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Larson named finalist for women in business honors

Marie Havenga • Mar 6, 2019 at 3:00 PM

Local sweet treats entrepreneur Kelly Larson has been chosen as a finalist in the Grand Rapids Business Journal's Top Women Owned Businesses competition.

Larson is one of eight contestants in the $1.5 million to $3 million annual sales category.

“It's certainly humbling to have your name thrown in the hat,” said Larson, who owns four area ice cream and candy stores and Fortino's in downtown Grand Haven.

The winners will be named March 19 during the publication's Women Who Mean Business event at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. The gathering includes discussion panels and a noon awards luncheon.

Larson was also nominated two years ago, but she did not win.

“It's quite a surprise to be nominated again this year,” she said.

Larson said she has “no idea” who nominated her. However, she suspects it was Chamber of Commerce President Joy Gaasch.

“I asked and she said 'no,'” Larson said. “The Business Journal is not exactly on our normal radar.”

In 1985, Larson started working at Temptations, a business that her parents, Ray and Diane Murray, purchased in 1989. She sold life insurance for a year, then returned to work for her parents when they purchased Skoops in 1993.

“Over the next 10 years, we had owned a T-shirt and candy store on Chinook Pier,” Larson said. “As we were running the business and growing, we decided to make our own ice cream, which we did out of a back room at Skoops. In 1999, we decided to merge our candy making and ice cream operation into what is now known as Sweet Temptations.”

Sweet Temptations was launched in the strip mall on the southwest corner of Beacon Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, before being moved to its current location in Grand Landing.

“Over the years, we transitioned the company from my parents to myself, although they still have a very active role,” Larson said.

In 2000, Larson purchased the Front Porch in Spring Lake. Four years ago, she added Fortino's to her business portfolio.

Larson graduated from Spring Lake High School in 1988 and Northwestern University in 1992, and earned an MBA from Grand Valley State University in 1995.

Larson said she's greatly honored by the nomination, but she hopes the day will come when female business owners are simply thought of as business owners.

“The beauty of this nomination is it does recognize women who care a lot about their communities,” she said. “To be part of that class is fantastic. I would like us all to be recognized. It's still a little sad that we have to classify ourselves as women-owned businesses. Hopefully, over the next 10 or 15 years, we can lose that stigma.”

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