Amy Proos, previously named by Grand Rapids Business Journal as one of the Top Women Owned Business winners, will be representing the region in the next stage of national competition for the Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Proos Manufacturing CEO Amy Proos was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2013 in Michigan and Northwest Ohio in the Family Owned Business category.
The award recognizes outstanding high-growth entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Proos received the award at a black-tie gala in June at the MGM Grand in Detroit.
“Honestly, the part that was shocking for me was that it was statewide,” Proos said. “The Ernst & Young awards are predominantly very strong on the east side of the state, so just to be nominated on this side of the state was already an honor. Then to get to the point of being a finalist was incredible.”
Winning came as a huge shock to Proos, who said she had not prepared a “just in case” speech.
“I think it was just a huge acknowledgement of West Michigan business and what we are doing over on this side of the state,” she said. “People really started to pay attention to everything that we are doing. And I think it’s a huge compliment to all the hard work and struggles that I’ve gone through since I bought the company, and they may have looked at that and acknowledged it.”
Proos is a third generation owner of the 94-year old engineering and manufacturing solutions company, which was established in 1919. She purchased the company in 2010 after 24 years of working there in various capacities.
She notes the purchase took place in the middle of the recession and the company had been down to 33 employees in 2009.
“In the last three years we’ve gone from the recession to more than doubling our sales. We leased a new building, purchased new equipment — so we had all the struggles of a growing business,” she said.
In addition, the company has grown to 83 employees, and Proos opened a second company, Proos Fabrication, in 2012, which focuses on sheet metal fabrication.
She credits truthfulness as one of the key factors in overcoming the obstacles she faced.
“I think my best words of wisdom are ‘always tell the whole story.’ Always tell the truth and make sure you maintain your integrity, because one thing I learned going to the recession is I shared all the information with my employees, and they may not have always liked what I was telling them but they knew it was the truth and they knew that the decisions we were making was to help the company survive.
“By making that same philosophy with everyone I deal with, whether it be customers or suppliers, you always just tell them exactly what is going on so that they can have a clear understanding of what’s going on and, in most cases, they can help you come up with a solution.”
The regional award winners now compete at the national level. Winners will be announced Nov. 16 in Palm Springs, Calif.