The 2019 West Michigan Woman People's Choice Brilliance Award

BAPCA19 Social1 UPDATEVoting is now closed! The West Michigan Woman Brilliance Awards is entering its 3rd year of celebrating the unique talents of women and men in our community. For the first time ever, the public will select one honoree from the 30 finalists for the People's Choice Brilliance Award. The winner will be announced on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at the West Michigan Woman Brilliance Awards where they will receive their award and recognition.

• To vote, please provide your first and last name and email address
• You may only vote 1x for one person
• Voting opens February 28th and closes at 5pm on March 14th

Anyone who votes by March 5th will be entered to win a pair of tickets to the International Women's Day event sponsored by West Michigan Woman and WZZM TV on March 8 at 20 Monroe Live.

 Enjoy reading the bio snippets below that were taken directly from the nominators' submissions.

Voting is now closed!



Executive Director
Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors
Brilliant Social Change Agent

In Amy’s 20 years of leadership, alongside a community who has rallied with her, she has uplifted and amplified the voices of the burn community, a group that has often been dismissed or underestimated. Her staunch support for those in the burn community, and her unwavering commitment and dedication to advocating for fire prevention, has changed the lives of thousands.

Director of Organizational Development & Leadership Training
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
Brilliant Emerging Leader

Emily is the top nursing recruiter and now director of Organizational Development and Leadership Training at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. As head recruiter for the nursing division, she helped increase the number of inpatient nurses by over 230 percent and decreased nursing turnover. Emily has been asked to speak at numerous events across the country about recruitment and retention efforts.

Executive Director
Scratch Branding and Funky Buddha Yoga
Brilliant Connector

Anna is generous of spirit, committed to community and a champion of others. She created the West Side Artists Project in order to connect the west side business community with area artists. When Anna learned about Drag Brunch and its efforts to help end teenage homelessness, Anna united members across the community to support the effort.

CEO & President
Brilliant Woman of the Year

To start as a project manager on a team of six people, to eventually running a company of over 200 people with offices in GR, MN and Detroit is amazing. Meredith somehow manages to personally connect with everyone on staff and yet step back and make solid decisions for the business.

Executive Director
Mental Health Foundation of WM
Brilliant Woman of the Year

Christy has worked in mental health for over 30 years in West Michigan. Her life’s mission is to educate people about mental illness and reduce stigma. Christy is the creator and founder of the Michigan Health Foundation’s be nice. Program, which is a mental health education, bully and suicide prevention initiative that creates positive, cultural change through simple, daily actions.

Brilliant Best Supporting Man

As a male ally to women and gender equity, Mike understands the significance of his role as COO to enable other male leaders to be advocates and champions of gender equity, where male leaders step up beside women to fix the system, not women. As an ally, he treats gender equity as a business priority and reminds leaders it’s not about setting quotas, it’s about setting priorities.

Founder and CEO
Shannon Cohen Inc.
Brilliant Connector

As the Founder and Principal and Shannon Cohen, Inc., she offers speaking engagements in areas such as emotional intelligence, and equity and inclusion that transform the lives of leaders. Also, she is the co-founder of Sisters Who Lead, which recognizes and uplifts women.

Founder & Addiction Medicine Specialist
The Dettmann Center P.C.
Brilliant Tenacity

This Emergency Medicine doctor became disabled with rheumatoid arthritis in 2004 then in 2013 found a way to re-enter the workforce, re-gain her medical license, become board certified in Addiction Medicine, establish her own practice and personally commit to doing what she could to help educate the public about opioids, mental illness and addiction.

Founder & Chief Brand Officer
Maria Erazo Enterprises
Brilliant Entrepreneur

Maria began her journey working factory jobs and learning English, but she did not want to settle there, she knew she had so much more to give. Through her determination, grit and perseverance, Maria became the owner and #1 selling agent in the county of a Farmers Insurance Agency. She now owns Maria Erazo Enterprises, where she supports small business owners.

West Michigan Sports Commission
Brilliant Best Supporting Man

Mike oversees the West Michigan Sports Commission, which has one male and six female employees. For a sports industry organization this is very rare. It’s obvious that Mike is a champion for females in the work force, as well in sports. Notably, several of the female team members serve in leadership roles.

Co-Founder and Managing Member
Avanti Law Group
Brilliant Tenacity

Raquel immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. When she enrolled in law school, she could not speak English and would record her classes and translate them every night. She went on to work for one of the largest law firms in West Michigan and later purchased Avanti Law Group, as well as a tax consulting business and real estate company.

Director of Public Policy
Alzheimer’s Association
Brilliant Champion of Service

Among Jen’s service achievements is serving as a critical member of the team of advocates responsible for the successful passage of Michigan’s smoke free air law, which has protected millions of people from the devastating health effects of secondhand smoke. Jen is motivated by the opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of the greatest number of people (and animals) possible.

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge
Brilliant Best Supporting Man

In a field where it takes intentional efforts to extinguish institutional barriers to women advancing in the ranks, Bill has been that standout champion for the achievement of women lawyers. Through his service for two terms as CEO of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, he has prioritized and advocated for equitable representation of women within the firm and the community.

Founder and Photographer
Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique
Brilliant Social Change Agent

Mod Bettie is an empowering photography studio. Elise empowers women to love themselves for the beautifully imperfect person they are. Through #squadbettie, the online community she created, she is able to help build a safe place for love, acceptance, empowerment and community for over 1,300 women and that numbers grows every day.

