Category Archives: Members Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Eastown Veterinary Clinic

When you imagine a veterinary clinic, what probably comes to mind is a stale space with white walls, fluorescent lighting, and the strong scent of wet dog. With Eastown Veterinary Clinic, you not only get high-quality medicine for your pet but also a modern wellness center for your furry best friend. From the moment you enter, all the classic clinic stereotypes are broken: zero foul smells,  pops of orange and blue color, cute animal art on the walls, and a selection of colorful retail products. Safe to say, this clinic could make the cover of Vanity Fur Magazine.

 

Owner and veterinarian, Dr. Lynn Happel, can be thanked for the clinic’s vibrant look and feel. Before opening her practice in the heart of Grand Rapids’ eclectic Eastown area, this Michigan State University graduate worked at a clinic in Muskegon for two years, with another six years in Grand Rapids. “I like that, as the business owner, I get to make my clinic look cute and that I have the freedom to make my business physically feel warm and inviting,” said Dr. Happel. “If I were working for someone else, I would have no say in the culture or feeling of the clinic when you walk in.”

YOUR BEST FRIEND. THEIR BEST MEDICINE.

Need some LAB work? What about a CAT scan?

Many people have soft spots for animals, but Dr. Happel takes it to a whole new level. She and her staff are dedicated to practicing high quality, personalized medicine in a positive, caring environment while minimizing their pawprint on the earth. “In general, we do wellness care and promote preventative care. It’s easier to help a patient stay well rather than to manage sickness all the time,” said Dr. Happel. “We do vaccinations, dental work, consultations on diet and weight, and cold laser therapy for pain and inflammatory conditions. We even do grooming and puppy training classes!” To the Eastown Veterinary Clinic team, your pets are genuinely their patients, and the pet-owners are their partners in the treatment process.

Kitty, happy and well post-surgery!

The story that best demonstrates this is that of an eight-week-old stray cat initially named “Kitty.” A young man found her on the street and brought her into the clinic. On top of having severe respiratory issues, one of her eyes contained so much discharge that it was sealed shut. Even after prescribing antibiotics, the eye wasn’t improving, and it was clear that it ruptured and needed to be removed. Unfortunately, Kitty’s owner could not fully afford the surgery, so the staff voted to devote the funds from their “Roo Puppy Fund” to pay for 75% of the enucleation. The Roo Puppy Fund was set up in memory of a staff member’s dog that died during heartworm treatment and is meant to assist clients experiencing financial hardship. Kitty’s surgery was a success! However, her original owner could not keep her, so Brandy, one of their licensed veterinary technicians, gave Kitty – now named Kit – her new forever home.

Interview With Dr. Lynn Happel

How has being a member of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce helped you in running your business?

I’ve been a member of the Chamber since we opened in 2011. I joined for the access to different resources and knowledge of what it means to be a small business owner. I love the fact that when I need something, I can reach out to the Chamber and find out how to get it. One of the first events I went to was specifically for new business owners and they taught us how to make a good impression and be memorable at meetings and other networking events. Being in the medical field, where all I know is science, it was awkward at first, but very beneficial since it taught me a skill I did not previously have.

Have animals always played a large role in your life?

I’ve always loved animals! I actually grew up with no pets inside my home, but I did have a horse. I showed horses all the way from age twelve until I was in veterinary school. Right now, I have two lab mixes, a husky mix, and a little black cat.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

What’s most satisfying to me is when I have a client that comes in and feels like they’re welcome and that the staff is passionate and truly cares about their pet.

What about the most challenging part?

The biggest challenge is that, ultimately, I’m responsible for everything. As the business owner, for example, if something happened and all the receptionists were sick, I would have to fill in as the receptionist for the day. That’s actually happened before!

FUN FACT!

Dr. Happel specializes in advanced dental work for animals and has done volunteer dental work at the John Ball Zoo – including extracting two broken teeth from a lion!

It’s all fun and games until someone ends up in the cone of shame.

Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say you want a partnership between staff, pet, and pet-owner?

Our primary goal is for the pet to be healthy and free of disease and pain – but the pet owners are with the pet day in and day out, so their knowledge of how their pet is behaving is vital to how I do my job. For example, if a pet comes in sick and the owner has a hard time giving them pills, I don’t just say, “Here are some pills.” If they can’t get the pills into their pet, that doesn’t solve the problem. We have to work together to find a solution to get their pet happy and healthy.

Was it a smooth transition from being a vet to being both a vet and an entrepreneur?

