The 2016 EPIC Awards will be held Nov. 2 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Courtesy Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
There are standouts, and then there are those who are epic.
Or more accurately, EPIC.
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce will celebrate 20 area businesses and individuals at the annual EPIC Awards on Nov. 2.
The EPIC Awards (which stands for Entrepreneurial, Progressive, Innovative and Collaborative) recognizes businesses and individuals in seven categories that support the community, demonstrate growth, are innovative and have worked with others as mentors and collaborators.
The award ceremony is 5:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, 101 Monroe Center St. NW. The 2016 finalists are:
EXCELLENCE IN BUSINESS
Founded in 1987 by John Lowery, Applied Imaging’s business includes the sales and service of multi-function products, printers, high production printers, document storage and retrieval products, managed network services and software solutions. Manufacturers represented by Applied Imaging include Ricoh, Canon, Kyocera, Océ, Samsung, OnBase, Microsoft and more.
From its roots in Grand Rapids, the company has grown and evolved to respond to the needs of today’s business customers. Now with 248 employees and offices in Kalamazoo, Lansing, Traverse City, Petoskey, Metropolitan Detroit (Novi) and, most recently, Ann Arbor, the firm has maintained success as an independent distributor with multiple relationships with world-class suppliers.
By helping Michigan businesses be more efficient in how they communicate and manage information flow, Applied Imaging has gained recognition both locally and nationally. Applied Imaging annually receives The Week in Imaging’s Elite Dealer Award for being one of the nation’s most innovative and customer-friendly office technology dealers. Applied Imaging also has received local recognition as one of Michigan’s 50 Companies to Watch, and in 2012, President John Lowery was named Michigan’s Small Businessman of the Year.
Genius Phone Repair
Genius Phone Repair offers professional iPhone, iPod, iPad & smartphone repair as well as tablet and computer repairs services at 18 retail locations throughout Michigan and Indiana. The business continues to excel through exceptional customer service and quality products that are both affordable, convenient and durable — every repair comes with a lifetime warranty on both parts and labor.
The Genius Phone Repair All-American growth story from startup to success begins in 2009. After repairing iPhones and iPods out of a dining room for a few years, Genius Phone Repair officially was founded by a pair of Grand Valley State University graduates and their partner from Cornerstone University. The partners opened their first retail location in 2011 in Grandville near the Rivertown Crossings Mall. Two years later, in 2013, the partners garnered the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce's Young Entrepreneur(s) of the Year award.
Founded in 1979, Ranir, LLC is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of private label oral and personal healthcare care products. In addition to continuously enhancing its established business, Ranir focuses on being quick-to-market with high-value oral care products that are comparable in quality to the leading brands. Ranir’s strong reputation for both quality and outstanding customer service has enabled the company to steadily grow its share of the highly fragmented private label market and establish itself as a credible branded contract manufacturer.
Ranir’s customers include virtually all major North American food, drug and mass retailers, as well as leading retailers in Europe and Asia. Ranir is committed to strengthening its relationships with both its retail and contract customers by expanding its new product development capabilities, enhancing its leading position in tooth whitening products, achieving continuous cost reductions via enhanced manufacturing efficiencies and continuing to provide award-winning customer service.
More at ranir.com/us.
YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Capstone CPA Group PLLC
Capstone CPA Group — owned and managed by Anthony Momany, CPA, MBA — helps empower small- to mid-sized businesses and individuals through tax education and professional accounting services. Areas of expertise include tax planning, business structure, payroll administration, cash flow issues and help with accounting systems. For small business owners and individuals with complex tax and accounting situations, Capstone CPA Group helps them achieve more by advocating on their behalf.
As the managing member, Momany leads new client development, project coordination and managing the direction of the firm. With an MBA from Grand Valley State University, he has over 10 years of public accounting experience focused primarily on tax and accounting for small- to mid-sized businesses. He founded Capstone CPA Group because he loves helping business owners and individuals find time and money they thought was lost forever. He also receives satisfaction in finding long-term solutions to their everyday problems.
COM 616 is a strategic public relations partner. Owner Adam Russo creates and maintains relationships between people and one’s brand by reaching the right audience, with the right message, at the right time. A graduate of Grand Valley State University, his professional experience includes working with global brands, such as Haworth and McDonalds, regional companies, such as Varnum and Comcast, as well as nonprofits, such as the Kent County Prevention Coalition and Sunset Retirement Communities.
The firm is committed to providing value-add communication services that help clients achieve their goals. Whether an individual, nonprofit, startup or corporation, COM 616 offers a variety of cost-effective services that achieve measurable, bottom-line results. COM 616 regularly collaborates on larger project opportunities and maintains a solid referral relationship with Castello Creative and Clark Communications.
Sluggers Sports Academy LLC
Sluggers Sports Academy is a community-based facility that is home to the Sluggers baseball organization. They focus on finding a balance between sports success and molding young athletes into respectable members of our local community.
