Grand Rapids a good place for business

June 22, 2009
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(Editor’s note: Genevieve Gandia-De Guia is in West Michigan as a visiting Rotarian and to establish business contacts. By the time she returns to the Philippines in mid-July, she will have been here three months.)

I am blessed to be visiting Michigan. I am making the most of my stay here, to do as much as possible and as much as I can afford. I have always been an entrepreneur, way back in my early teens and as a young college student in the Philippines. I'm always challenged and enthusiastic to start my day with a strong desire to succeed and accomplish something significant each day — to "make each day count."

Although trials and hardships came my way, I always stood up and never gave up. Eventually, that perseverance gave me rewards that came in many different forms: friends, knowledge, cash, and "psychic income." I have always loved being with people, understanding the way they live their lives, with the hope of fitting in, in one way or another.

Besides business, I also quest for knowledge, information and technology, especially how to make life easier, not just for me but also for my clients.

Before coming to Michigan, I browsed the Internet and tried to learn as much as I could about it: business trends, business groups, events calendars, important people and companies or organizations that I needed to be familiar with.

The first item on my agenda was attending the Green Jobs Conference in Lansing. It was overwhelming. I saw Gov. Jennifer Granholm deliver an inspiring talk, and heard her call to action, her esprit de corps, so to speak, for the business community of Michigan.

I also took time to visit the local counterparts of organizations I belong to back in the Philippines. I was pleased to attend meetings of the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids and the American Marketing Association of West Michigan. Both groups warmly welcomed me and were very helpful in providing information to help me.

I gained new friends and colleagues who speak the same language I do (although not Filipino, which is my native tongue). The people I met and connected with here share with me the same principles, both in business and in life. These meetings led to my understanding of how local businesses thrive in this part of the U.S., and, luckily, it started the process of creating business ties and partnerships that will help me explore joint ventures in the U.S. and back in Asia.

My new Rotary Club friends made me feel welcome and I enjoyed making friendships with club members. Meeting Frederik Meijer was also an inspiration, and I will always remember the fascinating story of his life in Michigan.

Grand Rapids may not be as fast-paced as other U.S. cities, but it definitely gives you all the time you need until you are ready to execute a plan. And, for any successful entrepreneur, right and timely execution is the key to success.

So far, I have lived a challenging life, and time has passed by so quickly. I still believe that I am a "work in progress." For me, failure only becomes real when I don’t learn anything from it. My stay in Grand Rapids made me realize that anything is possible and that new ties bring new inspirations to live by. It is a city with many stories of immigrants who came here, founded their own businesses and have established their own niches.

I believe my search is over because I can truly say that Grand Rapids is a perfect place for me to start a business venture.

Genevieve Gandia-De Guia, MBA, is a faculty member at Ateneo De Manila University, Makati City, Philippines.

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