Absolutely not! *laughs* They do not teach you how to run a small business at veterinary school. I had to learn by seeking out additional educational opportunities, like webinars and seminars about doing QuickBooks and balance sheets. When I first started this practice, I was working as a doctor six days a week. I would only teach myself how to run this business at the end of the day after my kids went to bed!


Eastown Veterinary Clinic is located at 1350 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids, MI, 49506. For more information on their services, email info@eastownvet.com or call 616.649.1075.

Like what you’re reading? Check out our Chamber Blog to read more Member Spotlights, feature articles, and other great content!

Member Spotlight: Nothing Bundt Cakes

What’s the difference between cake and bundt cake? For some, it may just be the gaping hole in the middle. For bakers and foodies, they might know that bundt cake pans are designed to bake all sides evenly. For husband and wife team Scott and Christine Vogel, bundt cakes are the vehicle that made their entrepreneurial dreams come true.

In early 2017, the duo brought the first Nothing Bundt Cakes branch to Michigan, right here in Grand Rapids. As the name implies, all they do is bundt cakes. “We do one thing and one thing extraordinarily well,” said Scott.

Nothing Bundt Cakes aims for perfection in their craft. Each cake is handmade with premium ingredients, including fresh eggs, real butter, and their signature cream cheese frosting.

Flavors include: Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Classic Vanilla, Red Velvet, White Chocolate Raspberry, Carrot, Lemon, Marble, Pecan Praline, and Cinnamon Swirl. They also have a featured flavor that changes every month or two. This fall’s feature flavor is Pumpkin Spice. All bundts are available in larger 8 and 10-inch sizes, single serving “Bundtlets”, and bite-size “Bundtinis.”

The Grand Rapids Chamber had the chance to sample them – and we can honestly say that these guys take the cake. Or should we say take the bundt?

THEY LIKE BIG BUNDTS AND THEY CANNOT LIE.

Founded in Las Vegas 1997 by lifelong friends Dena Tripp and Debbie Shwetz, the Grand Rapids branch will be the franchise’s 200th location. “We wanted to grow deeper roots here in Grand Rapids,” said Scott. “What’s really exciting is that West Michigan got to go first and that Grand Rapids is the starting point for Nothing Bundt Cakes in the Mitten State.”

INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT & CHRISTINE VOGEL

Christine & Scott Vogel (Photo by Anna Young)

Out of all the places you could open “Nothing Bundt Cakes,” why Grand Rapids?

Scott: We like to think Grand Rapids is one of the best places on Earth. We’ve lived in multiple cities across the country and have had the benefit of living abroad as well. When we arrived here, after Bissell Inc. recruited me, the both of us looked at each other and said, “This is our forever home.” There’s so much going on within the community. It’s green, growing, and thriving. There are so many sectors that are advancing. Couple that with the great people here and this is the perfect place to open a business.

What’s so special about the cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes?

Scott: It’s definitely the sweetest franchise we’ve worked with! [laughs] But the biggest thing for us is that we make everything by hand here. There’s no automation and we love the personal touch of it. We also love the business model. We always hope for love at first bite – that’s why we’re always giving samples. When you try the cake, you’ll start to see why it’s so special.

FUN FACT!

Although Christine is a talented baker and even studied baking and pastry making at the Illinois Institute of Art, she is not a cake person.  Until Nothing Bundt Cakes. “That’s just how good this cake is!” she said.

Let them eat bundt cake! (Photo by Anna Young)

What’s the most satisfying part of running and operating Nothing Bundt Cakes?

Scott: The biggest thing is that no matter how challenging a day is, there’s always something positive about it. We always joke that we may have all our money tied up in this business, but we sure as heck have a lot of cake! Because of that, we’re able to do awesome things like supporting all these amazing non-profits in the area, like Kids’ Food Basket, Gilda’s Club, and Spectrum Health Foundation. Whether it’s giving back, seeing the first time someone’s tried our cakes, or when we surprise someone by dropping a cake off at their office, there’s a lot of excitement and positive feelings towards cake. It’s hard not to feel good about it.

What are the biggest challenges?

Scott: The challenge is making sure your team is happy and performing well as well as taking care of the guests. We always say, “You never wanna mess up Johnny’s birthday!” People entrust their most special occasions to us, but we’re human, and we do make mistakes. We always try to rise above those mistakes as a team and maintain a good relationship with our guests.

What’s it like working with your spouse so closely?