Over five years ago, Sluggers saw a need in the southeast community of Grand Rapids, not only for a chance at playing competitive baseball and softball, but to build solid core fundamentals within our future leaders. Based on the four core principles of technical analysis, 360-degree training, player safety and collegiate preparation, Sluggers provides a well-rounded approach to the game. Sluggers is home to over 350 families and has grown its organization to 12 instructors, 30-plus coaches, over 15 youth teams and added a training site in January 2015. They pride themselves on not only developing great athletes but instilling life values, such as leadership, community service, determination and perseverance. The indoor turf space of approximately 8,500 square feet also is open for public rental for practice needs, corporate and private parties and meeting space.
WOMAN-OWNED BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
E&M Design Solutions
E&M Design Solutions provides cost-effective solutions for engineering, maintenance and management groups, delivering superior value on services that keep the work flowing while streamlining processes — including engineering design, project management, technical writing, business development, training and administrative services.
E&M Design Solutions sets out to deliver upon its mission by continuously searching for innovative and efficient design strategies. They achieve a complete and integrated implementation, on time and within budget. E&M Design Solutions passes on cost savings to clients by keeping their billing rates extremely competitive.
Kennari Consulting is one of the largest full-service fundraising consulting firms in Michigan. Sandi Frost Steensma started Kennari Consulting in 2007 because she realized nonprofit organizations needed more customized, day-to-day, “nuts and bolts” fundraising support, as well as campaign coaching. Today, the firm has 10 staff members and serves more than 60 nonprofit organizations each year — raising more than $200 million over the last decade. The firm has steadily progressed from a startup to a dynamic growing company with revenue well in excess of $1 million.
Their mission remains client-focused on "teaching and empowering nonprofits to fund their missions” based on the premise successful, sustainable philanthropy is not a matter of luck. Using a method and a discipline that works every time, Kennari Consulting works to change the face of philanthropy.
Symplicity Communications, Inc. was founded in January 2007 by Catherine Lazarock with the single goal of making telecommunications "Symple" for her clients. Since this time, she has expanded the team with Client Managers and partners who allow clients to experience a complete technology solution.
Technology advances are accelerating the integration of the communications and IT worlds into a cohesive, inseparable business catalyst. With so many options, the method by which busy business executives strategize, source, implement and maintain their carrier and cloud services is more important than ever before. IT is becoming more strategic and critical in impacting an organization's bottom line. Companies are seeing the advantage in aligning with Symplicity Communications, Inc. to help navigate carrier and cloud services to decrease IT complexity and drive ROI. With access to so many options worldwide, Symplicity can help design any solution from top suppliers in the industry.
MINORITY-OWNED BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Audu Real Estate
Since 2005, Audu Real Estate has specialized in finding solutions for client’s real estate needs — helping people re-imagine their lifestyle and educating them on the purchasing/selling process. As such, Audu Real Estate strives to ensure clients are well informed throughout the purchasing or selling of homes. As a relationship-driven company, this means committing time to listening, understanding and responding to client’s concerns and desires, as well as educating them on how real estate transactions work.
Lola Audu, the owner and designated broker, has been licensed with the state of Michigan since 1995 and has established a foundation based on customer service, education and community involvement. Audu regularly shares her insights as a certified instructor for real estate professionals in Michigan and with the Leadership Academy of the Women’s Council of Realtors. In 2011, Audu became the first minority president for the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, and in 2015, she was inducted into its Society of Distinguished Real Estate Professionals.
El Granjero Mexican Grill
El Granjero Mexican Grill was established in October 2007 on the West Side of Grand Rapids by Mercedes Lopez-Duran and family. Since then, it has become one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in town that offers fresh ingredients in every dish and strives for friendly service. Reviews have called it a casual dining spot offering classic south-of-the-border cooking and house-made horchata in a homey setting.
Today, the family-run business serves breakfast, lunch and dinner for dine-in, take-out and catering. The restaurant has expanded to on-demand catering services in the West Michigan area and has garnered recognition as Best Mexican/Caribbean Restaurant in 2012. El Granjero is minority-owned and women-owned.
JoJo’s House of Beauty Inc.
JoJo’s House of Beauty is a multicultural, diverse salon designed to serve women and men of all color and hair texture.
Owner, stylist and Detroit native Josephine White has over eight years experience in high-end salons. White’s love for helping others see their inner and outer beauty makes her more than just a cosmetologist. Passionate about healthy hair, she loves her ability to style all hair textures — an aspect that separates her from other stylists.
Now with two other stylists onboard, Jojo’s House of Beauty serves clients with a wide range of needs to accomplish that perfect ’do. Jojo’s House of Beauty aspires to provide superior service and world-class education on all products — from hair to nails to makeup.
VETERAN-OWNED BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
GMS Keeler Leadership Consulting Group LLC
GMS Keeler (GMSK) Leadership Consulting Group is dedicated to providing quality leadership coaching and process consulting services for organizations of all sizes and works with key leaders to help them develop goals for long-term personal and professional growth for both their organization and staff.
Owner operator Gregory A. Keeler has 21 years of honorable military service in addition to experience in recruiting and corporate staffing. Certified as a service disabled veteran-owned and native-owned small business, his firm leverages a strong background in leadership coaching/training, operational planning, project management and team building to put training and mentorship processes in place for long-term success.
