs: to identify gaps in service, to eliminate duplicated services, and to improving marginal services. They would do this by serving as referrals to member agencies, as well as forming specialized "work groups" to tackle specific problems within in the community.

One such work group is called "Sense of Belonging," which aims to improve the welcome and comfort for all groups of people in the neighborhood. With the priority to best represent and serve the Westside, each of these groups is made up of 50 percent Westside collaborative members (nonprofit staff), 40 percent represents marginalized communities or POCs, and at least two residents (these percentages can overlap). "We celebrate diversity at that table. We think it's essential," says Davis.

Working alongside community organizations like the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, the John Ball Area Neighbors, and the West Grand Neighborhood Organization, the Westside Collaborative provides a unique service by specifically banding together nonprofits.

"In no way do we duplicate their work, but we absolutely depend on neighborhood organIzations to assist in the efforts our non-profit community is putting forth in addressing common issues in West Grand Rapids," says Davis.

With a new name and a clearly defined mission, they hope to do this for years to come. Davis summarizes their work with this: "Our end goal is to improve the community at large…we want their quality of life to improve."

New year, new job: The winter jobs roundup

Habitat for Humanity

Site Supervisor

The Site Supervisor oversees and works directly with volunteers and home buyer families to provide instruction while ensuring site safety and producing a positive Habitat site experience. This position will also manage the warranty program with existing homeowners, as well as work on educational builds alongside students and instructors. This position requires the ability to build homes to code through all phases of construction, while keeping on schedule. Preferred qualifications include a state of Michigan builder’s license and five years minimum supervisory experience in the remodeling/new construction industry. Candidates must be passionate about the mission of Habitat, be a team player and willing to foster relationships during the build process.

Send resumes by February 9, 2018 to hr@habitatkent.org. No phone calls or walk-ins.

Material Recovery Supervisor
The Material Recovery Supervisor will coordinate and perform recovery projects to obtain donated gifts that require physical removal and disassembly from the donor’s premises to be sold in Habitat for Humanity of Kent County ReStores or to be used in Habitat for Humanity of Kent County building projects.

This is a full-time hourly position with benefits. Send resumes by February 13, 2018 to: hr@habitatkent.org. No phone calls or walk-ins.

D.A. Blodgett St. John's

Residential Therapists (Seeking one for Cebelak and one for Elenbaas)
Full-time youth and family therapist for middle school-aged children residing in our residential facility. Work focuses on healing past trauma, developing a healthy identity, learning independent living skills, and preparing for permanent placements. The ideal candidate will have strong therapeutic skills and expertise. Skills in substance abuse treatment, trauma informed treatment, EMDR, motivational interviewing, and CBT are preferred.

Qualifications:
MSW or similar degree and State License / Limited License required.

Multi-Systemic Therapist (What is MST, you ask? MST is an intensive, family-focused and community-based treatment program for chronically violent youth.)
Full-time Master’s level therapist, who is organized and highly engaging, for our MST (Multi-Systemic Therapy) program. MST is an evidenced-based therapy program to treat teenagers with delinquent behaviors by working with the parents as the change-agents. Therapy occurs in the home and community.

Qualifications:
LMSW, LPC, LMFT, or LP (limited or full license) is required and a minimum of one year of counseling experience is preferred. Further information about the counseling model can be found at www.mstservices.com. Bilingual and culturally diverse persons are encouraged to apply. EOE.

Advancement Services Manager (Brand new position!)
APPLICATION DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 1, 2018
The Advancement Services Manager provides leadership and oversight of donor management systems and strategies, special events, administrative support, donor communication and direct mail appeals and other fundraising activities. The Advancement Services Manager supervises the Advancement Assistant and Events Coordinator, reporting to the Chief Advancement Officer.

Qualifications:
A minimum of five years of experience in advancement functions. Familiar with fundraising principles and donor strategies and working knowledge of donor management strategies and systems (Raiser’s Edge NXT preferred). Supervisory experience preferred. Proven leadership abilities and successful experience managing multiple projects. Bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university preferred.

