Deb Kalsbeek, left, and Devin DuMond were overwhelmed by the initial response to SHEvents. Courtesy SHEvents
A pair of West Michigan creatives have joined forces on a business that helps women empower each other.
Devin DuMond and Deb Kalsbeek in January launched SHEvents with a “Galentine’s Day” Brunch at Lions & Rabbits art gallery and event venue.
DuMond also owns local branding and design firm Hatch Creative Services, and Kalsbeek owns Snap Studio, a photography business in downtown Grand Rapids.
They met through their membership in the Rising Tide Society, an entrepreneurial community for the creative industry.
DuMond had a baby in September and wanted family photos taken, so she offered branding services in exchange for a photo shoot from Kalsbeek.
While collaborating on the design of the holiday cards, the two realized they “feed off each other’s energy” and would like to keep collaborating.
So Kalsbeek invited DuMond to help throw the Galentine’s Brunch she already was planning.
The sold-out event, billed as a celebration of women entrepreneurs, drew 60 attendees and sparked an overwhelmingly positive reaction the organizers didn’t expect.
“We started out thinking we were going to host this event, and if it was successful, do others. What happened was, we got a huge amount of support from local businesses,” DuMond said, including Squibb Coffee & Wine Bar donating food and The Sparrows setting up a coffee shop at the event.
“We said at that event we would launch the business in October. The week following the event, our inboxes were blowing up, and everyone wanted to meet with us and talk with us, ‘Could we have events at our space?’ We couldn’t keep up.”
DuMond and Kalsbeek sped up the timeline, registering a dba to conduct business together while also still keeping their separate LLCs going.
The firm will continue to plan and host networking events, workshops and seminars, plus will offer advertising and branding/photography services.
The business model allows the two to take their complementary strengths — DuMond as a designer, writer and teacher, and Kalsbeek as a “people person” and photographer — and offer a more diverse suite of services together than they could apart.
Along with their events and branding/advertising services, DuMond and Kalsbeek have created an online community they call #GRBossbabes via a private, invitation-only Facebook page that has about 700 followers and a SHEventsGR Instagram page with almost 1,000 followers.
To be eligible for inclusion in the Facebook group, women must be in business — either as a leader, in sales, with a side project or as an owner — and must be local or do a lot of business in Grand Rapids.
Their goal with #GRBossbabes is to foster a collaborative spirit in which women move from competition to a mindset of “abundance.”
They credit the Rising Tide Society’s slogan, “community over competition,” as one of their inspirations.
“I think that’s a really big component of why we’re like-minded with our business,” DuMond said.
“There’s enough to go around,” Kalsbeek added.
“Having someone else succeed doesn’t make us succeed less,” DuMond said.
Nurturing that shift has been essential for creating a successful online community, they said.
“In the group, we do have a lot of overlap,” DuMond said. “There are members that sell the same product or do the same service. So, it’s instilling within them that you don’t need to be fighting over the same clients; there is enough for both, and you as an individual is what is going to set you apart.”
Between the online community and the events, SHEvents is hearing stories about trades of services, collaboration, new friendships — and women deciding to “take the leap” and start the business they’ve been dreaming about.
“We had a woman Tuesday who launched a business, and she did it with the support of women from #GRBossbabes,” Kalsbeek said.
SHEvents already has events planned from now until next March.
From 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25, DuMond will lead an “Ice Cream Social Media” workshop at Furniture City Creamery.
They plan to host a daylong seminar called #GRBossbabes University on Sept. 14.
The event, still in the planning stages with location to be determined, will be “by #GRBossbabes for #GRBossbabes,” meaning SHEvents is accepting applications for lecturers and workshop leaders from women in the community.
DuMond and Kalsbeek’s five-year plan includes adding advertising spots on SHEvents’ website and at the events, buying a brick-and-mortar event space and adding a paid membership component for those who would like an additional level of services.
“We wanted to have slow growth, but it didn’t happen that way,” DuMond said.
“We’re just two boss babes who want to support other boss babes and create a community,” Kalsbeek said.