Entrepreneur Spotlights

Stélios Alvarez

“While at CEI, I reveled in the interactions that I had with small business owners, entrepreneurs, and aspiring entrepreneurs,” Stelios Alvarez said. “The energy and mindset exuded is one that I aspire to channel in my daily work.”

Alvarez worked at the Richard M. And Helen DeVos  Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University as the editor-in-chief of Neu Magazine from 2010-2011. He earned an MBA from GVSU in 2010 while working for Michigan’s Small Business Development Center. He currently works as the Marketing Performance and Insights Manager for LEGO at the company’s branch in Munich, Germany.

Adam Ingraham

Adam Ingraham has no plans to be a small business owner, but he is able to apply  entrepreneurial skills that he gleaned from his time as a graduate assistant at GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) to his current role as a product marketing specialist at Steelcase.

“The entrepreneurial idea– fast prototyping, failing fast, iterations, getting a messy plan down, test it, see if it works, if not, scrap it and move on to the next thing–all of those principals really come in handy,” Ingraham said.

Mike Schulz

Mike Schulz brought his skills as a graphic designer to Grand Valley’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) in 2008 during his sophomore year when he began assisting with efforts to market what at the time was an entrepreneurship minor and certificate.

Schulz was hired as an office assistant when CEI was expanding beyond their capacity as an academic center. As time progressed, and CEI sought to be a hub for entrepreneurship beyond campus and connect with West Michigan, Schulz transitioned into a role as primary marketer and designer.

Austin Dean

Austin Dean worked as the graduate assistant at GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) while earning an M.B.A. in Finance. Dean has applied his entrepreneurial skills to a number of diverse startups–a failed computer repair service,  widely successful storytelling platform Failure:Lab, and a software company that collects data for social impact. He also helped write the grant that launched influential business incubator GR Current, where he currently works as the Director of Business Operations.

Catherine Fox

Multi­generation entrepreneur Catherine Fox has always enjoyed arts and crafts.

“I wanted to be creative in my freetime,” Fox said. “My family and friends were always encouraging me.”

Fox spent much of her life working on her family’s farm where she learned about sales and customer service. As a teenager, she took an interest in jewelry making and sold her wares at a farm stand.She turned her passion into an entrepreneurial venture in 2009 when she launched www.eclecticdesignsbycatherine.com as a platform to sell not just her jewelry, but paintings, drawings and other crafts.

Alaina Clarke

Alaina Clarke is able to bring an entrepreneurial mindset to her dream job as the Conference Program Manager for the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG).

“It’s one of the main reasons I was hired,” Clarke said. “Not only because of my metalsmith background and my non-profit background, but it was because I had an entrepreneurship background…most of my entrepreneurship background comes from CEI.”

Justin Herd

“What have you done entrepreneurially that you think will help you out in this job?”

This, GVSU graduate Justin Herd says, is a question you will likely get asked during a job interview.

“That was the second question of my interview,” Herd said.

Lucky for him, Herd has quite an entrepreneurial background; during his time at GVSU, he created the OneBowl, a microwave safe bowl with a built in strainer and snap on lid. He raised nearly $60,000 for manufacturing on Kickstarter.

Rob Conley

Rob Conley was a member of GVSU’s CEO club in 2005 when he started Beanilla, now the largest online seller of vanilla in the country. Conley was at a CEO Club International Conference in Chicago when he met another CEO Club member from Australia who gave him a handful of vanilla beans imported from Papua New Guinea. Conley turned around and sold the beans on eBay for $6 a piece, far under the usual retail value.

Luciano Hernandez

Luciano Hernandez is part of the team behind Tiger Sun Tech, a startup that aims to manufacture wireless, solar powered, easy to install mounted lights geared toward the auto industry.

“Right now, if you want to add lights to your vehicle, you have to drill holes in it and mess around with the wires,” says Hernandez.

Michael Kurley

“This journey has been incredibly emotional,” said Michael Kurley, CEO of Soletics.

What started as an extra credit project has taken Kurley on a three year path to developing a self heating glove designed to bring relief to people with Raynaud’s disease. Those who suffer from Raynaud’s experience an interruption of blood flow to their fingers, toes, nose and/or ears, which causes painful tingling, throbbing or numbness.

Jordan Vanderham

Jordan Vanderham has dreamed of owning his own green company ever since he was a kid.

“I would call all of these big companies and say, ‘can I have a solar panel?’”  Vanderham said. “And some of them would help me out, so I had solar panels all over my house, and I just started making them and took it from there.”

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