Second and Third Shift Youth Development Specialist – Residential Program
Full time, counselor role providing direct care for children and youth living in an open residential program. Counselors see to the physical and emotional needs of the children and youth who have experienced some form of abuse and/or neglect. Counselors will model and teach appropriate social skills while working closely with a staff therapist to implement individualized treatment plans. This role demands an individual with strong relationship building skills, physical and emotional stamina and an ability to work in a team environment in order to provide a family like setting. Counselors act in a parental role by meeting basic needs of youth.

Qualifications:
High School diploma or equivalent required. Associates and/or Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Youth Ministries, Criminal Justice and/or Communications a plus. Valid driver’s license with a good driving record is required. Those interested in a career in the child welfare field or those with a desire to help struggling children and teenagers are encouraged to apply.

Supports Coordinator
For those who have a passion for working with children who have developmental disabilities. Full-time position providing individual case management to children with developmental disabilities. Job requires linking, monitoring, and coordinating services within the family system and the community. Services are provided in the home setting and some evening hours are required.

Qualifications:
Minimum education requirements include a 4 year degree in the following: psychology, physician, education from an accredited program, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, audiology, registered nurse, registered dietician, therapeutic recreation, or a licensed or limited-licensed professional counselor. Experience working with culturally diverse populations and one year of experience working with clients diagnosed with developmental disabilities preferred. Bilingual persons are encouraged to apply.

Foster Care Case Aide and Community Living Supports Aide
Wonderful part-time opportunities; perfect for college students working towards a Human Services degree.

Apply here.

John Ball Zoo

Marketing Manager
John Ball Zoo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, with a mission to inspire people to be active participants in the conservation of wildlife and our natural environment. We are seeking an energetic Marketing Manager to join our team. In collaboration with the Chief Development Officer, the Marketing Manager designs, develops, and directs the implementation of all media relations, advertising, promotions, and public relations activities for the Zoo.

Apply here.

Wolverine Worldwide

Director Of Retail Marketing
This position will play a critical role in developing integrated marketing strategies and plans for key wholesale accounts and DTC channels. Responsible for working closely with the Category marketing directors, Sales leadership, and internal stakeholders to develop account and channel specific campaigns designed to ensure that the brand is effectively represented and communicated to our end consumers. This position will have marketing responsibility over all wholesale channels of trade along with our DTC channels, with the goal of driving awareness and sales within those channels. This role will also work closely with the Sales team to develop key sales tools for our sales force in order to improve product sell-in and sell-thru at retail.

Apply here.

Calvin College

Writer and Marketing Coordinator
To reach prospective students, this position will create strategic, compelling and on-brand content across a variety of communication channels. Collaborate with creative professionals, tell the stories of world-changing Calvin students, and connect with high school students about the benefits of a Calvin education. This position will be part of a team that executes marketing initiatives across many channels, including email, print, web, digital advertising, and video.

Apply here.

Herman Miller

Senior Marketing Specialist - Focused Markets
As a Senior Marketing Specialist - Focused Markets, you'll be responsible for developing and implementing marketing strategies and tactical plans to successfully support Herman Miller's business objectives in two key areas within the North America Contract business: Healthcare and Higher Education. You will also be responsible for leading the implementation of projects, programs, and initiatives from concept, design, development, and delivery to achieve goals.

Apply here.

Meijer

Brand Planner
This position is responsible for building marketing platforms and campaigns, guiding campaign and marketing plan development and cross-channel integration. This role is integral in bringing cross-functional partners together to build campaigns—Merchants, Promo Planning, Business Ops, Customer Insights, Media, Content Planning and Creative Teams, translating business and communication objectives into marketing campaigns that prompt meaningful customer action.

Apply here.

Byrne Electrical Specialists

Jr. Digital Marketing Specialist
Execute and plan Byrne’s digital marketing strategy, managing and publishing targeted content to drive engagement, growth and revenue goals across digital channels.

Apply here.

West Michigan Whitecaps

Community Relations Street Team
The Community Relations Street Team is responsible for escorting mascots at community events. Street Team members must be upbeat, outgoing individuals with the ability to interact with all types of people. The Community Relations Street Team performs all job tasks in compliance with the philosophy, policies, goals, and budget of Whitecaps Professional Baseball, Inc.

Apply here.

