40 Under 40 Business Leaders knock it out of the park

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To steal a phrase from the sports world, the lineup for the 2021 Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 Business Leaders is loaded.

From affordable housing and child care to streamlined health care and DEI, the 40 members of the 2021 class are an issue-focused group who are using their skills and talents to make West Michigan a better place.

And they’re not shy about putting everything they have into the effort.

“I knew that what I was doing was completely outside myself and would affect thousands of lives,” said Emily Babson, director of organizational development and leadership training for Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, when discussing her role in opening the hospital’s COVID Vaccine Clinic. “I felt so honored that our executive team thought highly enough of me to put probably the most important project of the decade in my hands.”

It’s fair to say putting any significant project in the hands of these 40 people is a good business decision.

Why? Because they are resilient.

At least two members, Nathan Blury and Terry Rostic, mentioned being let go from previous organizations and how crushing that was for them personally. Rather than dwell on the negative, however, both used the opportunity to start their own businesses, both of which are unique to West Michigan.

This year’s group also is adept at multitasking. Multiple members hold down two or more positions, not because they have to, but because their varied interests demand that they spread themselves out.

Destiny Adams, for example, is a Children’s Protective Services intake specialist for the state of Michigan. She’s also an entrepreneur who uses her business, Destiny Adams & Company LLC, to educate new business owners on how to create marketing strategies, business plans and international contacts to ensure long-term success. Both roles are vital to who she is.

“I am a giver at heart,” she said. “Through my work with CPS, I enjoy helping families achieve positive outcomes, which has transferred over to my business.”

When the pandemic hit, CJ DeVries, who owns and runs several businesses, knew from experience the fear and uncertainty facing business owners during a unique time in history. She used her business, GRNow, to promote other businesses that were struggling by creating a comprehensive online list of dining establishments in Grand Rapids and their takeout procedures, outdoor dining options and hours of operation.

“We did not take any advertising dollars from suffering businesses and instead offered our services free of charge — most times with me consulting them on ways to get more people in,” she said.

That type of selflessness is why DeVries, and the others on this list, are bright lights in Grand Rapids’ future. They care more about community than individuals (especially themselves) and are tireless in their efforts to make Grand Rapids a better place for everyone who lives here.

The individuals mentioned above are not intended to be the “all-stars” on this year’s team. Rather, they are indicative of what is a very strong lineup from top to bottom for the 2021 Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 Business Leaders.

Take a moment to read their stories on the ensuing pages. I think you’ll agree that every one of them knocks it out of the park.

40 Under 40

Destiny Adams

Jamon Alexander

Nathan Baar

Emily Babson

Nikeidra Battle-DeBarge

Matt Baxter

Nathan Blury

Jasmine Bruce

RC Caylan

Patrick Cisler

Miriam Cuevas

CJ DeVries

Tyler Doornbos

Ryan Erickson

Ashleigh Evans

Gleason

Charissa Huang

Mark Jesin

Mark Johnson

Alita Kelly

Alexa Kramer

Erin Lane

Madelaine Lane

D.L. McKinney

Ingrid Miller

Eleanor Moreno

Jane Netwon

Stephen Panaggio

Patrick Parkes

Keyuana Rosemond

Terry Rostic

Megan Rydecki

Archie Sudue

Ericka Thompson

Jorel Van Os

Lauren VanKeulen

Kyle VanStrien

Andrea Wallace

Ashley Ward

Cameron Young

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