All of the West Michigan ATHENA Award winners are deserving of the honor. But some — like this year’s winner Jeanne Englehart — have back stories that are truly inspirational.
Most people are aware of her professional accomplishments. She started Englehart Training Center in 1985 using $5,000 in personal credit card funds, and by 1993, her firm appeared on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies. She was one of few women in the industry.
In the late 1980s, Englehart became the first columnist for a new offering in the fledgling Grand Rapids Business Journal. It was called Technology Matters and probably touched on something called the Internet.
She went on to serve as the first female president of Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and is now in a leadership position with The Charter Group.
Pretty impressive for someone who didn’t start with much. Englehart’s ATHENA nomination tells the story eloquently:
“My story is about leading by example so others realize their potential, no matter their backgrounds.
“I grew up in Northern Michigan in a very poor family with five children. At Christmas, we got gift baskets from a charity. For many years we had no running water, pumped our water, cooked with a woodstove and used an outhouse. Literally, it was survival. I grew up being told that girls were second best, weren’t allowed to go to college or express our feelings. I dropped out of high school at 16, got married and determined that my life would not be the same as my parents.
“Seven years later, I was divorced with two children under 5, no education and no income. However, what I did have was a deep conviction to persevere in the face of adverse conditions. I learned life is about choices. We are what we choose. I learned to believe in myself and never take no for an answer.
“What we are born with is only the beginning. We are born with a pencil rendering of a vision. We add color, texture, paint, and we sign our masterpiece. In the end — IT BELONGS TO US! We created it. Successful people don’t just fall into being successful. We create success — one choice at a time!
“I learned that I could only change tomorrow and that I couldn’t change what happened yesterday.”
One born every day
The advertising tagline is something along these lines: “Sure, the money is a little expensive, but it’s in your account the next day.”
Internet lender Western Sky Financial LLC has been put on notice that the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services considers its lending practices illegal and harmful to Michigan consumers. The department has issued a Notice of Intention to Issue a Cease and Desist Order to Western Sky Financial.
A DIFS investigation found that Western Sky is not properly licensed to make loans in Michigan and is charging interest rates of more than 340 percent, far above the statutory ceiling. In addition, loan fees of as much as 70 percent of the loan amount are being charged, which is 14 times the legal limit. For example, a consumer borrowing $2,600 from Western Sky could pay more than $14,000 in principal and interest over the life of the loan.
“DIFS advises consumers to only conduct business with entities that are properly licensed,” said DIFS Director Kevin Clinton. “Through our investigation, it became clear this company is not complying with state laws that were put in place to protect consumers and is taking advantage of Michigan residents.”
It’s a good bet Vern Hoffman and his friends at the Micah Center in Grand Rapids — a nonprofit dedicated to, among other things, exposing predatory lending practices in West Michigan — will be interested in the outcome of the hearing Sept. 24.
Of course, it’s not just individuals who are the targets of questionable financial practices.
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Steve Arwood said last week Michigan corporations should beware of a non-governmental entity called Corporate Records Service trying to collect a $125 fee to prepare corporate records.
The misleading compliance solicitation implies that Michigan requires corporations and limited liability companies to complete an Annual Corporate Records Form, which is designed to look like an official document but is not, he said.
“Michigan corporations are not required by law to file corporate records with LARA’s Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau,” said Arwood. “Our corporation customers should disregard these deceptive notices as they are not from the state of Michigan.”
The form implies the recipient is obligated to complete and return it with a fee payment for the preparation of corporate records. The accompanying instructions for completing the form list a return address at 5859 West Saginaw Highway, No. 343, Lansing, MI, 48917-2460. In February 2013, LARA warned of a similar scam requesting $125 that involved a company with the same name at the same street address.
“Unfortunately, these misleading mailings offering assistance for non-required services continue to go out and create confusion,” Arwood said. “To clarify, Michigan corporations are legally required to file annual reports or annual statements (not corporate records) and may do so online directly to the state of Michigan.”
Eating for four
Meals served during past Restaurant Weeks have dished out promising futures to students of Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.
This year’s event, with more than 60 restaurants participating, runs Aug. 14-24. During those 11 days, $1 from every Restaurant Week meal is donated to an SICE scholarship fund. Last year, those donations added up to $18,014, which helped four students — Antonio Arizola, Karri Cagney, Brian Oosterheert and Annie Silasa — achieve their culinary dreams.
Cagney, who recently graduated from SICE, plans to turn her culinary knowledge into a career in corporate research and product development. The scholarship award allowed her to participate with GRCC’s team in the World Culinary Grand Prix held in March in Glasgow, Scotland.
“I was proud to represent my school on an international stage that saw me compete against professional chefs from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales,” she said. “I returned home with an energized love for food and the industry — and two individual bronze medals.”
Cagney, who came to Grand Rapids four years ago from Australia, said she loved SICE’s small class sizes and the chance to work with some of the most educated and experienced chefs in America.
“I experienced cuisine and cultures from places like Tunisia and Japan, and was taught by the greats like Escoffier and Hervé. This, all without leaving Grand Rapids.”
Oosterheert is spending his summer working at Erna’s Elderberry House, a 5-Diamond Relais Chateau restaurant in Oakhurst, Calif., before finishing work on his culinary arts degree.
“GRCC and the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education are grateful to Experience Grand Rapids for making their goal of training the next generation of chefs and food professionals such an integral part of Restaurant Week,” said Dan Gendler, SICE’s program director.