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Just Like Dad

The Cekola’s are not what you’d call a typical family. And they know it.

“Everyone looks at us like we’re weird,” laughs Bill Cekola.

If you’re from Kalamazoo, you likely know, or know of, the family. In the off chance that you don’t know them, perhaps you’re familiar with their businesses? They include include Imperial Beverage, Jac’s Cekola’s Pizza, and Chocolatea. You see, what makes the Cekolas atypical is their veritable business empire.

Rev Up Your Team’s Engine

For many, the thought of team building exercises conjures youthful images of camp counselors leading campers down to the lake or human resources managers struggling to stir up excitement with clichéd activities like the trust fall, Two Truths and a Lie, or game of capture the flag.

More sophisticated options have cropped up, even going as far as “extreme team building” in the form of simulated plane crashes or wilderness survival challenges. However, if you’re looking for something more accessible—and less terrifying—you may find what you need right around the corner.

A Conversation with Dan Martin

AS A VIDEOGRAPHER WHO FOUNDED HIS OWN COMPANY, HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR ROLE?
I’m like a rainmaker in training. I’ve shifted from doing things to making things happen. I still am actively involved in almost every key project in some way, but sometimes it’s oversight.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO DO THIS?
Coming up on Christmas time during eighth grade, my parents asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” I said, “I really want a video camera.” They said, “That’s it’s way too expensive.” The one I was looking at was $750. My mom made a deal. She said, “We will do this, if this is your present for your birthday and for Christmas.” My Aunt Ellen, always a very close family member to our family, went in half with them.

LEADER2LEADER: Deborah Jackson

Define leadership.
Teachers, individually or collectively, influencing others to improve teaching and learning for students.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
Linda Comer, my child’s elementary principal. Her focus was on building relationships with all the students.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Being a teacher-leader, you have to first facilitate the increase of student learning and achievement. As an individual teacher, you have to be willing to take some risks.

LEADER2LEADER: Rick Searing

Define leadership.
The ability to get a group to come together around a goal.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My wife has always had the ability to keep me focused and to be able to separate the things that are really important and non-negotiable from the things that might seem like an attractive option in the spur of the moment—an option that maybe in the short term looked great, but in the long term might not be where you really want to end up. One example I can think of is when we first moved to Michigan. We relocated from Arizona in 2002 to Kalamazoo. As I was looking for different positions, there were a few that seemed like in the short run they would be good positions to have, but in the long term it wouldn’t have led to the kind of success that I think we’ve had since we moved here. (She) pointed those kinds of things out to me.

AROUND (269): We’ve got spirit, yes we do

For Andrew and Kathleen Widner, opening a small business in Kalamazoo seemed like the next step in their lives.

“We were seeing Downtown Kalamazoo growing and were really inspired by that,” says Kathleen Widner. “We started thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to be a part of positive things happening there?’”

With backgrounds in finance and marketing and public relations, respectively, the long-time residents of Kalamazoo possessed the groundwork to be successful business owners. For additional guidance, they connected with the Small Business Development Center at Western Michigan University and Downtown Kalamazoo Inc.’s retail incubator program.