Street Talk

Power women unite to gather more power

October 8, 2012
Text Size:

Women business owners are meeting in Novi this week with the intention of sharing the wealth — among themselves. Trust us, that’s not a bad thing.

The 12th annual Women’s Business Conference, hosted by the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development at the Suburban Collection Showplace, is two days of sharing a wealth of information, experiences and connections while prospecting opportunities for further growth.

Michelle Richards, executive director of CEED, said the capper to the two-day show is this afternoon’s Meet the Buyers Procurement Event from 2-5 p.m. It offers women business owners an opportunity to meet with representatives at each contracting station so that personal relationships can be developed. She said 60-plus supplier diversity and procurement representatives from corporations, public institutions and government entities are expected to attend.

“Some of the participating corporations bring their entire purchasing team with them,” she said. “This is a unique opportunity that is not offered anywhere else in the area. You will be able to accomplish months of sales prospecting in three short hours.”

Now that’s a lesson in managing time effectively.


Say what?

While dedicating the Pietro and Regina Culinary Amphitheater at Grand Rapids Community College recently, Peter Secchia joked he couldn’t go around putting his last name on all the buildings in town, so he had to think up a name for the amphitheater besides Secchia. He settled on naming the new state-of-the-art room in honor of his grandparents. Apparently, the name was solidified only hours before the ribbon cutting.

In a jovial mood, Secchia also poked fun at professor and certified master pastry chef Gilles Renusson, who was charged with creating a sugar ribbon for the event. Listening to Renusson’s instructions on how he should cut the ribbon, Secchia, the former U.S. Ambassador to Italy, said in a mock French accent that even after 20 years, he still can’t understand what Renusson is saying. Renusson then brandished a cutting knife over an open flame in preparation for the ribbon cutting.

Secchia and Renusson go way back. Secchia hired the renowned chef straight out of Paris, and he was soon winning international awards for the new-at-the-time Amway Grand Plaza. In fact, Renusson did all the pastries for the world leaders who came here to honor former President Gerald R. Ford as part of the opening festivities for the “new” Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Secchia said he never could understand the man but always went along with whatever Renusson suggested because he was so good at his trade.

“But he’s better now,” Secchia said. “More understandable than he used to be.”


Palate personality

Finally, a breath of fresh air. Or is it a bouquet?

Cambridge, Mass.-based startup Vinely will launch first right here in River City. Vinely is a brand new company focused on making it easy for consumers to identify their personal taste palate when it comes to wine. The company uses a methodology designed by MIT scientist and serial entrepreneur Joe Chung of Redstar Ventures.

A launch event open to the community will take place 4-7 p.m. Wednesday in the Haworth Showroom space in Mo/Div, 40 Monroe Center NW.

So why would an MIT scientist’s methodology be applied to wine tasting and, frankly, why here?

“Making wine accessible to all in a comfortable, stress-free environment that simplifies the tasting process in a fun, unique and innovative way is what Vinely is all about,” said Bill Wittenberg, CEO. “Vinely was launched out of my own frustrations of not understanding the multiple varieties of wines, brand names and industry vocabulary. Vinely’s mission is to make finding the wines you like easy and enjoyable. We take the guesswork out of it. You don’t have to be a wine expert because you already are. You know what you like.”

The event will mimic an in-home party and will allow guests to try wines and rate them based on their personal tastes. Vinely staff then will determine each taster’s wine “personality” using the Vinely methodology. The more participants taste, the more refined the wine matches will be.

Hmmm. That makes sense.

Vinely officials say the methodology — a proprietary system developed to define each person’s true wine personality — gets better with time and can help shape all future wine purchases.

“The decision to launch Vinely in Grand Rapids was due to the openness of the community to new entrepreneurial business and their responsiveness to new creative business endeavors. We look to utilize local wineries in every market that Vinely is launched in, and Michigan is no different,” said Elizabeth Goede, vice president of marketing.

“Currently, shipments have included wines from three local Michigan wineries: Bowers Harbor, Brys Estate and Left Foot Charley. It is very important to Vinely that we provide wine locally in each market we are represented in, while also providing the best quality matched to a customer’s taste and budget.”


If the wooden shoe fits

The American Subcontractors Association of Michigan held its annual, sold-out dinner Oct. 4, the highlight of which is high recognition by regional subcontractors of area contractors.

Using a pretty stringent process and criteria such as bid ethics, jobsite supervision and schedule coordination, the subcontractors use a point system to vote for the Michigan Contractor of the Year.

Nominees included Christman Co., Dan Vos Construction, Elzinga & Volkers, Erhardt Construction, Owen-Ames-Kimball (the 2011 winner) and Pioneer Construction. All six were stars in a video shown during the program that discussed the values and integrity of the subcontractors, but it was the “out takes” at the end that had the sold-out crowd laughing.

For instance, Pioneer President Tim Schowalter, in mid-sentence during taping preparation, abruptly stopped and turned to the woman powdering his nose to say, “What are you doing to my face?!”

In further outtakes, Elzinga & Volkers CEO Mike Novakoski pleaded a vote for the Dutch guys. “I don’t recall any other contractor won in this area yet. … You know, keeping with the Dutch theme, if the wooden shoe fits …” To the surprise of the audience, and especially Team Elzinga, the company was given the title this year. Novakoski, unfortunately, was out-of-state on business.

Earlier in the evening, during program practice, one of the ASAM leaders discovered the winner by accident and looked to Ann Plummer of Beene Garter (which tallied all the points and kept the secrets) asking, “Is this true? This is the winner? Outstanding! Outstanding. No one can ever say there is favoritism in the process. It totally validates our process and the integrity of the program.”

Further note of that integrity was apparent when the nominees all gave one another and Team Elzinga high praise.


Abby the ArtPrize dog

Elliott’s News is a small Grand Rapids shop known for many years to people who work downtown. Since ArtPrize began, Elliott’s has been surrounded by the excitement, being virtually at ground zero — only yards away from the concentration of exhibits in the parking lot behind The B.O.B.

The newsstand is getting a lot more walk-in traffic, which gives Elliott’s fixture, Abby, even more strangers to bark at than usual.

Abby is owner Bill Bennett’s cockapoo.

Last year, Elliott’s got into the ArtPrize spirit by decorating the glass container Abby sleeps in to make it look like a fish bowl. The name of that unofficial ArtPrize exhibit: Dog Fish.

“It was quite an attraction,” said Bennett.

Recent Articles by Business Journal Staff

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus