50 Leading Women Of Business
This is the TCBN’s first-ever compilation of “50 Leading Women of Business.” It includes women who are leaders, pioneers, involved community members, role models – working in and running businesses across the Grand Traverse region.
While we couldn’t possibly include all potential candidates in one issue, we aimed to showcase a cross-section of industries and professions in the area. And while there are many, many other deserving women outside of business (leading nonprofits, retired, serving on boards, etc.) this list is focused solely on those in business.
In addition to their business backgrounds and community involvement, the TCBN asked the businesswomen to answer one of the following questions:
“2017 is going to be a year of _________ for me.”
How far or little has the GT region come in terms of women in business and diversity?
What book or figure has inspired you as a female businessperson?
Read on to learn more about the women who are leading and changing our region…
Bonnie Alfonso, President/CEO, Alfie Logo Gear
From fleece jackets to t-shirts, bags to water bottles, the handiwork of Alfie Logo Gear is all over town and Alfonso is the leading force behind it all. She has also taken her business know-how to the state level as recent past chair of the Small Business Association of Michigan. Her work with that group continues through service on its political action committee, legislative action committee and board development committee. Back at home, Alfonso is a few months into her term as chair of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and also sits on its government relations committee. She is active with Father Fred and TEDx TC, is a member of the NMC Foundation Board, a founding board member of Impact 100 and a member of maIDens.
Lois Bahle, Director, Bahle Enterprises
Bahle is just now retiring as women’s buyer for Bahle’s. Since 1981, she has applied her background in textiles, design and clothing construction to buying for the family business, building an assortment of merchandise and vendors to shape Bahle’s brand. She also set up a billing system for its expanding self-storage business and managed the commercial leases, residential rentals and one seasonal rental. She’s been active in the Suttons Bay Chamber (serving as president and secretary). She has also served on the Village Planning Commission and Leelanau County Planning Commission, was an initial member and secretary of the Leelanau Trail Association, as well as president, secretary and co-chair of the capital campaign for TART Trails.
“2017 is going to be a year of enjoying retirement. I now have the freedom to attend meetings without feeling I’m away from work during busy summer months. So, Northport Energy, development of a DDA (Suttons Bay), serving on the Rotary Board and taking more lengthy vacations are on the list.”
Allison Beers, Owner, Events North
Beers is seemingly everywhere. She’s grown Events North to one of the leading event management agencies in Michigan, but also found time to serve as co-president of the new Impact 100 charitable group, serve on the boards of the Traverse City DDA, Rotary Charities, the Boom Boom Club, the Downtown Traverse City Association – and is in line as the next president-elect of the Rotary Club of TC.
“Bonnie Alfonso has been one of my best friends for years and is my favorite to talk shop and dream big! Also, while sitting on the board of Rotary Charities, I get to learn from some of the smartest women in the area – board members and the staff. Finally, my Westwoods Elementary School Mom Tribe (and the dads, too). We’re a tight group and we all take care of each other so we can be the best moms and members of society at the same time.”
Karen Browne, President/CEO, TBA Credit Union
Since becoming CEO of TBA Credit Union in December 2007, Browne has overseen the growth of its assets from $114 to $191 million and the addition of more than 5,000 members. She also guided the establishment of the credit union’s first regional headquarters at 630 E. Front St. in 2014. Browne is also proud of the volunteer program she implemented for her staff of 56, which contributed more than 1,400 hours to the community last year. At a personal level, she serves as a board member for Michael’s Place and the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center.
“2017 is going to be a year of building additional trusted relationships for me.”
Denise Busley, Co-Founder/Co-owner, Grand Traverse Pie Co.
Busley and her husband, Mike, opened their first GT Pie shop in Traverse City in 1996. Today, they have 15 shops in Michigan and one in Indiana. The 2009 Athena Award recipient, Busley shifted from day-to-day operations to concentrate on using the business to raise awareness about the epidemic of child sexual abuse and spread education about its prevention.
“Giving back … feels both a privilege and a moral responsibility. Our inspiration comes from those whose dedication and passion serve those in need…individuals who bear witness and are there to help. They inspire me to know more and to do more.”