Christine: The good thing is I’m only here part time! [laughs]

Scott: We always say that we’ve moved cross country several times, we have three awesome children – so why not pressure test the marriage a little more and start a business together? [laughs] We’ve learned a lot about each other. We’ve had to figure out roles and responsibilities and how we work well together. Our goal is to support our employees and guests as a good team and not one of those crazy husband-wife teams. I think we’ve found a really good even ground, but we’re learning every day!

Why did you join the Chamber and how has it helped you so far?

Christine: We joined because we’re a new business. We wanted to meet people in the area, network, and get help spreading our name out there.

Scott: Joining the Chamber was actually one of the first things we did. It’s been one of those invaluable resources that we signed up for not knowing what the benefit was, but we’ve been really surprised in a positive way of how supportive it has been. It goes beyond the ribbon cutting. The Chamber helped us with connection points, mentorship and even rules and regulation questions. We’ve been able to engage our team and network with others. It really helped propel our business forward. We’re new business owners, and we want to be fully adopted by West Michigan. We plan to be lifetime Chamber members. We’re smitten for the mitten, and we’re here to stay!



 

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce congratulates Scott & Christine and wishes them continued success!

Do you know any members of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber that deserve a feature? Email Sam Suarez at suarezs@grandrapids.org and they just might be our next Member Spotlight!

Member Spotlight: RC Caylan Atelier

Filipino fashion designer RC Caylan first migrated to Grand Rapids for love. Today, he has a new dream: to bring Grand Rapids into the spotlight as a city of fashion.

Born in Iligan City and raised in Batangas City, Philippines, RC grew up close to his grandmother, who was a seamstress. Constantly surrounded by sewing machines, pattern papers, and scissors, he aspired to be a designer someday. Of course, it would take some time, lots of hard work, and a little good luck to get there.

MIGRATING FOR ROMANCE, STAYING FOR AMBITION

Back in the Philippines, RC worked as a cosmetologist in the pageanting industry. “I was kind of a gay stereotype,” he joked. Later on, he worked as a spa manager for a cruise ship. It was there where he met his future husband. “He was one of the guests on the cruise, and he had me exclusively do all of his treatments. He saw me every day and got almost every treatment we offered!” The two became a couple by the end of the 8-day cruise. “It was like a Titanic moment,” he recalls. After a year of long distance, RC made the move to Grand Rapids to be with his now-husband in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he decided to pursue a career as a fashion designer.

Since his big move, RC received his associate degree in Fashion & Merchandising from Grand Rapids Community College in 2015, interned with big-name designers in Hollywood, and went on to showcase his work in runway shows in San Francisco, Detroit, and even Rome Fashion Week. Finally, his studio RC Caylan Atelier, located at 80 Ottawa Ave, Suite 308, came to life in 2016.

Today, RC crafts trendy creations inspired by modern and classic aesthetics blended with functionality. With exquisite attention to detail and quality, his goal is to make a masterpiece out of every project – whether it’s a special occasion gown, a wedding dress, or anything else. He also emphasizes the importance of intimate consultations to ensure he captures clients’ personalities through his designs. “Everything I do is custom-made for my clients’ wants, needs, and dreams,” he said. “I’m just here to bring that to life.”

AN ENCHANTED EVENING FOR AN ENCHANTING CAUSE

RC Caylan receives a standing ovation at the end of “An Enchanted Evening,” his first solo show

Most recently, RC had his first solo fashion show entitled An Enchanted Evening. The event took place at the JW Marriott Hotel in Downtown Grand Rapids on September 15, 2017. Almost 300 attended. “It was the grand launch of my brand here in Grand Rapids. Before that, not that many people knew who I was and what I do,” said RC. “It was great that not only was my brand recognized on a large scale, but I was also able to give back to the community!” An Enchanted Evening benefited the American Cancer Society and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Grand Rapids.

INTERVIEW WITH RC CAYLAN

Photo by David Specht

How did it feel to plan and execute your first successful solo show (An Enchanted Evening)?

I was overwhelmed! I never expected so many people to come. It was the proudest moment in my career. I’ve been to Rome fashion week and shows in Detroit and San Francisco – and that was all amazing, but to have a fashion show just for me with all the chairs filled up, seeing everyone enjoy themselves was even better!

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

When I make something for my clients and they’re completely happy with it. That’s the greatest satisfaction to me. That’s why I display all the Thank You Cards from my customers on my office wall!

What are the biggest challenges of your job?

Oh, the struggle is real every day! Putting up this business and introducing myself to this community as a designer, and especially as an immigrant, was really hard.

FUN FACT!

