What do you get when you combine the stamina of a security officer with the savvy of a business degree? An entrepreneur. Although he studied criminal justice at Grand Valley State University, Rob McCarty, ’96 found his true passion in promotion and marketing. McCarty took the best of both degrees and applied it toward starting a business. His wife, Karen Tracey, ‘88, already an entrepreneur, and Troy Best, ’95, an established designer, opened the Image Shoppe in 2003 in the (at the time) up-and-coming East Hills neighborhood.
Today, East Hills is thriving with local businesses, restaurants, and nonprofit organizations. No stranger to nonprofits, McCarty has worked with close neighbors West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Wealthy Street Business Alliance, and Green Grand Rapids. He is also one of the proud founding members of Local First, an organization dedicated to the support and promotion of local business ownership in the Midwest.
In 2012, McCarty was awarded as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders and with the Joan Wolfe Award from WMEAC for his long-standing commitment to the organization. In his most recent project with WMEAC, he promoted the BetterBuildings for Michigan program which works to improve the energy efficiency in homes throughout the Grand Rapids area.
McCarty’s enthusiasm for local business and community stems from the same drive that gained him two internships while studying at Grand Valley. In 1995, he worked with West Grand, a nonprofit organization that strives to unite local businesses and residents to improve the vitality of their neighborhood. During his internship with West, McCarty ran the Auto Theft Prevention Authority program. Then in his senior year, he joined the Herman Miller security team and saw just how successful local business could be.
The experiences McCarty had throughout his educational career strengthened his character and gave him a high expectation of success. Seeing the investment that residents and businesses have put into the area gives McCarty confidence in West Michigan. He hopes to keep growing and improving along with the neighborhood and sees nothing but positive things in the future.
Updated December 2012