Mary Carroll, President, Benzie County Chamber of Commerce, Benzie County Visitors Bureau
Carroll has headed up both the chamber and visitors bureau since 2007 – each with its own board of directors, budgets and missions. But at the heart of both is the vitality of Benzie County – whether economic development or its continued growth as a tourist destination. She is an active member of the Benzie County Economic Development Corporation, the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and participates in many strategic planning groups in the region. She also proudly represents Benzie businesses and organizations at the state level and beyond.
Inspiration? “My mom. She taught me that if you are going to take on a responsibility, then do it 100 percent and to be a part of where you live.”
Coco Champagne, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Hagerty
Champagne is one of Hagerty’s longest serving employees, and is now responsible for the company’s “people strategy.” She’s helped build a team that has tripled the annual revenue of the company and expanded the global workforce to more than 850 employees. For the past four years, Fortune Magazine has named Hagerty a “Great Place to Work.” Champagne also serves on the board of Goodwill of NW Michigan.
“Trust Factor” by Paul Zak is a book that’s critical for all leaders to build a culture of trust in their organization. I am inspired by focusing on the practices that build trust, so teams feel
Kandace Chapple, Owner/Founder, GT Woman
Chapple is the editor and co-publisher of Grand Traverse Woman Magazine, a regional women’s magazine in northern Michigan. Together, she and her (identical) twin sister also host monthly women’s luncheons and network nights. They provide a forum for area women to connect and build business.
“When we started GTWoman 15 years ago, we expected 30 women at our first Network Nite… but over 120 women showed up! That night changed our business. We realized that women loved having a place to gather, to exchange ideas and to build relationships. The same is true today at our events – maybe even more so. Where technology has changed everything else, meeting face-to-face has remained irreplaceable.”
Marie-Chantal Dalese, President/CEO, Chateau Chantal
Dalese is the second generation leader of the Old Mission winery and bed and breakfast, and is also active on the legislative scene, having worked with the state legislature on clarifying tax laws for alcohol. She also spearheaded the effort to bring solar power to the winery, and also serves on the TC Chamber, Michigan Wine Producers Association, and Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula boards.
“There are a handful of women in leadership roles within the wine industry. I particularly admire Helen Turley for her commitment to excellence in wine and operations with several brands in California, and give credit to any woman who steps into this industry and gives it their all.”
Amanda Danielson, Proprietress, Off the MAP Hospitality
Danielson and her husband, Paul, opened Trattoria Stella at Grand Traverse Commons in 2004. Ten years later, along with executive chef Myles Anton, they opened The Franklin in downtown Traverse City. Danielson directs the beverage and staff development programs at both restaurants. She regularly works with young sommeliers and servers to keep the “service” in hospitality and is proud to have given a start to many hospitality professionals now working at the top of the industry all over the country. Danielson earned designation as an Advanced Sommelier in 2007, and is working toward achieving the final level of Master Sommelier, a distinction held by just 32 women around the globe.
“Luck favors the prepared. There are women all over (the region) doing great things – intelligently, mindfully, and with intention. So many female small business owners are poised to affect significant change in our community, both in general and for young, up-coming women. We create opportunities for each other…and any men that want to join us.”
Connie Deneweth, Chief Executive Officer/Director, Traverse City State Bank
Deneweth faced down the banking industry meltdown of several years back and helped TCSB achieve a 5-Star Bauer rating (tops in the field). She is also developer of Copper Ridge in Traverse City and very active on several area boards, including as secretary and board member at Munson Healthcare, co-chair of the Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools capital campaign, and on the Oleson Foundation, Long Lake Foundation, and Bay Area Hockey Association boards.
Inspiration? Margaret Thatcher.
Elizabeth Dewey, Human Resources Manager, Kalkaska Screw Products
The only employee in the HR department, Dewey singlehandedly oversees 115 employees at Kalkaska Screw Products (KSP). In the last two years at KSP, she has secured more than $10,000 in training grant money for its employees. She is a member of the Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP), board member of the Traverse Area Human Resources Association and an Antrim County youth soccer coach.
“2017 is going to be a year of change and growth for me as we continue to grow and expand at KSP.”
Deborah Wyatt Fellows, President/Founder, MyNorth Media and Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine
Fellows began publishing Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine 37 years ago to celebrate and protect the region, a mission that continues today with a current audience of 2.2 million and as one of the 50 Companies to Watch in Michigan in 2014. Fellows serves on the Munson Healthcare board of directors and, until recently, the Networks Northwest board.