Inner City Christian Federation

Resident Engagement Specialist
The Resident Engagement Specialist adjusts and implements successful neighbor engagement programs. Job functions include team collaboration, program development, outcomes planning and improvement, resident event planning and execution, focus groups and surveys, and relationship building to support residents to meet their personal and housing goals. Goals of this program include increased opportunity, strong relationships, and housing stability.

Please submit your resume with a cover letter to hr@iccf.org or Traci Douglas, tdouglas@humanresourcepotential.com. ICCF is an EEO employer.
 

Robotics company expansion ushers in next generation of manufacturing in Kent County

West Michigan is quickly becoming a hub for technological growth and experimentation. With a smattering of maker spaces, tech entrepreneurs garnering crowdfunding, and established companies expanded their capabilities, tech is here to stay.

One such company that is meeting the national need for tech innovation is Axis Company, a Walker-based firm that "designs, programs and builds robotic automation and assembly equipment for a wide range of manufacturers and industries," according to their press release. With eyes set on continued growth in the very near future, Axis recently announced a $4 million investment in a new facility in southeast Kent County, one that will offer 50 new jobs.

The new positions will include six to eight managerial/professional roles, 15 to 20 technical positions, and 20 to 25 skilled craftsman. Having already posted 10 to 12 job openings for their new facility, Axis is hiring now, and job descriptions can be found on their website.

Part of the $4 million in funding is sourced through a three-year contract with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Working with the Right Place and the MEDC and forgoing an out-of-state site option, Axis decided to maintain their presence in Kent County and reinvest in their home community, and thus the MEDC approved the $400,000 performance grant in October 2017.

"The reason that we're so excited about his, beyond having another company expand in the region, which is always good, is an automation and robotics company expanding in your community is really the next generation of what manufacturing is going to look like in the US," says Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communications for The Right Place.

Currently seeking the perfect site for their second location, Axis will most likely choose an existing structure that can be further developed for their use, according to Mroz.

Mroz adds that an increased advanced manufacturing presence stands to bolster the region's expertise and desirability in that sector. Adding 50 new jobs to the region while progressing in robotics and automation "really puts our manufacturing community in a position of strength," he says.

Where to work it in a West Michigan Winter

Winter is here, and as any good Michigander knows, just because it has hit 40 degrees it does not mean the weather will stay this way. If you have set resolutions for healthier habits in this new year, then a long Michigan winter can certainly put a damper on your plans.

Have you been slacking on your efforts to meet your new goals? Finding it hard to motivate yourself to jump right in with a fury?

Not to worry! Having that flash of energy to attempt two-a-day workouts might be able to get you through two weeks straight, but burnout is real. You can only burn that hot for so long. Slow and steady wins the race, and when the race is lifelong, you should be aiming for a healthy slow burn that changes your habits and, most importantly, keeps you happy. 

West Michigan has all the options on the spectrum for gyms, from local 24-hour fitness centers all the way to our friend’s at the YMCA and MVP, and everything in between. When the gym just is not cutting it and you need a change of pace and environment here are some different options to stay active this winter.

Higher Ground 851 Bond Ave NW
Indoor climbing and bouldering can be a deceptive way to burn calories and still have lots of fun. This indoor climbing facility is tucked away just north of downtown Grand Rapids.

Terra Firma 1555 Marshall Ave SE
A brand new facility near the South East End neighborhood brings an enormous indoor bouldering wall along with a training section. Terra Firma changes the climbing routes placed on their routes regularly so you won’t run out of adventure. Trying to fit in climbing into your schedule? No worries, this facility also offers coworking space, alongside showers, and free wifi.

Inside Moves 639 76th St SW, Byron Center
Indoor rock climbing for all our friends in the Greater Grand Rapids Area. Just south is another large indoor facility with 31-foot walls that has serviced the climbing community for many years. Now that Inside Moves has been acquired by the good folks at Higher Ground, dual membership passes are available to pass between locations with ease.

CKO kickboxing 820 Monroe Avenue NW Suite 150, 
The formula here is simple: move fast. The team at CKO does kickboxing, and it does it at a blistering pace. They take beginners and everyone else that wants to hit a bag fast. You will learn how to kick, punch, and sweat your butt off.

