GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Angels yesterday announced that a former Herman Miller executive has agreed to lead the organization as its initial president.
The new president is Jody D. Vanderwel, formerly corporate counsel and vice-president of corporate giving at Herman Miller Inc.
She also conducted her own legal practice for some years.
Charles C. (Chuck) Stoddard, founder and former CEO of Grand Bank, convened The Grand Angels in January 2004.
Stoddard said that from the eight founders, membership has grown to about 40 people, and that the growth has created the need for increased member services and investment review.
The Grand Angels is one of three angel investor networks formed in Michigan in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
“We are delighted to be able to partner with the MEDC; it was time for us to move our group forward,” Stoddard said.
“Jody’s legal background, coupled with her extensive business experience, makes her the ideal candidate to increase entrepreneurship and investment in West Michigan,” he said.
“West Michigan is ripe for angel investing,” Vanderwel said. “Our region has been blessed with gifted entrepreneurs and patient, wise investors. I look forward to working with the MEDC to help bridge the two groups.”
Jeffery Mason, MEDC senior vice president of technology development, voiced his support for the West Michigan investment group. “We are thrilled to have such strong partners in helping to nurture our state’s economy from a seed stage investment perspective.”
Stoddard will continue to serve as chairman of the board. He said he started the group to serve as a catalyst for growth.
“We have an obligation to build a new generation of successful, philanthropic business leaders,” he said. “Through mentoring and investing we give back to our community.”
He said the organization is committed to making “investments with a difference.”
Members have invested in two firms to date, SimpleDine and Salamander Inc., and are currently in the “due diligence” stage with two other investments.
As Vanderwel explained it, The Grand Angels’ mission is to use its financial, intellectual and networking capital to promote the success of young, growing companies and to enhance the economic development of West Michigan.
Grand Angels is a member of the Angel Capital Alliance, an organization nurtured by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, of Kansas City, Mo., which continues to provide national leadership for the movement.