“This region has always (had) small entrepreneurs who are creative, energized and willing to put themselves out there. That’s included such strong women who’ve owned retail shops, restaurants, farms and more for many decades. Now we see many more women in banking, law, health care, etc. than we did 30 years ago. The mix of men and women’s voices in business and nonprofits throughout the region has opened up dialogues and perspectives that are wonderful to have at the table and truly enhance this place we all cherish.”
Christal Frost, Host, The Christal Frost Show
Frost uses her same wry sense of humor when talking about her work as she does occasionally at work – as host of The Christal Frost Show on WTCM NewsTalk 580. “Somehow over the past three years, I’ve managed to talk for two hours each day and only sound nonsensical 35 percent of the time, which is a major accomplishment for me!” Very active in the community, Frost noted 2016 was a particularly special year. “I was honored to serve as the keynote speaker for the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center Circle of Friends Luncheon, the organization’s biggest fundraiser.” She also took to the dance floor in honor of the group with the SwingShift and the Stars event, raising the most money for the 2016 season – over $75,000.
“2017 is going to be the year of evolving for me. I plan to focus on my growth as an individual, and as a woman in business.”
Holly Gallagher, CFP, President, Horizon Financial
A Traverse City native, Gallagher is celebrating 25 years in business this year. She is the only local female Certified Financial Planner with 25 years of experience. She worked for two Fortune 500 companies before opening her own firm.
“Connie Deneweth has been an inspiration to me. Her accomplishments and capabilities are impressive, as is her kind, warm and humble personality.”
Autumn Gillow, Senior Relationship Manager, Chase Business Banking
Gillow is a leading commercial lender in the region, helping dozens of area businesses get capital for growth. She was the first banker in Michigan to utilize the revitalized SBA 504 Debt Refinance program in 2016. She also serves on the Preserve Hickory capital campaign committee.
“I’ve observed the traditional ‘women in business’ role has changed in the last 15 years. I think the lack of large employers in the area has encouraged women to seek less traditional career paths; working remotely or starting a business. I think the community as a whole is supportive of women in business and the women in this area are especially supportive of each other. I am so impressed by the women I meet and their genuine interest in helping each other.”
Lauren Harris, Sales Executive, Priority Health (northern Michigan)
As much as health care is a national topic, it is all in a day’s work for Harris. “For me, educating local agents and employers on our unique approach to health insurance, and how our one-of-a-kind tools can transform their experience and improve health outcomes, is a continuous and rewarding accomplishment.”
In the community, Harris is the chair of the Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP) organization for the second year and is a member of the board of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. “In these roles I’ve transformed the TCYP program to offer new civic engagement and professional development opportunities as well as initiated a new advocacy and mentoring program with our committees.”
Inspiration? “My mother and grandmother … both rose through various challenges, including poverty and language barriers, to achieve great things in their lives.”
Judy Harrison, CEO/Founder, High Impact Productions and SwingShift and the Stars
A popular performer, Harrison owns High Impact Productions and sings with its country/classic rock band, ReBooted, as well as its swing band SwingShift. Harrison also created the SwingShift and the Stars event series platform in 2008, which has raised $2.3 million benefitting 62 participating nonprofits. She notes 2017 will be a year of community investment with SwingShift’s Million Dollar Challenge season involving 24 area nonprofits.
“These direct dollars have helped (these organizations) sustain, grow and raise awareness for their cause. Through my company, we are heavily involved with the community, but one of my most recent – and most impactful – personal experiences was serving a holiday dinner to people experiencing homelessness here in Grand Traverse County.”
Beth Holmes-Bozung, Principal/Co-founder, Safety Net Co-Founder, Naveego
As principal and co-founder of IT managed service provider Safety Net, Holmes-Bozung has been focusing a lot of her energy of late on building and retaining talent for the company. “And we’ve been able to do that in an industry that is pretty fiercely competitive.” She is also proud to have led software platform Naveego through its early branding and start-up stage. “Naveego is in contention with the big names (Microsoft, SAP) in midsize and enterprise companies.” Holmes-Bozung serves on the boards of Networks Northwest and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, both of which have selected new leaders in the past year.
Inspiration? “Traverse City resident Angie Morgan and her lessons on how to build leadership at all levels, based on her military experience.”
