As we end this year at Grand Haven Area Public Schools, we are not only celebrating our current graduating class, but also recognizing examples of our successful graduates in the latest issue of Spotlight. Although I am not a GHAPS graduate, all of this reflection has reminded me of one experience in my youth that has directly impacted my success — and it has a local connection.
You've probably heard of Mackinaw Kite Co. and MACkite, which opened its Grand Haven location in the late 1980s. The original shop was in Mackinaw City — and that's where I first met brothers Bob and Steve Negen, when I was only 9 years old. The Negen brothers gave me my very first job — flying kites in the park adjacent to their shop. It was an easy job with simple directions: “If someone asks where you got your kites, point them toward the shop."
Looking back, it was certainly a great way to keep a curious boy from being underfoot in the shop. But over the next eight years, this kite flyer grew into a salesperson and ultimately into a store manager during my final summers of high school. Along the way, I learned how to be self-directed and a leader.
Bob and Steve gave me an amazing opportunity, the room to grow and the chance to make mistakes. I still remember — and use — the lessons from all those experiences today. (I even remember them mentioning that the kid working for them in the Grand Haven shop was also programming the Musical Fountain!)
While I did not grow up to be an entrepreneur or own a retail business, I did get a front-row seat to the world of work and business in those formative years. It's a reminder to me that a whole community has an impact on our success, often in ways that we did not plan or may not recognize for years to come.
Bottom line, the Negen brothers were doing what was best for their business — and that included engaging the next generation. I know it won’t take our current graduates 30 years to say this (at least, I hope not), but Bob and Steve: Thank you for keeping a young boy busy and giving a teenager his first chance at leadership! The lessons I learned and the skills I developed absolutely helped shape my success.
About the writer: Andy Ingall is superintendent for the Grand Haven school district.