Carol Cain, Free Press Business Columnist
Published 6:00 a.m. ET Feb. 2, 2019 |Updated 7:43 a.m. ET Feb. 2, 2019
Jennifer Kluge looks forward to the day when she doesn’t need to hold a conference tailored to women in business.
“Unfortunately we have not come far enough, and now more than ever, we need to keep these discussions going and making change happen,” said Kluge, president and CEO of MichBusiness.
“The #metoo movement is real and many of the women on our board have experienced similar things with their careers. The discussion needs to continue,” Kluge added.
One panel will feature five women being honored with the 2019 Leadership In The Workplace Award: Camille Walker Banks, executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Wayne State University; Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer for Ally Financial; the Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services; Michele Hodges, president of the Belle Isle Conservancy; and Gretchen Perkins, partner in business development for Huron Capital.
Kluge knows a thing or two about hard work and being successful. She’s been in the trenches since high school helping MichBusiness grow. She began helping her dad, Ed Deeb, who started the Michigan Food & Beverage Association in 1987 and served as CEO. The Michigan Business & Professional Association was added in 1991 (now called MichBusiness). And Kluge started up the National Association for Business Resources in 2001 as a third organization connected to it which hosts the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For competition held in cities across America.
They acquired Corp! Magazine in 2006 and expanded its focus to include the entire state.
“We are in the process of launching a newly enhanced national digital publication too ,” Kluge said.
Their imprint has grown from 20,000 businesses in Michigan a decade ago to more than 150,000 nationally.
Kluge was there when it began as a two-person operation in a rented office space in Warren. After college and working in Chicago, Kluge came home in 1999 to serve as vice president. This allowed Deeb, who started Metro Youth Day 36 years ago, and been involved with Eastern Market and other community initiatives, to spend more time on them.
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“Grow, baby, Grow!” has been Kluge’s mantra.
“I worked my summers in high school helping process memberships and answering the phones. I still see boxes and documents from time to time with my neat and clean high school handwriting on it,” she said with a laugh.
“Today, we have three organizations, one magazine and a national presence with 10 regional programs,” she said. “We have 28 employees (all in Michigan) and are proud of the significance we make in others lives.”
How to move ahead
She has kept focus on not only today’s needs, but the future, too. The organization offers business events, educational webinars, compliance solutions, benchmark data and best practices at events they stage around the country. They are tailored for men and women, entrepreneurs and folks looking to make a difference in the community.
“Each of our brands is constantly evolving,” Kluge said. “MichBusiness now has leadership training, which we acquired from Walsh College, peer business discussion groups, which we also took nationally, over 20 member programs and discounts, several events and workshops.”
She added,“The Best and Brightest was in Detroit only a year when we acquired it and now has two separate selection programs: Best and Brightest in Wellness and Best and Brightest Companies to Work For.”
They hold “Best” events in 10 markets and have members in every state.
Kluge was named CEO of the organization eight years ago and took it over completely five years ago.
“The transition was emotional” she said of the passing of the torch from Deeb to his daughter. “I felt compassion for him and the opportunity he was giving me. It’s hard making an adjustment like that. I know he’s proud he was able to pass the business to his daughter as his legacy and know it is in good hands for the future.”
Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs at 11 a.m. Saturday at a special day/time on CBS 62 due to the Super Bowl on Sunday. See James B. Nicholson. Jim Nicholson, David Nicholson, L. Brooks Patterson and MICHAuto’s Glenn Stevens on Sunday’s show.
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