Ran Ihme, CEO, Broker/Owner, LVR Realty and Leelanau Vacation Rentals
Ihme helped build Leelanau Vacation Rentals into the largest rental company in Leelanau County and is the third-highest grossing real estate agent in Leelanau County. She and her husband, Bob, are advocates of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and support Glen Lake Community Schools and its athletic programs. Ihme is also on the board of the Glen Lake Association.
Inspiration? “My mother-in-law, Linda Ihme, began Leelanau Vacation Rentals and LVR Realty many years ago. She remains strong, sensible, kind, and a wealth of knowledge. I also seek to model my own mother’s continual kindness toward others. This is going to be a year of giving back for me. I want my children to be raised with a sense of responsibility – not just to themselves or their parents, but to helping others around them.”
Jennifer Jones, Regional Manager, Huntington Wealth Advisors
After practicing law for six years with Dingeman, Dancer & Christopherson in Traverse City, Jones joined Huntington Bank as a relationship manager for personal trust clients. Today, in addition to acting as a fiduciary trustee, she advises clients on growing and managing their assets and preserving their wealth. In the community, Jones is active with the newly-founded Impact 100 Traverse City chapter.
Peg Jonkhoff, Vice President/Administrative Director, Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home
Jonkhoff lists the “creation and supervision of our ‘work family’” as one of her most important accomplishments at Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home. She also coordinates educational efforts in the community related to grief and funeral pre-planning programs, and works to preserve the historic home that serves as a “sacred space” where the bereaved of our community gathers to remember a life. Jonkhoff considers it “an honor” to give back and does so through such organizations as Central United Methodist Church, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Traverse City Golf and Country Club and the Zonta Club of Traverse City.
Inpsiration? “Traverse City’s founding father, Perry Hannah, is such an inspiring figure to me that I co-authored a book about him and his many gifts to our community.”
Shelley Kester, Managing Member, Wilson Kester
A Michigan attorney since 1992, Kester owns Wilson Kester, a family law firm. She serves on the council for the Family Law Section for the State Bar of Michigan, and was one of the first attorneys in northern Michigan to complete its Family Law Certificate Program. Past community service includes former mayor of Traverse City, founding chair of the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center Board and founding officer/board member of the Great Lakes Children’s Museum Board. She was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Children’s Trust Fund board for two terms.
“2017 is going to be a year of leveraging technology for me.”
Leslie Knopp, Co-Owner, Comfort Keepers
Knopp and her husband Russ run one of the consistently successful Comfort Keepers franchises in the world. For the past two years her office has been the top performing single franchise in the entire network of some 800 offices. She also serves on the Impact 100 board and is a long-time supporter of the Botanic Garden Society.
“A female business owner I admire recommended “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath. Doing the survey and exercises has helped me to appreciate my strengths and be comfortable focusing on them instead of always trying to ‘work on’ weaknesses. Now our entire administrative team learns about their own and each other’s strengths. It’s helped us a lot.”
Erika Korndorfer, Realtor, Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors
Korndorfer is the 2017 president of the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR), Northern Michigan, advancing women as professionals and leaders in the community. She’s been an active board member of the WCR for two years. Over the holidays the organization helped support 600+ families with a donation to Single Momm, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised over the years with Bras for a Cause.
“2017 is going to be a year of action for me.”
Mary Krantz, Partner, Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth
A Certified Public Accountant since 1982, Krantz joined DGN in 1986 and was named partner in 1998, becoming one of the first female partners in a large accounting firm in northern Michigan. She oversees DGN’s business and technology consulting department and also provides audit and tax services to business, governmental and not-for-profit entities. Krantz was the first CPA in the region to earn designation as a Certified Healthcare Business Consultan. She currently serves as treasurer of the Traverse City Little League, Inland Seas Education Association and Zonta Club of Traverse City and is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club.
“When I moved to Traverse City, there were few women in business leadership/ownership positions. Thirty years later, the growth in women leaders/owners in the accounting, technology, legal, engineering and medical fields has been exponential.”
Christy Kuhnke, President, Tom’s Food Markets
Following 20 years in financial services, mostly in residential mortgage lending, Kuhnke was honored to join her father, Dan Deering, in the operations of their family business, Tom’s Food Markets. Christy is also currently chairperson of the Michigan Grocer’s Fund Board of Trustees.
“2017 will be both gratifying and challenging, as is every year in this fast-paced industry.”
