I am so fortunate to have attended two big name conferences with dynamic entrepreneurs, brands and bloggers.
I started brainstorming the creatives within the Grand Rapids region and quickly came up with more than 40 women. I realized, we can stay close to home and have an incredible collaborative conference right here and can embrace the Midwest talent.
I decided to have a few gals over for lunch to discuss and brainstorm on a beautiful, fall afternoon.
Attending was Sara Visser of The GR Guide, and Alex Beaton of The Awesome Mitten. Both Michigan natives that have taken an idea, and built a huge following of Michiganders cheering them on, and wanting their curated advice on where to go, and what to do to have fun. I told them about my idea, of trying to get a group of midwestern entreprenuers together, and they were excited to get together and discuss.
Sara and I met "online" when she started her first lifestyle blog called Project Soiree, and she featured us in a holiday gift guide in December of 2013. She was living right by my old neighborhood in Chicago, and took family trips up north, and I started to pay attention. That was the first of many features Sara did for Leland gal, and within a few years, she was venturing back home to Grand Rapids to be closer to family, and we got the chance to meet in person. When she got here, she saw a huge need for a way for people to find out what she calls "The 411 in the 616". What she does is exactly what we were looking for 6 years ago when we relocated here from Chicago. The GR Guide has been going for about a year, and boy is she doing it well. It's not just because there was a need, it's because Sara makes killer imagery and seeks out the best there is to do! Here are a few little tidbits to get to know Sara a little better:
Favorite Fall Cocktail- Apple Cider Mimosas - A Fall brunch with this cocktail is always a hit!
Favorite Michigan Lookout in the Fall: Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - The views from this lookout are absolutely stunning in the summer and even better in the Fall.
Current Netflix Binge: Gilmore Girls - I'm counting down the days until the new episodes are released on Netflix.
Favorite Apple Orchard to visit: Robinette's - I can't get enough of those donuts #obsessed
Favorite winery to visit: Shady Lane Cellars - My family and I always make this our first stop during our summer vacation up north. I'm a huge fan of their Rose.
Michigan Entrepreneurs you look up to/hope to meet when we pull this event off? Megan Gilger of The Fresh Exchange and Michaela and Ashley of The Bloom Workshop - These girls are such an inspiration!
Reason you are doing what you are doing with your blog: Grand Rapids has so many incredible local restaurants, boutiques and of course breweries (hello beer city). This city has a lot to offer and The GR Guide is focused on showcasing what makes Grand Rapids unique. I love exploring different restaurants, trying a new beer or talking to local businesses owners that are truly making a difference in this city.
Alex Beaton created The Awesome Mitten 5 years ago, and has over 50,000 followers on Instagram, 70% of which are in the state of Michigan. In writing this blog post, I am realizing that her blog featured Leland gal in the same month in 2013, when Sara featured us! Here is the article from December of 2013, just after our first season. Boy have we come a long way! Alex has taken this Michigan blog, and run with it, and has gone viral several times spreading the awesome of Michigan all over. What I realized mostly is that Alex is one smart cookie, and one who sees an opportunity and wants to take action, and quickly.
Here are a few little tidbits to get to know Alex a little better:
Favorite Fall Cocktail: Sazerac (Not really Fall-specific, but it's my Fall drink of choice!)
Favorite Michigan Lookout in the fall: Pyramid Point
Current Netflix Binge: Gilmore Girls (again, because it's SO good)
Favorite Apple orchard to visit.: Spicer's!
Favorite winery to visit: Can I pick two? I love going to The Secret Garden @ Brys Estates & L. Mawby
Michigan Entrepreneurs you look up to/hope to meet when we pull this event off? How on earth could I pick just one?! I think I'm more excited to learn about new Michigan entrepreneurs (and meet them) & discover their amazing projects!
Reason you are doing what you are doing with your site? Michigan has so much to offer and I feel like most residents only tap into a small portion of that. I want to help people discover things to do, and places to explore right in their own backyard (or a quick drive away) in every one of our glorious seasons!
What we all have in common now is a bond to want to pull together something big to help Michigan businesses to ensure we all have our best foot forward with support and the resources that are right here within our reach. We will keep you posted on what comes from this little gathering on my porch!
My own answers!
Favorite Fall Cocktail: Any Bourbon + Apple Combo, to a point. Also had a bit of a crush on Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Beer.
Favorite Michigan Lookout in the Fall: When I moved "up north" in high school, I was on the boys soccer team, which played in the fall. We drove all over the Upper Peninsula, and the top half of the lower peninsula and I will never forget that being the highlight (Pretty much sat on the bench)... Crisp blue skies, deep blue water paired with the reds and oranges of fall.
Current Netflix Binge: Dexter. So dark, and yet so good.
Favorite Apple orchard to visit.: Schwalliers!
Favorite winery to visit: Chateau Fontaine all the way!
Michigan Entrepreneurs you look up to/hope to meet when we pull this event off? All the entrepreneurs, big and small.
Reason I am doing what I am doing with my brand: Initially, it was just to "make it" and have a successful company. What I can see now four years in, is a deep desire to bring my company full circle, and "make it" but with an intention to help give back and get back to my real passion of art education. If I could create opportunities to bring communities together to create art projects together, I will feel the ultimate form of success. Hoping to launch this as my public mission in 2017.