Bokssport 1614 Leonard St NW
Train like a boxer, literally. Owner and local legend Buster Mathis Jr brings his career knowledge of the sweet science into your workouts at this Westside location. You will get put through your paces in this boxer’s gym.

Life Addicts 2427 Eastern Avenue
"Create life habits" is the motto of this boutique fitness studio where the wife and husband duo owners are working to create an intentional community of healthy members. Nestled in the growing Alger Heights neighborhood, this new fitness alternative services one of the city’s most overlooked areas.

8th Day Gym 130 Market Ave
We have all heard of it, we may have even seen it. Crossfit is not a fad; it is here to stay. 8th Day Gym provides Grand Rapidians with the hardcore workout that your body craves.

FZIQUE 740 Michigan St. NE #110
Indoor cycling meets nightclub. The team at Fzique believes that life is a party and they are having fun and laughing all the way. There is currently a promotion valued at $1248 for only $99. So get on that bike, and start the burn!

AM Yoga 555 4th Street Suite 200
The leaders at AM Yoga have truly begun to innovate the yoga game. You can find them in different locations across the city hosting community classes. After working and stretching out your body you can also calm your mind with their guided meditations. Heal your body and mind, all in one place.

Funky Buddha: Yoga Hot House 1331 Lake Drive SE, 820 Forest Hills Ave
A staple in the Eastown neighborhood, this place is a yogi’s dream. The Funky Buddha offers five different types of classes including a slow flow class, a power flow set to music, and classes for absolute beginners.

Allegro Coaching 1422 Robinson Rd SE #201
This small boutique studio offers large group classes, small group training, and one-on-one training options. The team at Allegro is about more than just fitness; they center physical conditioning as their core. So if you are looking for a group of people who will be your fan, advocate, and partner in your journey, you have found the right place.

Beer City Barre 820 Monroe Ave NW Suite 120 
“Barre is a total body workout that incorporates elements of yoga, pilates, and dance into a fast-paced 60-minute class set to upbeat music," according to their website. Using both small and large range motions, "This is a low impact workout that yields HUGE results,” they add. They make a convincing statement, so go and head on out to their location on North Monroe!

The Dailey Method 1551 Wealthy St. SE
Owner Jill Dailey takes what she has learned and cultivated in New York and San Francisco to the city of Grand Rapids. “The Dailey Method combines ballet barre work, core conditioning, and muscle strengthening through yoga, pilates, and orthopedic exercise,” according to their website. Be sure to take advantage of their two-week unlimited class special for only $45.

While on your road to a healthier life, remember to keep your eyes on your own journey. We all move at a different pace, and our processes will all look different. Remember to give yourself forgiveness for the big and small mistakes. The whole process is bigger than a cheat meal or a bad weekend. You are enough, and you will make it.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
 

culturedGR: Closing the gap in arts coverage

Not all startups are tech focused; some are actually close to the opposite. Such is the case with local non-profit startup culturedGR, an arts focused non-profit that “celebrates, examines, and supports the visual and performing arts culture of Grand Rapids, Michigan by building thoughtful conversation through news, arts criticism, and conversations with creators,” according to their website.

Founder Holly Bechiri launched the arts journalism site in September of 2016. “There was a continued loss of coverage of the visual and performing arts—and I know the benefit that the arts have for our community,” says Bechiri. “It was important to me that we get a chance to connect our community to the incredible artists, performers, and arts organizations—and the way that I could do that is through arts journalism.”

Shortly after leaving the Community Media Center’s journalism branch, The Rapidian, Bechiri was approached to create a proposal to answer the gap in arts coverage. Since the fall of 2009, Grand Rapids has become a growing arts hub in the Midwest. With the presence and growing notoriety of ArtPrize, Grand Rapids has developed a yearlong art presence. With the Avenue of the Arts’ First Fridays monthly event, ArtPrize in the fall, regular programming at GRAM, UICA, Grand Rapids Ballet, and Grand Rapids Symphony, there is plenty to be covered. 

