Founded in 1919, Proos Manufacturing is a revered and award-winning business in West Michigan.

The CEO, Amy Proos, is a member of the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) and has been working at the business since 1987, when she was in college. Amy was pursuing studies in the veterinarian field and worked for the summer at her grandfather’s business, but soon found that she enjoyed the manufacturing field. It was 1989 when she received a degree in production, and would later buy the business and then become CEO in 2010.

Manufacturing has seen its ups and downs in the US, and particularly in West Michigan. In the 1980s, Proos was about 80 percent automotive in its manufacturing—and that was to one customer. As the leaders saw the potential for growth and added stability through diversification, they entered the office service industry. By seeking out several small customers in various industrial markets, Proos weathered the downturn and was able to stay alive. Amy recalls, “Office furniture and industrial markets carried us through the recession.”

While doing a promotional event about their success coming out of the downturn, Amy was approached by Bonnie Nawara, the CEO of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW). Bonnie invited Amy to join the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a division of GROW. GROW aims to help people like Amy through providing resources and training that empower them for success. Amy remembers joining AWE and finding that building her network was perhaps the most valuable part of membership. “I realized that I had to build my network, so AWE was a natural fit.”

Now that things in most markets have begun moving again, Proos is growing. When asked what the goals are for the future, Amy said that they are operating out of three different locations and are currently looking to centralize the business and gain the many benefits that come from having one comprehensive campus. They’re also working to change the company culture by encouraging a participatory management style where everyone has a say. Leadership development is important to Proos, too, as they move into the future and plan to grow by over 60 percent.

Proos Manufacturing recently announced that Amy Proos won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® 2013 Award in Michigan & Northwest Ohio. The award recognizes outstanding, high-growth entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. The finalists and winners were selected by an independent panel of judges and honored at a black-tie gala on June 20, 2013, at the MGM Grand, Detroit.

Amy Proos continues to be a valued member of the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, and is also on the CEO Roundtable, a member of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and is involved with the Michigan Small Business Technology and Development Center.