Jennifer Lake, Founder/Creative, Brand Tonic
Lake has been a leading graphic designer, marketing and branding specialist in Traverse City for more than 13 years, earning regional and national design awards for creative work and “helping organizations tell their stories.” She frequently lends her talents to various nonprofit marketing committees and student groups, as well as Swingshift and the Stars.
“I still wake up every day loving what I do…building a creative business, partnering with passionate clients, encouraging talented employees (and) supporting my community through meaningful work. 2017 is going to be a year of balance for me. As a business owner, it’s difficult sometimes, but I’ve finally made time for myself. I’m recharging my creativity, traveling for inspiration and having a lot of fun being a mom.”
Julia Lilley, Broker/Co-owner, Century 21 Northland, Century 21 Sleeping Bear Realty, Northland Vacation Rentals and Northland Property Management
Century 21 Northland opened in 2006 with just the three owner/operators (including Lilley and her husband Brad Platt) and no agents. Ten years later, their company was ranked 43rd in the nation, with 11 offices throughout northern Michigan. It was also named the No. 1 company in the state of Michigan for Century 21 the last four years. The company’s flagship charitable program is the Healthy Futures program through Munson, with nearly $30,000 in in-house donations. They also support the Father Fred Foundation.
“Growing up in Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister demonstrated women can do anything they put their minds to. I’ve done five half-marathons and a couple of 25K runs over the past five years, but 2017 is going to be a year of my first marathon, a goal that really challenges me.”
Meagan Luce, Associate Broker, Century 21 Northland
Luce was Rookie of the Year as a new Realtor in 2009, received an award for the #1 Agent in sales for the Great Lakes Council in the state of Michigan for Century 21 in 2014, and since has been in the top one percent of the brokerage. Prior to obtaining her real estate license, she was a successful real estate investor with her husband. Luce is past president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors, a current volunteer as the District 1 Director for the Michigan Association of Realtors, and a trustee for Pathfinder School.
“Real estate has traditionally been a male-dominated business. In the eight years I have been a Realtor, I have seen more women than men join the industry. Today, the majority of new licensees in our association are college-educated professionals who are looking for a change. The real estate industry in our region is continuing to raise the bar in ethics and professionalism, regardless of whether it is dominated by men or women.”
Chris MacInnes, COO, Crystal Enterprises, President, Crystal Properties
MacInnes points to Crystal’s core value of partnership and collaboration as a key to her business success – from building a community where people play, work and live to property development in excess of $100 million. Completion of The Inn this summer – an $11 million project in the heart of the Crystal village that has been part of the master plan for 20 years – will be the latest achievement. Another key? Attitude.
“In good times and in bad, staying focused on being in the fun business because, as leaders, we set the tone. So smile, laugh and find joy in the moment even if it’s raining … and in the middle of ski season!” Past winner of the Athena Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the Traverse City Area Chamber, MacInnes’ current community involvement includes the Michigan Economic Development Corporation executive committee, TraverseConnect, Michigan Tourism Strategic Plan committee; Chemical Bank-TC Community Bank advisory board, National Ski Areas Association and America’s Summer Golf Capital Association.
Christie Minervini, Owner, Sanctuary Handcrafted Goods (formerly Gallery 50)
Minervini rebranded her successful Gallery 50 into Sanctuary Handcrafted Goods earlier this year. The fine art gallery, at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, had been recognized in Niche and Rappaport magazines for its business model and practices. The new shop also emphasizes local and national artists and craftspeople. Outside of The Mercato, Minervini invests her time in various community causes and lends her opinion in a regular column in the Northern Express weekly. Most recently, Minervini has served as fundraising chair for Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse. The group has raised $1.5 million for its capital campaign dedicated to building a homeless shelter. She is also the vice-chair of the Traverse City Arts Commission and co-chair of membership for the newly-formed Impact 100 Traverse City group.
Inspiration? Sally Berlin, owner of Crystal Crate & Cargo in Beulah, from whom Minervini learned “all of her tricks of the trade,” and former Belstone Gallery owner Marcia Bellinger, who viewed Minervini not as “the competition” but as a mentor/friend.