One reason RC chose his studio’s location was superstitious. “I’m Filipino and we tend to be superstitious,” he explained. “I like the address. The suite is 308, so it ends with an infinity sign. The street address is 80 Ottawa, so it starts with infinity too. It’s never ending – like a never-ending opportunity!”

What do you love about Grand Rapids?

Without question, the first reason is that my husband is from here. Second, if you’re an immigrant, you’re always told that the USA is the land of dreams, but to me, Grand Rapids is the city of opportunity. It has so much to offer. This city is growing more and more every day, and there’s so much potential for anyone. Third, I love the cold weather.

What are your thoughts on Grand Rapids’ current fashion scene?

It’s coming up! Even though we’re known for being very conservative, there’s definitely potential. I see more and more people every day moving up in the way they dress. I take pride in representing a smaller city like Grand Rapids. As a designer, that’s one of my goals: To show everyone that we can be as trendy as Parisians and New Yorkers.

Why did you decide to become a member of the Chamber?

As a small business owner and also being new in the community, being part of an organization like this is great. You can use their resources to help grow your brand. It’s also a great thing to have to meet new people and make connections. I’m also trying to learn how to make my business more sustainable. Right now, my marketing is all word-of-mouth, which is very helpful, but I need to do something more if I want to grow.

 

We at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce congratulate RC Caylan and wish him continued success!

Do you know any members of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber that deserve a feature? Email suarezs@grandrapids.org and they just might be our next Member Spotlight!

Member Spotlight: Preferred Construction Group

In the heart of the booming construction industry is a company that makes more than just buildings. Troy Yarbrough started Preferred Construction Group (PCG) in 2011 with the vision of providing unique construction and remodeling for the medical and education sectors – all while making a positive impact on the community.

It was not an easy road for PCG to become the established company it is today. Despite Troy’s over two decades of industry experience, it took a big leap of faith to start a business with just one man, one truck, and one idea.

Today, PCG has numerous projects with their major clients, including Spectrum Health and Grand Valley State University, and utilizes many building partners and subcontractors from all over the Grand Rapids region. Their renovated facility, formerly a fire station, is located at 1945 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.

With a team focused on reducing intrusive and disruptive renovations in occupied spaces, as well as providing innovative services to meet all customer needs, PCG has proven to be so much more than “just another construction company.”

BUILDING TOWARDS PROGRESS

The PCG Building

“I like to define PCG as a ‘great company that does great work, which happens to be a minority-owned company,’” Troy explained. Another major vision he had for PCG was to be a minority-owned business that gave other minorities the opportunity to spotlight their abilities in the construction industry. A big believer in giving back to the community, Troy is an active member of the Chamber’s West Michigan Minority Contractors Association, wherein he mentors minority subcontractors.

Troy and his partners, Robert Johnston and Ellis McClain, remain focused on growth, boasting a strong team of 16+ employees. Troy’s dedication to building leaders within the organization is evident through the company’s continuous encouragement for furthering education and awarding certifications.

When he’s not answering emails or running his team, Yarbrough enjoys golfing, spending time with his wife and his three kids, and working on carpentry projects at his home workshop. He also finds time to continue his professional development through the Chamber’s CEO & Management Roundtable Program. This Chamber offering is an intimate, peer-to-peer learning program focused on Executives and CEOs. “The discussion in the program meetings are instrumental in assisting with making wise business decisions,” Troy says.

Q&A WITH TROY YARBROUGH, C.E.O. OF PREFERRED CONSTRUCTION GROUP

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

“It brings me great pleasure to see the smiles on the faces of clients when a project is completed. There is nothing more satisfying than the reassurance of a job well done!”

FUN FACT!

You already know that Troy enjoys golf, but did you know he likes to mix business in the golf course too? He always says, “A bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at the office.”

You’ve been a member of the Chamber since 2012. How has it helped you?

“The Chamber has many beneficial resources which have enabled me to be a better businessman. It has been instrumental in giving small businesses a big voice in the Grand Rapids area. The value for us is knowing that we are not alone but are part of a much larger group of companies that share common goals. I also value the opportunity to meet other business owners. The Chamber can be an excellent vehicle for new businesses to make an impact in the community.”

DID YOU KNOW?

PCG is one of the nominees for the 2017 EPIC Award for Minority-Owned Business of the Year! Learn more about that here.

Can you share one of your company’s working philosophies?

“A motto I have instilled in my team is ‘failure is not an option.’ We may need to work a little bit harder to arrive at the destination, but all situations have a solution.”