Bechiri describes culturedGR as "Grand Rapids-only dedicated arts publication in Grand Rapids, creating quality arts journalism in order to connect our community with the arts. We do that with news stories, profiles, and conversations with creators, and arts criticism. Each of these are important pieces in creating a healthy arts ecosystem, and a healthy community—we need beauty and creative expression now more than ever, and the arts are a proven way to increase your sense of a high quality of life.” 

The visual arts and performing arts can be a privileged world in which access is limited or denied to marginalized peoples. This can be so prevalent that many people can come to believe that art is “not meant” for them, but is rather a space meant only for a powerful or influential coterie. Systemic racism and sexism are also ubiquitous in the arts, and it limits access to many communities. This dynamic and its barriers are addressed in the very name of the organization. The use of “cultured” is a tongue in cheek approach to how the world of visual and performing arts is often perceived.

When asked about the issue of access and the image of the visual and performing arts, Bechiri replies, “We are a nonprofit on a mission to connect our community to the arts, to restore access to the arts.” Bechiri is aware of the history of connecting marginalized peoples to high art, and the reprised role of white savior that many have taken in the past. This is why she mindfully chooses to state it as a restoration of access to the arts, drawing attention to the violence that was perpetrated upon marginalized peoples by the denial of access. 

This denial of access is seemingly compounded even more when we view art as Bechiri does—as a way to add beauty to our lives, and survive the hardships that life continuously brings. She sees an active role of art in society and our everyday lives, adding, “Artists have always been the ones helping us grapple with social issues all through history. They're often the truth-tellers, using comedy to point out abuse of power, using beauty to remind us of the value inherent in a human being, using storytelling to point out the injustice in the systems we've built around us. Art is a part of the conversation, and it's often the prophet of our society, calling us to do better. But even art that is pure beauty, pure color and form, that artist is putting more good, more beauty, more room to breathe in the world. That alone is a way to fight against all the evil in the world—by filling it up with beauty.” 

On the importance of access to the arts to marginalized peoples Bechiri says, “Somehow we got it in our heads that only a certain kind of visual arts was considered 'fine art' and that only a certain sector of society was to be privy to it. One of my favorite experiences in the arts in 2017 was at the UICA, in Shani Crowe and Kiara Lanier’s performance that included this incredible hair braiding that was otherworldly. If you were there it was undeniable that absolutely that belonged in an art institution.”

Further adding, “We need to restore that access and tear down the walls that have been built up and marginalized people in so many ways—in our arts institutions included. The way you become educated and involved in the arts—the way you become cultured—is to learn and experience. Those supposedly fancy people that we think 'belong' in the art museum with art we don't understand? They don't understand it either. Sometimes even the artist doesn't know what it is they're really saying until months later. It's true! You don't have to understand art to enjoy it, to have it benefit your life.”

You can become a member of culturedGR and thanks to the generosity of local artists and arts organizations, get to participate in plenty of "adult arts field trips," all for free, from visits to local artists' studios to attending dress rehearsals, to getting a tour with the curator of a new opening art exhibit, and more. Dip your toes in opera, ballet, theatre, and art. Try a lot of different things and discover what really captivates you. All this for as little as $5 a month or a one-time $50 donation.

You can follow culturedGR on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and on Twitter here.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Images courtesy of culturedGR.

Working in the City: Angela Nelson

As we get into the full swing of this new year with our new resolutions and goals we at Rapid Growth are set to continue to bring you stories from the heart of our city. 

We kick of this year with a powerful woman who keeps a blistering pace of work and activities throughout the city. We were able to chat with Experience GR and 616 Grand Production’s Angela Nelson about how she spends her days, what she is working on, and get serious with career talk.

RG: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

AN: I’m a proud native of Flint, Michigan—born and raised. When I moved to West Michigan in 1998, I knew very little about this side of the state...I’ll always be a Flintstone.

I’m a lifelong learner and will always have a love for problem solving, but early on in my career I knew I equally had a passion for people. This passion eventually led to a career change and I discovered a role that would change the course of my career for the better.

RG: Where do you work and how are you involved in our local community?

AN: I currently work at Experience Grand Rapids, an organization that markets Grand Rapids as a destination to visitors, which includes the leisure traveler, group tours, and conventions attendees. This past March, after working at Amway for ten years, I was hired as the first Vice President of Multicultural Business Development. I am primarily responsible for leading our community relations, workforce development, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

My dear friend, Milinda Ysasi-Castañon encouraged me to apply and said, “Angela, it’s as if they wrote the job description just for you.” I applied, and the rest is history, literally and figuratively.

