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 off 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?
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?
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?
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?
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:
RG: What has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?
- 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.”
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?
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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Images courtesy of Angela Nelson.