What is it like being part of Team PCG?

“As a growing company, we are learning that our people are our best asset! It sounds cliche, but it’s true. We work hard to find and keep good people. We have a quality team of skilled folks who are even better people at heart. Our staff also represents a healthy cross-section of our community. While this is not a pre-qualification for employment, it is something we are mindful of and value as a company.”

PCG team huddle!

What are your goals for the future?

“We want to have a presence in all of the major medical and educational facilities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area. We strive for positive, yet measured growth as we continually seek to serve our clients.”


We at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce congratulate Troy Yarbrough and the rest of the PCG Team in their continued success!

Do you know any members of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber that deserve a feature? Email suarezs@grandrapids.org and they just might be our next Member Spotlight!

Member Spotlight: Lindo Mexico

What do you get when you combine authentic Mexican flavors, great customer service, and live music? The answer: A restaurant that will stay in business over 16 years (and counting).

Located on 1742 28th Street SW, Lindo Mexico prides itself on cooking food that’s not only authentic but also high quality. That’s precisely why their chef arrives early every morning to prepare dishes fresh for their customers. They are most famous for their fresh chips and salsa, refried beans, guacamole, homemade tamales, and horchata. Let’s not forget their uniquely flavored margaritas, like guava, tamarindo con chile and mango con chile (if you like a little spice!)

With an impressive variety of flavors and a strong emphasis on service, it’s no surprise business is good.

Lindo Mexico has been making diners happy since December 2000 and has moved three times in the last five years, continually outgrowing each previous location.

The Tacos Mexicanos Dinner

“I moved from Texas, and I asked around for a place where I can find authentic Mexican cuisine. A friend directed me to Lindo, and I was not disappointed. The service was amazing, the food was phenomenal, the drinks were great, and the prices were super reasonable. This is definitely one of my favorite spots in Grand Rapids. A must-try!” – Sweedie415 via TripAdvisor

A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

Gricelda Mata, Owner of Lindo Mexico

Gricelda Mata, owner of Lindo Mexico, was born in Michoacan, Mexico and migrated to the United States at the age of 11. From working the fields of her hometown to becoming a restaurant owner, Gricelda has worked hard and persevered to become the dynamic entrepreneur she is today.

Wife, mother, and now successful restaurateur, Gricelda attributes Lindo Mexico’s success not only to the food but also the exceptional service. “I am very strict with the hiring,” she says. “We stress customer service at all times.”

Taking care of their staff members is just as essential to Lindo Mexico’s philosophy. “We decided to give our team a personal day off,” said Gricelda, on deciding to close the restaurant on Mondays. “We noticed they were putting in too many hours to keep with the demand of being open seven days a week. This is not good for them emotionally or physically. I need a great team by my side, and the only way to do this is to take care of them.”

It’s often a full house at Lindo Mexico!

Lindo Mexico’s working philosophy is clearly an effective one. Some of the honors they have received over the years are:

Beyond this, Lindo Mexico is heavily involved with community outreach. From donating presents to kids on Children’s Day to hosting the Pink Fiesta to support Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (and more), they are equally committed to helping the community as they are to providing an exceptional meal to diners.

INTERVIEW WITH GRICELDA MATA OF LINDO MEXICO

 

What is the most satisfying thing about owning and operating Lindo Mexico?

“Lindo has been an incredible journey for me. It has given me the opportunity to grow personally, professionally, and find my mission in life. People ask me sometimes why I do community events. I always say: ‘Because I can!’ I just love knowing that I’m creating an impact on someone else’s life.”

 

Share a fun fact about you that people might not know!

“I love going to Lowe’s! Going there is like going to my favorite toy store. My husband taught me to use power tools one day because I wanted to build a piece for the restaurant and now I just love to build things! It’s one of my hobbies.”

 

Why did you become a member of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce?

“I joined mainly to learn more. As my business continues to grow, I need to be on the lookout for new ways to invest in myself and my business. Every stage of a business brings about different challenges and sometimes we aren’t sure how to handle it. This is where we need a group of mentors and experts that have ‘been there, done that.’”

 

How has the Chamber helped you so far?

“It’s given me exposure to a large number of potential clients. We’ve gotten some new catering orders thanks to them. The Chamber also advises me on next steps to take to reach my goals for the restaurant. I recently attended a Luncheon with the famous Chef Robert Irvine, and it was great to be able to meet him and learn from him!”


Do you know any members of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber that deserve a feature? Email suarezs@grandrapids.org and they just might be our next Member Spotlight!