My community involvement has always been a function of my jobs, but it goes much deeper for me. I really enjoy coalition building and supporting community initiatives that make sense given my passions and skill sets. I’ve begun to really focus my talent, time, and treasures on issues advocating for women and girl empowerment and voter empowerment/get out the vote efforts. 

I co-chair a non-partisan collaborative called PROACTIVE, which stands for People Reaching Out and Coming Together Increasing Voter Engagement since 2004. We bring other non-partisan groups together during major election cycles to do voter registration, education, and engagement.

I am also the President of the Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. We are a black letter Greek organization whose mission is committed to the constructive development of its members but with a primary focus of social change in the black community. Our local chapter will be celebrating the 50th year of our charter in November. 
It’s a very exciting time for the work that I’m doing, but I stand on the shoulders of so many in this community that I’d be remiss to think that I’m doing this alone or without the understanding that so many have come before me.I simply see that what I’m doing is continuing the work of those silent and not so silent giants in this community.

RG: Why did you decide to start your own business?

AN: 616 Grand Productions is my baby. I announced the start of the company on June 18, 2016, but the first event, which was wildly successful, didn’t take place until July. 616 Grand Productions is an events management and production company that produces fun and affordable experienced-based events. We strive to create experiences that you can readily create on your own, integrating the latest and trendiest technologies like our Silent Disco event during ArtPrize last year. Each event always has a giveback element where either proceeds from a ticket or a flat donation amount is given to the selected charity. One day I aspire to compete as the only minority and woman owned production company in the city.

The reason that 616 Grand Productions even came to be is because after leaving Amway, I made so many amazing community connections during my grant making and community relations tenure at Amway, and I simply didn’t want to let them go.

RG: As a woman of color (WoC) what current issues are most pressing to you?

AN: As a young black woman in Grand Rapids, I have been relatively successful in my career. But I’ve been dealt my share of obstacles, road bumps, workplace microaggressions, and more. However, I have been able to overcome these things by focusing on the one person I can control, which is me. 

A few thoughts, mantras, quotes I live by:
  • In the recent words of Oprah during her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe awards, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” I’m learning to not only speak my truth, but to live my truth.
  • I want women of color to better support each other, especially black women. We are often the most vilified group of people, so the last thing we can afford is not to support one another. I love the work that Shannon Cohen and Pat VerDuin are doing with Sisters Who Lead and their work to “amplify the longevity, wellness, and leadership of female leaders of color within West Michigan.”
RG: What has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?
AN: Some would wonder how does one make such a drastic switch, and I will say each time it was in God’s plans for me. He’s opened every door that I’ve been able to walk through.

My technical undergraduate degree coupled with my MBA and my solid 15 years of work experience has equipped me to do my current job.

My first career job was at Mercantile Bank. I worked there for a total of five years in a combination of roles from the IT intern to Customer Service Rep back to a technician in the IT department.

I worked at Amway for a total of 10 years, starting as a grant maker, responsible for managing the funding local non-profits to my last job as an Assistant Brand Manager for the Amway Brand Opportunity in Amway North America.

The most valuable lesson that I learned while working for Amway was to be more strategic about my professional development. Hard work doesn’t go unseen, but it’s the smart workers that get rewarded.

The last stop on my career journey is now with Experience Grand Rapids. And I’m loving it. I value the relationship I have with the leadership team and the staff. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of my labor come to fruition this year.

As for obstacle, generally the only obstacle I’ve ever faced is my own feeling of inadequacy. The fear of not being good enough or smart enough in comparison to my competition. But each time that I’ve leaped into my next role, I leaped with only my mustard seed faith. I was reminded by a friend that, “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” When I heard that, I immediately began to thank God for increasing my territory and putting me in the path to receive what he’s already blessed me with. 

This level of confidence is new for me, but I’m embracing one day at a time.

RG: What plans do you have for your business this year?

