EPIC Awards Finalists – Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Ross Timyan ushers in business success

Most college kids are just trying to figure out how to find a job. But part-time Grand Valley State University student Ross Timyan employs 30 people at the enterprise he launched in high school.

“It feels like I’m getting a master’s degree before I finish college,” said Timyan, 21, of Grand Rapids, owner of Crystal Clean Auto Detailing LLC.

Timyan said he was a GVSU freshman when he realized that selling cars on eBay, his high school occupation, was morphing into a thriving detailing business. As a teen, he helped family and friends clean up their used cars, taking photos and selling them on the online auction site. He sold three cars before he was old enough for a driver’s license.

“I started having all these people call me,” he said. “I was in college and I couldn’t do it. I ended up opening a small shop on 28th Street.”

In February, Timyan moved Crystal Clean to a larger facility at 3413 Eastern Ave. SE. He has contracts with 16 local auto dealers, cleaning up cars for resale and taking pictures for their online sales efforts. Recently, Crystal Clean introduced a new service: detailing a car while the owner is out of town.

As might be expected for a young entrepreneur, Timyan leverages social media in his marketing efforts.

Russell Climie rises with Tiberius

A history major at Michigan State University who studied ancient Rome, Russell Climie decided to ditch a classroom career in favor of a life behind a camera. Today, the remnants of his education are found in the name of the photography business he runs with his wife, Rebecca: Tiberius Images.

“My wife and I lived in Europe for six months during a study abroad experience — we got married while we were still in college,” Climie explained. “We lived in Spain for six months. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish, so I just took a camera.”

He shot 50 rolls of film and the pictures received unexpected accolades, he said. A photography internship turned into a supervisory post and Climie underwent a “baptism by fire” in the visual art. He shot politicians in Lansing while his wife worked for Republican legislators. Today, about 70 percent of their photography work is weddings.

A descendant of the man who established the homestead that eventually became known as Robinette’s Apple Haus, Climie is committed to his hometown and its business community, or “the network economy.”

“No one ever talks about keeping your slice the same, and let’s just make the pie bigger,” he added. “If we do, everybody wins.”

Tami VandenBerg Takes active approach

Meanwhile, back at the bar, business has seen a big upswing this year. That’s the report from co-owner/community advocate Tami VandenBerg of the 2.5-year-old Meanwhile Bar at 1005 Wealthy St. SE.

“The Meanwhile, for 2010, has seen a sales increase of about 24 percent,” said VandenBerg, 34, who is in business with her artist brother, Jeff VandenBerg.

She said the pair is working on a new project, as well — a bar with live music for the Heartside area. “We’re scouting locations. We have a letter of intent with an investor that we are cutting to the final details on,” VandenBerg said. “We are very hopeful that we’ll have another business up and running within a year.”

A Calvin College graduate, VandenBerg was a social worker and worked with the homeless in Louisiana and Grand Rapids before opening the Meanwhile. She still is involved with organizations devoted to that cause. She’s been active in the Eastown neighborhood and in boosting community business. For example, the Meanwhile supports Michigan beers, wines, liquors and ciders as well as art and music.

It took five years from the time the VandenBergs purchased the abandoned building on Wealthy Street until they opened their neighborhood pub, where you can still find 75-cent cans of beer.

“Things are going great,” VandenBerg said.

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