Stephanie Elhart is director of communications at NewNorth Center for Design in Business, a nonprofit business and educational organization in Holland. The center offers classes of varying lengths. Twenty percent of participants are designers. The rest want to learn to think like designers to launch new companies or reinvigorate old ones. Elhart, who earned a degree in graphic design from the University of Michigan, worked in marketing, communication and business development services — including at Johnson Controls Inc. and fuel-D — before helping launch NewNorth in 2009. She sees this role as the synthesis of all her prior experiences.
Brad Davis is president of Industrial Woodworking Corporation in Zeeland, but he says he’s first and foremost a designer. He’s designed and redesigned a lot of office and residential furniture, but says these days he’s most excited about the furniture he’s designing under the Knú brand for hospitals. La-Z-Boy Contract Furniture purchased the Knu brand at NeoCon 2011, but it’s all still designed, developed and manufactured at IWC.
Industrial designer Tom Newhouse has been committed to environmentally sensitive design for 40 years — long before the word “sustainability” was coined. Committed to “walking the talk,” Newhouse designed and constructed his own passive solar, earth-sheltered home and studio on Grand Rapids’ west side when he was only 28. He’s been driving hybrids since they came on the market, but is more proud of the fact that his commute to the office is 13 stairs. Newhouse is a frontrunner in West Michigan’s green movement in the areas of office furniture, LED lighting, kitchen cabinetry and appliances.
Joseph Jeup is a craftsman-turned-designer of heirloom-quality modern residential furnishings. About 90 percent of Joseph Jeup Inc.’s made-to-order pieces are purchased for executive homes (think the wealthiest 1 percent). The rest are for lobbies and VIP suites at upscale hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. Many of Jeup’s past designs have been for private labels. This year, he’s expanding his own line as a way to stabilize workflow at his manufacturing facility near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
It was faith and family that inspired John Loeks, president of Celebration Cinemas, to put his business connections to use for children in the West African nation of Sierra Leone.
For a relatively small company, Founders Bank & Trust does a lot for the community. Every year the bank selects a handful of charities to highlight and offers ways for employees to get involved.
The innovation sector of Michigan’s economy continues to improve from recession levels, according to an index developed by iLabs, the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Innovation Research.
Working with MOPs for free doesn’t sound like gratifying work. However, what Jesper Dinesen, owner of the web development firm <engine/>, did for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs) is a far cry from scrubbing floors.