AN: 616 Grand Productions is still a startup business that requires much more nurturing. I am ready to take it to the next level. I’ve jotted down some goals of launching a website this year and hiring a few interns to support the bandwidth of work that I’m just not capable of supporting. I have to decline work because I simply don’t have the personal bandwidth, so it’s time to bring people that can help execute my vision for the business but also add their own spin on things.

Anyone can follow 616 Grand Productions on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @616grandprod. As well as subscribe to a newsletter via Facebook.

This Friday, January 12th Nelson will be hosting a Girls Night Out private movie screening of Proud Mary in partnership with Magic 104.9 and Celebration! Cinema. Come out this Friday at 6:00 pm for the pre-party in the wave room with the movie starting at 7:55 pm. Tickets are on sale now at www.celebrationcinema.com or email info@616grandproductions.com for more information.

Experience GR hosts the largest events calendar on www.experiencegr.com. They can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat @ExperienceGR  and on Instagram here. Lastly, be sure to read the blog The Insider Experience for a great way to keep up to date on all the great places to eat, stay and play in Grand Rapids.  


Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Images courtesy of Angela Nelson.

Young Professional Spotlight: Zyra Castillo

As we get further into the season of giving and thanks, we had a chance to sit down and appreciate the hard work local arts teacher and Gallafe art curator Zyra Castillo does in the Greater Grand Rapids area.

We chatted with Castillo to get her perspective on life in Grand Rapids, and how she is making her own way in our growing Midwest city.

RG: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? (Are you from the area, how do you identify, what are your currently doing for work and interest here in Grand Rapids)

ZC: I grew up in the Upper Peninsula and left after graduating for GVSU (Grand Valley State University). Originally born in the Philippines, I came when I was four just in time to turn five and start school the following fall. A lot of my childhood and college experiences have shaped the way I currently teach and get involved in the community. As an art teacher, my focus is on creative and analytical thinking using mediums to express those thoughts or interpret the visual world around us. Those experiences also are great influences on my involvement in the Grand Rapids Asian Festival. 

RG: Where did you study/grow up and how has that experience shape who you are?

ZC: There were both positive and negative aspects of my youth. Growing up in the UP gave me an appreciation for country living, slow pace, nature, and agriculture. I had great appreciation for growing up around Native American culture. I was lucky enough to have gone through a time period in high school were the arts were highly valued and gave me another route for the future. 

I didn’t have to deal with the quickness and overpopulation of a large urban center. 
However, that also meant there was lack in diversity. I didn’t always know where to fit in. I learned to self hate within my own identity. 

That experience continued in college. However, college was still a huge eye-opener and I tried to take on as many experiences as possible which didn't always help me academically. But the whole process was an immense life learning lesson. Those struggles helped me understand and connect with different people that may have been more difficult if I had not had to pay for my own schooling and taken multiple jobs in and out of campus. I found tufts of community that felt accepting in a place I didn't have any connection to.

RG: What is your current work/passion?

ZC: I am currently an art teacher, organizer, curator, and whatever else I can get my hands on. I love being able to provide and bring enrichment. Everything I do is a reflection of my teacher impulses—being able to connect people and ideas, opening conceptual doors, trying to search for humanity. As equally as I love harmony, I also love the challenge of discourse. I enjoy proving people wrong in situations that feel unequal and unjust.

RG: As a woman of color (WoC) what current issues are most pressing to you?

ZC: The fact there are still so many misconceptions, mistreatment, and disrespect for women professionals is a challenge, as well as the lack of women and POC (people of color) in positions of power that are taken seriously.

RG: As a young professional, what has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?

ZC: I stick to my principles in the workplace. Your personal values should be reflected in your work and vice versa. Not to be confused with style or method. But things like integrity, empathy, openness, can be be challenging in work environments. I’ve found it challenging at times to fit into spaces because my opinions and input are not always taken seriously for whatever reasons being related to age, sex, profession, race.

Being a woman of color can make it difficult even with men of color who are playing the business or power game that celebrates patriarchy. Places often say they want innovation or diversity but don't really understand and implement on a basic or superficial level. 