Through its Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program, GMSK is committed to helping young people develop positive attitudes and interpersonal skills necessary to become the next generation of leaders. Along with the youth leadership program, GMSK is dedicated to working with human resources departments to develop and implement effective veteran hiring processes.
Since 2009, Honor Construction has delivered big-business results and creative cost savings with a small SWAT team of managers, each an expert in various aspects of construction.
Honor Construction is a West Michigan-based, veteran-owned management firm launched by Brad Laackman. The team works with agility, reduced overhead and flexibility to find answers that help save its clients money and get the best construction quality and results. The company specializes in construction management for mid-to-large scale commercial projects and has a focus on sustainable business practices.
At its core, Honor Construction strives for transparency in the work it does — standing firm in its name as a company that is open and honest with clients. With a long-standing reputation in the West Michigan community, the firm is able to function as an owner’s representative, construction and logistics management consultant, or a sustainable/green construction consultant.
SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
GR Auto Gallery
In business since 2009, GR Auto Gallery is one of the top auto consignment dealers in the country and has experienced significant growth. With three large, indoor locations across the state — in Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Wixom — the auto dealer plans to open future locations. Currently, it sells over 900 vehicles per year, 25 percent of which are going overseas to international customers.
Not the typical dealer, GR Auto Gallery's unique and state of the art facility gives it the advantage to consign vehicles for maximum return, as well as the ability to buy and sell vehicles. First conceived by three car owners with a strong passion and desire to showcase “cars for the cars lover,” they can easily handle any customers’ automotive wishes and offers a place where anyone can enjoy a wide array of vehicles.
In addition to being a major car shopping destination, GR Auto Gallery operates a strong worldwide internet presence at grautogallery.com.
Operated by Dr. Michael Kwast, i-Chiro Clinics provides natural healthcare solutions utilizing traditional chiropractic, computerized chiropractic, massage therapy, nutrition, exercise, stretching, ergonomics and lifestyle changes to create the best quality of life possible for each individual patient.
Established in Grand Rapids in 1998, i-Chiro Clinics has been providing care for local residents in two locations — a north office located at 4150 East Beltline Ave. NE and a south office at 6690 Crossings Drive SE.
To further assist patients, i-Chiro has created the “Pathway to Health” educational process — incorporating brochures, charts, diagrams, models and computers — to help explain the first four visits. The team believes it’s their job to educate, inform and empower in order to achieve the highest results possible and help patients make informed decisions regarding care.
OnSite Wellness LLC
OnSite Wellness LLC partners with employers to positively impact health and well-being. As a certified women-owned business, co-owners Amy Ritsema and Mary Kline have been making a difference for over 25 years, customizing wellness solutions for a variety of organizations. With a passion for what they do, they have built a team that holds the same passion.
The OnSite Wellness team knows the most valuable commodity in any organization is its employees. They believe in making workplace wellness fun and engaging for all of their clients. They do that by offering wellness solutions to organizations throughout Michigan and in the Midwest — ranging from small, family businesses to large, corporate companies — to provide robust, customizable wellness programs that can track and report all components, including incentive to target company wellness goals and drive participation.
NONPROFIT OF THE YEAR
Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative
Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative is a nonprofit organization that is vested in changing the current reality of vulnerable children by implementing an intentional preschool service system aimed at providing, expanding and sustaining the capacity of high-quality early care and education programs in the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids.
ELNC envisions a community where all children, regardless of the neighborhood in which they live, are able to thrive developmentally and educationally, allowing them to fully embrace their potential and become self-sufficient adults.
What started in 2011 as a demonstration project is now a replicable model that can be implemented in any community with vulnerable children. Furthermore, ELNC is now a continuum of early childhood education both in Kent County and the state of Michigan.
Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women
Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women focuses on women at various stages of business ownership in order to support and empower female entrepreneurs in launching, advancing and sustaining their businesses. It serves as the entrepreneurial resource to help women take the next step and provides them with professional expertise for a lifetime.
For more than 25 years, GROW has been West Michigan’s source for relevant training, tools and techniques for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Whether the topic is finance, management, marketing or strategic planning, GROW offers professional, high-quality training and business counseling.
GROW is one of only 110 certified Women’s Business Centers in the nation and one of three in Michigan — all in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation
Founded in 1993, the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation is the independent nonprofit organization serving as the strategic fundraising partner of the Grand Rapids Public Schools. With a belief all students deserve every opportunity to learn, grow and thrive, GRSAF’s mission is to raise, grow and steward funds and other community resources to support GRPS students.
Since launching, GRSAF has expanded its impact areas to five categories to help students become well-rounded and productive members of the community. Those main priority funding areas are literacy; arts education; physical wellness; environmental education; and math, science and technology.
Since 2003, GRSAF has made more than $20 million in grants to support programs and initiatives of GRPS. During the 2015-16 school year, GRSAF provided more than $1.2 million in philanthropic support to the GRPS district, providing programs and opportunities to over 16,500 students served by West Michigan’s largest school district.