Lynne Moon, Realtor, Real Estate One, licensed builder
The Traverse Area Association of Realtors’ 2016 Realtor of the Year, Moon was one of four partners in the ownership of Prudential Properties North Real Estate Company. She was one of three developers and a builder in the Kensington West project and a partner in the building of Lone Tree Cottages on the west side. She sits on the Women’s Resource Center board, works the NMC BBQ, is an active member of the Women’s Council of Realtors, and was one of the first women to join Rotary.
“My father always instilled confidence in me. He said, ‘Always give back to the community and keep yourself involved. This year is going to be a year of happiness and health for me.”
Misha Neidorfler, Owner, Morsels Espresso + Edibles
Neidorfler manages the daily operations of the espresso bar, bakery and cafe she and her husband, Jeff, founded in 2008 in downtown Traverse City. Morsels was awarded the 2016 Icing Funds Second Prize, earning national recognition as an innovator in the baking industry. Niedorfler serves as president of the Downtown Traverse City Association, co-chair of The Children’s House Annual Gala, and is a member of the competition committee for the National Writers Series Battle of the Books. Through Morsels, she began a nonprofit partnership donating a portion of sales proceeds of unique morsels back to the community.
“2017 is going to be a year of refocus for me,” Neidorfler said. “I am refocusing my energy toward projects that will continue moving the business forward … giving back in ways that are meaningful and fun, and toward my husband and children, who are on the cusp of adolescence.”
Megan Olds, President/Principal, Parallel Solutions
As a consultant to public and nonprofit organizations, Olds’ primary focus is on communities and clients in the Great Lakes region. She recently served groups working to finish the trail around Boardman Lake (TART Trails), fill the gaps in the North Country National Scenic Trail, restore Great Lakes waterways and improve navigation, create water trails, support sustainable food and farming systems (Cherry Capital Foods, Institute for Sustainable Foraging, Crosshatch Center for Art and Ecology), and create arts and cultural experiences (Parallel 45 Theatre, Blackbird Arts, and Crosshatch). She serves as chair of the SEEDS board, is president of the Paddle Antrim board and is a board member of Homestretch.
Inspiration? “Elinor Ostrom, an American political economist and Nobel Prize winner, for her work exploring how humans interact with each other to sustainably manage resources like fisheries, farmland, oil fields and waterways.”
Vicki Oltersdorf, Owner/Managing Broker, Oltersdorf Realty
Oltersdorf established Oltersdorf Realty in 2006 as a true family-run company, joined by her son Jonathan and daughter Cayman. Since then, the company has ranked in the top three of all independent brokerages in total sales volume in the five-county region – at more than $185 million. Oltersdorf is also the top-ranked Realtor in Leelanau County in total sales volume and total transactions closed since 2006. “I’m truly blessed to have the experience and opportunity to give back to or help someone with one of their most important life decisions of purchasing or selling their home or investment property. We’re looking forward to 2017 being another exciting year of meeting and assisting families within the Leelanau/Grand Traverse regions.”
Karen Pontius, President/Owner, Suttons Bay Trading Co.
Pontius has spent the last 16 years running the Suttons Bay Trading Company, but didn’t actually move the business to the village until spring 2011. The spice merchant and manufacturer has firmly settled into its namesake community, after being founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana and later relocating to Traverse City as an online-only business. But Pontius didn’t just name her business after the community she loved, she also has gotten actively involved in it – serving as president of the Suttons Bay Chamber of Commerce for four years and chairing the 2016 YetiFest winter festival committee.
“2017 is going to be a year of reflection for me. Markets are changing rapidly, especially because of technology, big data, and the Internet of Things. Small businesses are challenged by the high cost of brick and mortar shops, high taxes in commercial districts, and declining foot traffic. Without local support, businesses (especially retail) cannot make it here on seasonal tourism alone.”
Nancy Plummer, Creator/Co-owner, Moomers, Homemade Ice Cream
Plummer had no business experience when she started Moomers 20 years ago adjacent to the family’s dairy farm and after years as an elementary teacher. Today, the original retail idea has grown to a large, award-winning wholesale and retail business. Honors include Good Morning America’s “Best Scoop in America,” featured by Chase Bank marketing as one of 30 U.S. small businesses, Michigan’s Top 50 Small Businesses to Watch and the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce Top Small Businesses. Community involvement includes Meals on Wheels, Reining Liberty Ranch, Down Syndrome, Bayshore Marathon, Girls on the Run, and local school projects. Moomers will soon be a sponsor for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
“2017 is going to be a year of continuing transfer of responsibility to my two children (Jon Plummer and Becky Mead) who are co-owners of Moomers,” Plummer said.