Through my process of refining my professional goals, I’ve found incredible support. Those challenges have strengthened by goals, and changed my view of goals as fluid and evolving. I want to support and provide a resource for culture and education. The Asian Festival has been instrumental as a medium to do so, as well as my continual interest in growing my food pop up, and becoming a stronger educator. 

RG: How has Grand Rapids faired in helping support you as PoC?

ZC: Things have improved. I was eager to seek larger and more diverse settings to feel the support I needed. I still don't feel completely accepted. I see APA (Asian Pacific American) culture used more frequently as a sensational business opportunity, entertainment, and backdrop with disregard to actual Asian people and culture. People want to try Americanized Asian food as foodie culture has exploded in GR, but yet there isn't increased knowledge about Asian culture. I'm more identifiable but still feel othered. Even in setting that are supposed to help POC, at times there is this air of savior syndrome that exudes expectation for gratitude, or assimilation. I've found my communities that make me feel at home, but outside of it is still quite uncomfortable. 

Being a teacher to children of color, I have to prepare them for a world that isn't as kind or understanding about where they come from. that their history and cultures are not given consideration in this bootstrap culture. 

RG: Anything else you would like to add, discuss, or share? 

ZC: Go to cultural events, local happenings, and support artists and people of color. Be involved. Know about your community. Be open to other people's narratives.

Castillo’s food travels can be found online here.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Images courtesy of
 Zyra Castillo.

StartUp News: UberEATS arrives in Grand Rapids

The on-demand economy may seem like the hip new trend, like startup mega giant Uber, but we have had on-demand delivery in the form of pizza delivery for decades. As a matter of fact, Columbia Pictures’ 2011 action-comedy 30 Minutes Or Less about a pizza delivery guy was actually filmed here in Grand Rapids. 

The race to instant delivery perhaps started in the pizza delivery arena, with companies offering shorter and shorter time windows from order to delivery, but it is no surprise that Uber has since entered the on-demand delivery race as well. Already present in other major markets around the country, Uber Eats competes with Postmates and DoorDash and locally with Seamless and GrubHub.

Last week UberEATS officially launched in the Greater Grand Rapids area. In a press release, Peter Forsberg, UberEATS General Manager for Michigan said “The UberEATS app allows users to order food delivery whenever they get a craving, with menus available from over 40 restaurant locations in Grand Rapids.”

Here’s how UberEATS works:
  1. Download the free standalone UberEATS app for iOS or Android
  2. Login with your Uber account
  3. Find a restaurant you know and love, and pick what you want from their menu
  4. Pay with your card on file
  5. Watch as the order is picked up and delivered to you
To celebrate the launch, first-time eaters can enter the promo code MICHIGANEATS to receive their first two deliveries free, now through December 21, 2017.

The press release adds “We will be launching in downtown Grand Rapids and surrounding neighborhoods including Grandville, Walker, East Grand Rapids and Kentwood.”

Grand Rapids has already large startups Seamless and GrubHub present, but Vox Media’s EATER reports UberEATS dominance of the delivery service market in other cities as overwhelming. Quarter over quarter, it shows users flocking to UberEATS over all other apps, and Grand Rapids may soon follow suit.
Coming back to Grand Rapids after being in a larger city can sometimes be jarring for a number of reasons, most notably the lack of late night food options and delivery. With the advent of Uber and Lyft, the next inevitable creature comfort service was going to be same-day delivery. 

From Uber’s press release:

UberEATS gives Grand Rapids more options:
  • Folks looking to eat in Grand Rapids now have access to menus from over 40 of their favorite restaurant locations, delivered seven days a week, at Uber speed including Brick & Porter, Curry Kitchen, Wealthy St Bakery, and more!
  • Restaurants in Grand Rapids can depend on the Uber delivery network to get more meals delivered to more customers, quickly and reliably
  • Drivers looking for flexible ways to earn can connect restaurants with customers–making money by making deliveries
Brick & Porter’s General Manager Elias says, “could be interesting to see really how fast these deliveries will go. We have not had any issues or complaints yet.” Grand Rapids sure is growing up, and there is no sign of slowing down. 

Who knows what will happen if Amazon decides to relocate to West Michigan for their second location. Some of us are still holding out for more all-night diners...especially downtown. One can hope!

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Photo courtesy of UberEATS.
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