McCahill Group
Brilliant Woman of the Year

Peaches has a proven track record of developing and operating profitable health and fitness programs and spas in a variety of corporate and private environments. Her passion for excellence is instilled in her growing organization, which consists of approximately 80% women. She comes from a place of "yes", because of her passion for people and resolve to make positive change.

Communications and Development Coordinator
Girls on the Run Kent and Muskegon counties
Brilliant Champion of Service

For 10 years, Beth worked with people with disabilities at Paws With a Cause, where she helped individuals find a furry "partner" to give them more independence. Most recently at Girls on the Run, she helped grow the annual Celebration 5K event into a true Community Celebration, empowering the girls to extend their healthy lifestyle choices to their families and communities.

Vice President Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer
Trinity Health - Mercy Health Saint Mary’s
Brilliant Mentor

As a nurse executive, Liz cultivates relationships with education partners to improve nursing curriculum, identify pipelines for new talent and secure development resources for established nurses. Liz was a national pioneer in developing one of the nation’s first RN Residencies. She has made a lasting impression with the hundreds of nurses that are now faithfully serving our community.

Inclusiveness & Diversity Sr. Program Manager Corporate Inclusiveness & Diversity
Herman Miller
Brilliant Connector

Ann has become a trusted resource and “go-to” connector within Herman Miller as well as the diversity and inclusion space in the West Michigan community. Ann is always making connections of people, projects, initiatives, etc. as she knows nothing great is created in a silo. She believes deeply in the work of diversity and inclusion and making our community better.

Vice President
Atomic Object
Brilliant Team Player

Although she is rarely the public face of projects, Mary skillfully brings her workplace experience to bear on a wide range of initiatives at Atomic Object and in the broader community. For example, she used her experience as a breastfeeding working mom in the early ‘90s to craft Atomic's generous support for parental leave, breastfeeding-friendly spaces and part-time schedule options.

Chief Medical Officer/Internal Medicine
Cherry Health
Brilliant Team Player

Dr. Pelkey is the biggest advocate of her patients and staff, frequently going above and beyond the call of duty. She is passionate about serving the community who are often unable to access basic, essential health care services. She is collaborative, never makes decisions in a vacuum, and she listens and truly cares about her staff and patients.

CKO Kickboxing
Brilliant Entrepreneur

In 2015, Shelby decided to go all-in on entrepreneurism. She left her job as a marketing executive and started a commercial real estate practice. At the same time, she began the process to buy a fitness kickboxing franchise. She embraced this challenge even as a newly divorced single mom of two young children. Today her real estate practice is thriving and has added a second kickboxing studio.

Founder and Lead Publicist
Happy PR
Brilliant Tenacity

Like most budding young entrepreneurs, Emily has encountered everyday challenges of launching and growing a business. In the midst of this, she was dealt a devastating life challenge that few could imagine. Emily was instantly thrust into the situation that made her realize just how fleeting and chaotic life can be. Those realizations shaped her approach to life and her business, Happy PR.

Fund Development & Communications
Hispanic Center of Western Michigan
Brilliant Emerging Leader

At the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Daniela leads efforts to create a new fund development department. She organizes countless events that are culturally inclusive such as the impressive three-day Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival, which has raised thousands of dollars. She also shines a light on the often unpleasant immigrant

Mixed Staffing & Recruiting
Brilliant Emerging Leader

Sara wanted to create a staffing company that would allow people from all backgrounds to be able to come in and get a job without any discrimination. Sara started her company, Mixed Staffing and Recruiting, in 2012 with just one client. Seven years later, she has staffed over 2,000 employees throughout the West Michigan area.

President & CEO
Kennari Consulting
Brilliant Entrepreneur

Realizing that nonprofit organizations needed customized, “nuts and bolts” fundraising support as well as campaign coaching, Sandi formed Kennari Consulting in 2007. Today, as one of the largest full-service fundraising consulting firms in Michigan, Sandi and her 14 staff members serve more than 90 nonprofit organizations annually.

AM Content Director & Anchor
Brilliant Team Player

This fall, Meredith transitioned from an anchor/reporter at WZZM to a management role in addition to her anchor responsibilities. The job was created just for her and her unique abilities to manage a team. Meredith’s focus has shifted to equipping others, creating a healthy team culture and triumphing success as the team works towards a common goal. Her positive outlook and bubbly spirit affirm all those around her.

Principal & Creative Director
The Image Shoppe
Brilliant Mentor

Karen has been instrumental in The Image Shoppe’s path to be more inclusive and its support of women’s professional growth. She generously used her wisdom and professional experiences to mentor five women to be future leaders and, more importantly, to achieve their professional goals. As a small company with relatively low turnover, her efforts add significant value.

Urban Core Collective
Brilliant Social Change Agent

As the leader of the Urban Core Collective, Beca works tirelessly to unify communities of color and improve outcomes. Under her leadership, UCC strives to empower people and neighborhoods to overcome the effects of systemic racism through equal access to: education prosperity, economic prosperity and the power of influence.

Founding CEO & Executive Director
Kid’s Food Basket
Brilliant Champion of Service

Bridget's work at Kid's Food Basket has filled a need in our community and beyond and was only achieved because of her tenacity and unwillingness to give up. She continues to push the envelope for food equity and kids' rights in order to end childhood hunger.

Brilliant Mentor

As a female entrepreneur in the male dominated technology industry, she is continually breaking barriers and changing stereotypes of what women are able to do in the construction field. She develops, coordinates and assists in determining education offerings within the industry and works to provide opportunities for individuals entering the custom electronics industry.


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