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Stories to inspire you.

Profile-Katie KThe sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it's a buyer's market, thus is the daily livelihood of Katie Karczewski. As a wife, mother, business owner, volunteer, survivor and friend, Katie K. embodies optimism and change similar to the city she has called home for 31 years.

Business is booming for Katie, who was one of six investors that helped open the Grand Rapids Keller Williams Realty franchise in 2000. Now, with 155 agents in the its Grand Rapids location, the business is number one in closed volume through the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, and Katie is thrilled.

"Twelve years ago, people would say to me, Keller who? Why are you doing this? But in 2011, in 12 years, we're the number one," she says. "I think I've had success in real estate in large part because of my work ethic and support system between friends, family, most importantly my husband. It takes a team to be successful in business or in your life."

Although Katie attributes the success to business savvy and the quality of continued education for agents, her perseverance throughout life's hurdles is surely a part of the exponential growth rate her company has seen. Last year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured six months of chemotherapy. Although the treatments required a commitment of time every third Monday, Katie would not let them keep her from her work, her passion.

"On Monday of chemo, I would feel bad. By the end of the week, I would feel bad. The next week (would be better). The week after that I would feel good. Then I'd start all over again," she said.

Katie was reluctant to share her cancer news with anyone, but now, in 100 percent remission, she knows she can use her experience to help others.

"Just like building a business, you have to build yourself to a level of comfort," she says. "I think as women, we need to share these stories with one another. We never know what is going to come into our lives."

Strength came from those around her, family, friends, even her wig-maker. Grand Rapids is a wealth of resources for women experiencing cancer, says Katie who lost all of her hair, including eye brows and eye lashes.CAVAN  KATIE

Profile-Melody CroppedAs a mother of three, Melody VanderWeide knows keeping kids active, entertained and stimulated takes variety. She put her multitasking know-how to good use in founding the ever popular, ever updating website for all things kid-friendly, GRKids.com.

Profile-Deana Bromlow CroppedDeana Brownlow’s journey to becoming a business owner began with a tiny footstep—but oddly enough, it wasn’t her foot. It was her young son’s footprint that was the impetus for Captured in Clay

Profile-Sarah Blinkley-TowWhen Sara Binkley-Tow had her first child ten years ago, her initial intent was to be a working mother.

Dani Vilella President of NOW GRAs an entrepreneur, volunteer, and community organizer, Dani Vilella, Public Affairs Manager for Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan, is passionate about the social climate of West Michigan.

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