Kristin Rockwood, Owner/President, Press On Juice
Rockwood began her lifestyle food business in her home kitchen, growing into a small, shared commercial kitchen in 2014 and then purchasing her own building in 2015. She expanded further to employ 21 people in summer 2016 and pilot a second retail location. Press On Juice was recognized as the 2017 Michigan SBDC Small Business of the Year. Community involvement includes involvement with SCORE, the SBDC, Goodwill, 100 Women Who Care, TCNew Tech as well as counseling small business owners and helping the homeless find homes.
“It is hard for anyone, especially female business leaders, to find high- paying jobs in Traverse City. It is vital for our community to create more knowledge-based economy jobs. There are many more ‘boomerangs’ like myself who would return to the area to start or revive businesses. I enthusiastically support the work of local groups like TCNew Tech and the Front Street Irregulars to cultivate more opportunities and foster innovation. Most for-profit executive level jobs in the GT Area are held by men, and while there has been recent progress in the GT region nonprofit world, there are still too few opportunities with established companies for women leaders. The best option that I had was to start my own company. Fortunately, I had access to incredible business mentors to help me get started.”
Shelley Steele, President, Corbin Design
Steele joined Corbin Design in 2000, becoming president in June 2016. She is responsible for the firm’s vision and direction, internal leadership and staff management as well as business development and marketing. During her tenure, she developed more effective costing strategies, which led to higher profitability. Community involvement includes managing the charitable Ron Lautner Interlochen Eagles Golf Scramble, Corbin’s monthly Father Fred Foundation Blessing in a Backpack set up, and as a volunteer at The State and Bijou theatres.
“2017 is going to be a year of learning new leadership skills for me. Having just been promoted to the president role last year, I have plenty to learn about managing and motivating our staff.”
Wendy Steele, Founder/President, Generosity Matters
Steele founded Generosity Matters as a guide to introduce the power of generosity to organizations and families, working with high-net-worth families, businesses giving back and nonprofit organizations throughout the country. She is also the founder of Impact 100, an innovative pass-through foundation which brings transformational grants of at least $100,000 to the communities served. Steele was awarded the 2014 Jefferson Award, known as the Nobel Prize for community service. Her work is also noted in several books and national media, including a PBS documentary, “Impact 100: Changing Lives, Strengthening Communities.” Community involvement includes serving on the board of Goodwill Industries of Northwest Michigan, TEDx Traverse City advisory board, Leadership Lunch Club advisory board, NMC Foundation, Impact 100 Traverse City founding board and as leader of the Impact 100 Global Advisory Council based in Traverse City and serving Impact 100 organizations around the globe.
“2017 is going to be a year of bold action for me.”
Holly Streit, Broker/Owner, EXIT Realty Paramount
EXIT Realty Paramount has more than tripled its brokerage sale volume since Streit acquired it in the fall of 2011. The company is consistently ranked No. 1 for lowest days on market among area brokerages. Streit has chaired the Circle of Friends luncheon and SwingShift and the Stars fundraising campaign, both for the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center. She worked with children and families as a wish granter with the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz is a must-read every year.”
Victoria Sutherland, Founder/President, Foreword Magazine, Inc.
Sutherland has been a leading voice in independent publishing for over 20 years with work that has taken her around the globe connecting booksellers and librarians with the independent publishing community. She founded Foreward Reviews in 1998, showcasing the industry with new titles, book reviews and feature stories, expanding with Forward Magazine, Inc. into a full media company to include digital access, book awards, foreign rights representation, trade shows and services for authors and publishers. In 2011, Sutherland also became a director at Children’s Books USA, which provides trade show services at international book fairs. Most recently, Sutherland added directorship at Champagne World Rights Agency in June 2015, with a foreign rights agency with services focused on youth, spirituality, health and business titles.
“I’m trying to “level up” my game a bit …to hone my leadership skills. I was also recently accepted into Seth Godin’s altMBA program, an intensive four-week online workshop that begins this month. I’m really looking forward to participating and networking with some of the world’s best names in products and services.”
Terri Jo Umlor, Chief Financial Officer/Co-owner, Springfield Inc.
