About Rapid Growth

Tommy Allen, Publisher & Lifestyle Editor
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Tommy Allen is founding member of Rapid Growth and the creator of the "no topic or event off limit" G-Sync column. Allen has exhibited as an artist, produced films and even finds time to create exciting events for commercial and notprofit agencies. His photo-based artworks often depict highly stylized images addressing issues of identity that challenge social mores while examining the sameness within a diverse "humanscape." His civic projects include numerous awards and committees like Green Grand Rapids and arts leadership projects at UICA; West Michigan Center for Arts and Technologies (WMCAT) Capital Campaign; West Michigan Environment Action Council (former board member); Fulton Street Farmers' Market (expansion fundraising committee); and LaughFest's (talent cabinet committee), among others. In those rare instances when Allen is not creating art, preparing an editorial or fighting for community enhancements, he can be found with his partner working in the garden, enjoying a movie on the couch or simply playing with their rescued Border Collie. He became Rapid Growth's Publisher in February 2015.

Leandra Nisbet, Managing Editor

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Leandra owns Stingray Advisory Group LLC and co-owns Gold Leaf Designs LLC and Brightwork Marine, all based in Grand Rapids. Leandra specializes in: marketing, content creation, financial organization and strategic planning assistance. She obtained her B.B.A. with a dual major in Business Administration and Computer Technology from Davenport University. Additionally, she earned her MBA there with a Strategic Business Management concentration. In addition to her business endeavors and writing, she is an Adjunct Professor and speaker. Leandra is actively involved within the community and is passionate about supporting fellow entrepreneurs.

Lauren Fay Carlson, Former Managing Editor

Raised and rooted in Grand Rapids, Lauren has spent her adult life participating in Grand Rapids' latest renewal and revival. With a passion for people's stories and a belief that a place is more than a location, Lauren received her B.A. in English literature from Aquinas College and went into business for herself writing for various local and state publications. With a lifelong love for words, Lauren enjoys applying her skills to food, beer and entertainment, as well as more complex issues like immigration, housing, and gentrification. This obsession with people and their places has nurtured an intense desire to experience the world. Bilingual in English and Spanish with an adventurous spirit, you can often find her and traveling to far-flung destinations like Italy, Spain, and Iceland, or closer hubs like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and San Francisco. But are most likely to find her at her Eastown favorites—Yesterdog or Early Bird Cafe—or working on her turn-of-the-century home. At the heart of Lauren's desire to write is the ambition for truth. In her post at RG, Lauren labors to do just that, mining the various communities of Grand Rapids for their own truths, the stories that surround them, the organizations and businesses that anchor them, and the individuals that populate and inspire them.

Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor

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A working writer since 1992, Estelle Slootmaker is happiest writing about social justice, wellness and the arts. Stelle serves as communications manager for Our Kitchen Tableand chairs the City of Wyoming Tree Commission (The Tree Amigos). You can contact Stelle at [email protected] or via her website, www.constellations.biz.

Kendra R. McNeil, Innovation News Editor

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Kendra was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and has resided in West Michigan for 10 years. She is an independent bookseller and the owner and curator of We Are LIT Grand Rapids, a pop-up multicultural bookshop. Kendra is local ambassador for the New York-based literary platform, Well-Read Black Girl and co-founder and moderator of  Women Who Read Grand Rapids. She believes writing is one of the most powerful forms of creative expression and enjoys writing about social issues around art, business, culture, and people.

Kendra sits on the board of directors for the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prepare kids for life’s adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices. She chairs the board’s events committee. Additionally, Kendra has a knack for dissecting legal issues; and apart from binge watching Law and Order reruns, she supports a team of fraud and forensic accountants, expert witnesses, and consultants in various business and litigation matters.

Kendra is an avid traveler and lover of books. She enjoys big city lights, outdoor adventures, and discovering quirky indie bookstores. You can contact her at [email protected]

Matthew Russell, Project Editor, UIX

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Matthew Russell is a resident of Grand Rapids' Boston Square neighborhood. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the park with his daughter, and a nice Americano. Apart from neglecting his personal website at (mrussell.squarespace.com), he can often be found developing homemade IoT devices and making the world a more interesting place, with a few more blinking lights.

Jenna Morton, Project Editor, Rapid Chat

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As a self-proclaimed “Jill of all Trades,” Jenna Morton is a Brand Marketer by day, and a freelance creative by night. After graduating from Grand Valley State University in 2013 with a degree in Marketing, she very quickly integrated herself within the city’s entrepreneurial community by working alongside companies such as 616 Lofts and BHS Insurance. Jenna has been with the Rapid Growth team for over three years, researching and writing about some of GR’s most insightful individuals. The best part about being the RapidChat correspondent? “You always have an excuse to talk to people you find interesting”, she laughs. All things work-related aside, Jenna likes to maintain an active lifestyle - running, hiking and traveling often. Currently, she is working towards her MBA at Ferris State University.

Adam Bird, Manager of Photography/Videography

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Adam was born and raised off of Woodward Avenue, on the edge of Detroit. His life transformed when he stole his father's camera from his closet as a child, furtively rediscovering the world through a lens. Being an active observer gave Adam a role and purpose that previously did not exist in his life. His father never asked for the camera back. He says, "I am so very grateful to the people who have helped me, even when I was too prideful to ask and too arrogant to admit it. My wife is my true believer, not just in my work, but in me. I can only hope every day to prove her right." Through all of the work and play that is his life, Adam says he always measure his virtue against a compass of compassion. "This is rarely easy," he says, but it is in the doing that life's poetry is found." Adam also sits on the board of directors for both The Geek Group and Give Camp Grand Rapids, and contributes to the Marketing Committee for the Susan G. Komen Foundation West Michigan.

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Rapid Growth is published by Issue Media Group. Our publications are supported in part by underwriting partnerships with local businesses, institutions, nonprofits, and foundations to support and expand coverage of job growth, economic development, real estate, non-profit innovation, city building, and placemaking. Learn more about our underwriting policy here.