Human Resources, Small Business & Startups, and Travel & Tourism

Denise Kolesar produces expos for women

December 2, 2014
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Denise Kolesar
Denise Kolesar.

Editor’s note: Each issue of the Influential Women enewsletter will feature profiles of the Business Journal’s reigning 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. The profile first appeared in the event program.

When Denise Kolesar started her own expo business in 1998, she had little idea that 16 years later she’d be running five annual women-centered events, covering the West Michigan and mid-Michigan markets.


What began in 1999 as a small show for consumers has become a much-anticipated event, and today the three-day West Michigan Women’s Expo attracts 17,000 people to downtown Grand Rapids annually.

Kohler Expos also produces several successful bridal shows each year, has revitalized the Alpha Women’s Center charity event with mom-to-mom sales and is developing another brand-new event focusing on kids and family.

Kolesar said her goal has been to create events that support women by blending education with entertainment and enjoyment.

Kohler Expos now employs up to 50 seasonal workers.

Women-owned businesses

The growth of Kohler Expos signals the strength of a business model that has seen a doubling of sales. The expos have proven a testing ground and incubator for many female entrepreneurs and those offering women-oriented products and services.

Kolesar is pleased to note that dozens of products have debuted at her shows, offering opportunities for businesses to meet face-to-face with potential clients and fine-tune their messages before going on to success in the wider marketplace.

Kohler Expos has also donated more than $350,000 to women and family focused nonprofits since its inception.


Kolesar was recognized as a finalist for the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs Leadership Award in 2013 and has been listed three times as a Top Women Owned Business by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

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