Street Talk: Giants among them
Three local businesses were named “Small Giants” by Forbes magazine and will open their businesses for public tours during the next few weeks.
The third annual Small Giants list, comprised of “maverick companies focused on greatness,” for the second year includes the Grand Rapids-based companies Comfort Research, Atomic Object and Service Express.
West Michigan’s Vistage Worldwide group, whose membership includes all three companies, will host Small Giants tours from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Oct. 18 (Atomic Object), Oct. 30 (Comfort Research) and Nov. 9 (Service Express).
Steve Johandes, founder of business consultancy 100x and chair of the West Michigan Vistage group, came up with the idea for the tour.
“The idea of having three West Michigan businesses honored by Forbes Magazine is something I thought we should be highlighting and celebrating,” he said. “How awesome is it to have these types of businesses be a part of the vibrant economy we have here, not just in Grand Rapids, but West Michigan?”
According to Forbes, companies on the annual list of 25 Small Giants meet the following criteria:
- The company has been acknowledged as outstanding by those who know the industry best.
- It has had the opportunity to grow much faster, but its leaders decided to focus on being great rather than just big.
- It has been recognized for its contributions to its community and to society.
- It has maintained its financial health for at least 10 years by having a sound business model, a strong balance sheet and steady profit margins.
- It is privately owned and closely held.
- It is human scale, meaning frontline employees have real interaction with top leaders.
Bo Burlingham, editor-at-large of Inc. magazine and author of the book, “Small Giants,” said “small giants” have “mojo” and “charisma.”
“When a company has mojo, you want to be connected with it. You want to buy from it, sell to it, work for it,” he said.
Individuals can RSVP for the Small Giants tours at vistage.com/smallgiantstour.
For those with an ear for storytelling and magical tales, New Holland Brewing Co. has a new space in which to hone your craft.
The craft brewer of Dragon’s Milk, a bourbon barrel-aged stout, is finishing up a branding campaign called Share A Legend, which it describes as a celebration of storytelling shared among friends over its signature brew.
Another component of the campaign includes the reveal of New Holland's Table of Legends room on-site at The Knickerbocker in downtown Grand Rapids, described as an “experiential” space for individuals to gather, connect and share their own personal legends.
“We believe Dragon's Milk can create savored moments where time stands still and great stories are told,” said Brett VanderKamp, co-founder and president of New Holland. “Over time, these stories can turn into legends. When we thought of just how many stories Dragon's Milk has prompted, we realized these needed to be celebrated and shared.”
Chainmail and broadswords are optional.
New Holland has partnered with Glynn Washington, Michigan native and host of the radio show and podcast “Snap Judgment,” to emcee a night of storytelling at The Knickerbocker on Oct. 19.
Leaving a legacy
Grand Rapids Public Museum will recognize several community leaders next month for their contributions to the region.
The museum’s annual fundraiser, the Jay & Betty Van Andel Legacy Awards Gala, is set for Nov. 8. It recognizes individuals who have positively impacted the community through their sustained efforts to better the quality of life in the region. Recipients are chosen based on criteria of community leadership and character.
The Jay & Betty Van Andel Lifetime Achievement Award will be given posthumously in memory of Eileen DeVries. The award is presented to individuals who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of the community. DeVries was known as a leading financial adviser, local women’s rights activist and inspired community member, serving various West Michigan nonprofit organizations such as the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and Pine Rest.
The Dave & Carol Van Andel Leadership Award is given to an individual who demonstrates a commitment to the greater West Michigan region, supporting philanthropic organizations and contributing to the cultural, educational and economic health of the community. This year’s award will go to Mike VanGessel, CEO of Rockford Construction and Grand Rapids entrepreneur. VanGessel is being recognized for his “innovative spirit, working alongside civic leaders, nonprofit organizations and fellow visionaries to create a brighter future.”
“The Casey” Award is named after one of the Museum’s most dynamic volunteers, Casey Wondergem. This award highlights public service and serves to inspire and encourage continued charitable activity. This year’s award will be presented to Scotty Kehoe, regional relations manager for DTE Energy, and board and committee member for diverse West Michigan nonprofit organizations such as the Grand Rapids Public Museum Mini Maker Faire Committee, Alpha Grand Rapids and Kids’ Food Basket’s Feeding Our Future Campaign. In addition to promoting continued economic growth in the area, Kehoe serves as a liaison to elected officials, coaches youth sports and was a recipient of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award for his dedication to West Michigan’s professional and philanthropic communities.
The awards gala is chaired by Dave and Carol Van Andel and Jim and Sue Williams.
Michigan Software Labs, an Ada-based software development company, entered into a partnership with the University of Michigan’s Engineering Career Resource Center to help students prepare for careers in software development and increase job opportunities for graduates.
“This exciting partnership with the University of Michigan is an opportunity to connect with students and expand our talent pipeline. University of Michigan partners with top-tier companies across a number of industries, and we are honored to be among those employers in this partnership,” said Mark Johnson, co-founder and partner of Michigan Software Labs. “We are fortunate to have strong, local Michigan talent, and this partnership will allow us to quickly build capacity, bring even more creativity to our team and create more jobs.”
This yearlong partnership is part of U-M’s ECRC Corporate Partner Program, which connects students with employers and opportunities to grow their careers. The program is available to more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students in the College of Engineering at U-M.
“The ECRC Corporate Partner Program provides an opportunity for Michigan Software Labs to enhance their brand presence at Michigan Engineering while supporting our effort to prepare students for their transition from college to career,” said Catherine Lund, senior career services manager at U-M. “We are fortunate to have strong Michigan-based technology companies like Michigan Software Labs that give our students increased access to employers and real-world experience.”
Through the partnership, Michigan Software Labs will offer students an opportunity to work with senior developers and learn about the latest software development technologies.
“Our engineers have a lot of autonomy and ownership on projects and get to interact with customers and clients daily, which makes careers at Michigan Software Labs rewarding,” Johnson said. “This partnership is an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience and to stay in Michigan for a career in technology.”
Michigan Software Labs develops software for mobile, web and internet of things across a variety of industries.