Alumnus says MBA helped him find new opportunity after COVID closed his business

Vince Lambert.
Vince Lambert, '20
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

Vince Lambert said he instinctively knew what his next step should be after the effects of COVID-19 caused him to close his Grand Rapids brewery and restaurant.

“Operating Creston Brewery was an incredible experience and the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Lambert. “When COVID stopped our revenue in its tracks in March 2020, we had to close the doors. Within days, I contacted the Seidman College of Business.”

Lambert was looking to finish a master’s degree in business administration he had almost completed at GVSU before opening Creston Brewery. He started the MBA program in 2011 after serving in the Peace Corps for two years in Moldova.

A native of South Carolina, Lambert landed in Grand Rapids after meeting his wife, Cailin Kelly, who was also serving in the Peace Corps. Kelly, ’07, grew up in Grand Rapids and earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Grand Valley. 

The couple settled in Grand Rapids in 2011 and, in 2016, co-founded Creston Brewery. Lambert dropped out of the graduate program to focus on running the business. 

Vince Lambert.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

“I was able to achieve so much and meet so many wonderful people over the four years of running the business,” he said. “The MBA classes I took gave me the skills and confidence to talk to people and ask for money, and the advanced understanding of how to build a budget and launch and operate a business.”

Lambert said his graduate studies even helped him navigate how to wind down the business after COVID forced them to close the doors. But, he was just a few classes short of earning an MBA, so he re-enrolled in the program.

“I said to myself, ‘You’ve lost a business. Where are you going to go?’ I knew the safest and smartest option for me was to invest in myself and in education. Grand Valley was the best place to do that, so I jumped right back in without hesitation,” he said. 

Lambert finished the MBA program in August 2020 and was hired in October as the financial controller of Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. in Grand Rapids.

Vince Lambert.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

“Ferris Coffee & Nut is a wonderful, family-owned business with a terrific company culture,” he said. “I’m fortunate to work with the president of the company on a daily basis. There is no doubt in my mind, I wouldn’t be in this position if I didn’t have my MBA.” 

Lambert said he is thankful to have the flexibility to pivot his career during a pandemic that has affected so many people in very different ways. He also said it’s possible Creston Brewery will reopen this year under new ownership.

Now, Lakers for a Lifetime, Cailin has returned to Grand Valley in the Graduate Teacher Certification Program; Lambert said he shares his Laker pride at every opportunity.

“I value education over everything. I think no matter where we are in life, whether we are in our 20s, 30s or 60s, education can make us more whole and a better person,” he said. “Education has a lifetime value.”