Umlor co-owns Springfield, a roofing company based in Kingsley, with her husband, Terry. The company was named Hagerty Small Business of the Year, received a Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award and the West Michigan Better Business Bureau Torch award for ethics in business. Umlor represents northern Michigan in Lansing by serving on the Michigan Strategic Fund board of directors, the governing board for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“Northern Michigan is all about choosing to work with the most qualified people. There are dynamic opportunities here for everyone. A favorite quote is ‘The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example,’ by John Wooden.”
Suzy Voltz, Associate Broker/Agent, Century 21 Sleeping Bear Realty
Voltz has been involved with her real estate office for 38 years, part as co-owner. She’s also been involved with the Frankfort Main Street revitalization projects for about 25 years, encouraging the purchase and renovation of properties which have been economically viable. Voltz is a supporter of Paul Oliver Hospital, the Oliver Art Center, Legacy Art Park, the Lakeside Shakespeare Festival and the Frankfort Film Festival.
“My parents were my mentors from early childhood. They supported my interest in being independent. This is going to be a year of peace for me.”
Ashlea Walter, Marketing Manager, Traverse City State Bank
One of the best parts of Walter’s bank marketing job is making connections. Specifically, “connecting the dots between organizations, other businesses, municipalities and the power of community banking,” she said. A highlight in her banking world this past year was the opening of a new branch in Acme. “We’re up and running and the support for a community bank is strong!” Walter is also invested in her broader community. She was named president of the board for Norte! Youth Cycling last year, serves as marketing committee chair for Michigan Legacy Art Park, is a community relations and fundraising committee member for the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and is a member of Rotary. Walter also co-founded the TC Women in Marketing Facebook group with Diana Fairbanks – a group that is now 300 members strong.
“2017 is going to be a year of living boldly for me.”
Martha “Marty” Watts, Director/Co-owner, Oleson’s Food Stores
Watts is active in the successful operation of Oleson’s Food Stores, a family- owned business founded by her grandparents, Gerald and Frances Oleson, and spanning 90-years. During the past 15 years, she assisted in opening three new stores in the chain. In the community, Watts is increasing her role in the Oleson Foundation and its relationships with the region’s funders community. She also sits on the NMC Foundation Board and is a founding board member for Impact 100 Traverse City.
“I believe the region has come a long way in terms of women-owned businesses. The level of leadership skills in women of all ages continues to astound me. The talent and expertise here is exciting. 2017 is going to be a year of realigning my time, commitments and priorities in both my work and personal life.”
Sue Webber, Founder, Webber Insurance Agency
Webber has 25-plus years of experience as an advisor and business owner in the insurance industry. Her Benzonia company, Webber Insurance Agency, is one of the area’s largest agencies, representing more than 1,500 clients. It was awarded the Grand Traverse Insider People’s Choice Award 10 years in a row. She is an active member of numerous boards, including Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital and the Frankfort-Elberta Chamber of Commerce.
Tonya Wildfong, Communications Director, Team Elmer’s
Wildfong vivdly recalls one of her first project manager jobs as a trainee at Team Elmer’s. “The homeowner would not talk directly to me. I choose to think it was experience and not my gender that caused it.” Wildfong, who leads the company with her two brothers, can talk concrete and cranes with the best of them, and directs all things communication for the more than 400 employees of the 60-year-old company. What’s one of the best days at work for her? When a job finishes ahead of schedule (think recent U.S. 31 “Miracle Mile” projects). Outside of the office, Wildfong serves as a director on the Chemical Bank Community advisory board, and also sits on the board of the City Opera House, the CherryT Ball Drop and Impact 100.
“2017 is going to be a year of focus and family for me.”
Carly Wujcik, President, Active Marketing
Wujcik joined Active Marketing in 2014, contributing to the firm’s 75 percent sales increase during the same time. Active Marketing is known as the leading marketing firm for addiction treatment services across the country. Wujcik led the firm in building out new teams and processes, expanding service offerings, and bringing ‘top notch’ brand and creative work to the treatment industry. Community service includes serving on the Board of Directors of Noah’s Ark Daycare. Wujcik draws inspiration from the team-building book, “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek, as well as Oneupweb’s retired founder Lisa Wehr. She also takes pride in Active Marketing’s expanded scope and success. “Our creative services are our top new business driver now. I’m really proud of that.”