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Meet the 2018 EPIC Award Finalists!

Meet the 2018 EPIC Award Finalists 7

Entrepreneurial. Progressive. Innovative. Collaborative.

West Michigan has proven time and time again that we are EPIC.

On October 30, 2018, at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Chamber will be hosting the EPIC Awards, where local organizations and professionals are recognized for their outstanding success stories and contributions to West Michigan’s thriving economy.

This year, thirty local entrepreneurs and organizations are in the running as finalists for seven EPIC Award categories: Excellence in Business, Minority-Owned Enterprise of the Year, Non-Profit of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Veteran-Owned Business of the Year, Woman-Owned Enterprise of the Year, and Emerging Leader of the Year. 

Recipients and finalists alike are honored for their support of the community, their growth and innovation in business, and for their work with others as mentors and collaborators.


2018 EPIC Award winners

Emerging Leader of the Year: Alexis Reame, Lake Michigan Credit Union

Woman-Owned Enterprise of the Year: Symplicity Communications

Minority-Owned Enterprise of the Year: Jireh Metal Products

Veteran-Owned Enterprise of the Year: Joost Vapor

Small Business of the Year: Micro Visions

Nonprofit of the Year: Safe Haven Ministries

Excellence in Business: The Mitten Brewing Co.

And the 2018 EPIC Award finalists are…

Meet the 2018 EPIC Award Finalists

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Meet the 2018 EPIC Award Finalists 6

Courtney Failer, Warner Norcross + Judd

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Courtney Failer is dedicated to her community and is extremely passionate about creating a culture of kindness, respect, and success for ALL. Courtney is committed to giving back and is involved in leadership positions in a variety of organizations including Festival of the Arts, UrbanGirlGR, American Heart Association, Girls on the Run, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and is a Certified Tourism Ambassador for the city of Grand Rapids. Courtney has volunteered for many local organizations including Grand Rapids Circle Theatre, Habitat for Humanity, Heart of West Michigan United Way, Relay for Life, Well House, Kids Food Basket, and many more. She is a four-time hair donor for cancer patients.

Courtney is the Community Relations Liaison at Warner Norcross + Judd and works with nonprofits across the state and assists in a variety of diversity initiatives for the firm. Courtney is a Michigan native but spent a few years living in New York City putting her B.A.in Theatre from Western Michigan University to work. Wanting to be closer to family, she and her husband moved back to Michigan and enjoy traveling, the outdoors, and all the benefits city living has to offer. Courtney believes we should all strive to leave behind a world that is better than the one we entered, and that community involvement and inclusiveness is a critical component in this mission.

Rachel Bartels, Hello West Michigan

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As the Program Manager for Hello West Michigan, Rachel handles all marketing and communication strategy for the organization. She helps educate employers and prospective candidates about the region. Rachel also manages the internship program at Hello West Michigan. Besides teaching the basics of digital marketing and integrated communications, she enjoys the process of preparing her interns for the transition from student to young professional. As a community volunteer, Rachel serves as a co-chair for AQ Women’s Connection, a women’s focused networking group she helped co-found for alumnae and friends of her alma mater, Aquinas College.

Prior to joining Hello West Michigan, Rachel handled the marketing for Aquinas College Career and Counseling Services and worked at Celebration! Cinema as a marketing intern. She was named one of Corp! Magazine’s Most Valuable Millennials in 2015 and Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 in 2018.

Alexis Reame, Lake Michigan Credit Union

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Alexis Reame serves as Community Relations Manager at Lake Michigan Credit Union where her role includes developing community engagement programs, giving campaigns and corporate philanthropy. Alexis’ previous experience includes working as the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations at Grand Valley State University and the Program & Events Manager at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, GR8 Girls, a program of the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, and the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. In addition to serving in these roles, Alexis serves as an Adjunct Professor for the Hospitality and Tourism Management department at GVSU. She received her Master’s in Communication and her Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management, both from Grand Valley State University. Go LAKERS!

Dave Nitkiewicz, Experience Grand Rapids

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Dave Nitkiewicz, CTA is the Specialty Markets Sales Manager at Experience Grand Rapids. He currently sits on the National Tour Association’s Board of Directors as a Destination Marketing Organization Director, the United States Travel Association’s Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations planning committee, the Kent County Hotel Advisory Committee, the Goal Two Alliance Board for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., and is an active member of Circle Michigan – a partner of Pure Michigan.

Dave got his start at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest and previously worked in various roles for AHC + Hospitality at the Courtyard by Marriott Grand Rapids Downtown, the JW Marriott Grand Rapids, and the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton. Previously, Dave worked in Public Relations at Truscott Rossman and graduated with a BS in Advertising and Public Relations from Grand Valley State University and an AAS in Occupational Studies from Washtenaw Community College. Dave regularly volunteers with both the Advertising & Public Relations and Hospitality and Tourism Management Schools at GVSU, mentoring the next leaders of this community.

Shayna Harris, SLSA Creative Agency

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Shayna Harris has the ability to understand the millennial culture and the generation’s need for something innovative while appealing to a larger audience. She has thrived and ascended in both corporate and independent creative atmospheres. Succeeding behind-the-scenes and organizing production chaos, Shayna has functioned in many roles for national brands, including  Creative Strategist, Event Producer, Client Manager, and Corporate Campaign Consultant.

Resilient and ambitious, Shayna is a recognized, millennial leader not only due to her entrepreneurial efforts as Founder of S.L.S.A. Creative Agency, but also for her ability to impact diverse cultures, generate new ideas, curate events, and strategize for future brand success.

Shayna has practiced her devotion to the community by curating events such as Kairos Fest (a family-friendly festival powered to bring neighborhood revitalization through the celebration of the arts, local food, activities, and more).

As a Campaign Manager, Shayna dedicates her services to better expand the relevancy of local brands, creative artists, social topics, venue, and other creative entrepreneurs/businesses. Shayna graduated with a degree in Advertising & Public Relations from Grand Valley State University.

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