Creator of online network for women veterans wins GVSU Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award

Zaneta Adams holding award.
Zaneta Adams, president and founder of WINC: For All Women Veterans, was named Lakeshore Innovator of the Year for 2021.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

The creator of an online network for women veterans to connect and lower the rate of military suicide won the 2021 Lakeshore Innovator of the Year Award, presented by Grand Valley's Muskegon Innovation Hub.

Zaneta Adams, president and founder of WINC: For All Women Veterans, was named the winner from five finalists during a ceremony July 29 at The Hub.

In 2017, Adams created the Military Sisterhood Initiative, an online/app network platform for women veterans all over the country. She took that idea and partnered WINC with Challenge America to create a network that has more than 5,000 women from all over the world connecting with one another and sharing stories of survival. 

“WINC was founded to bring women together so we can connect with one another, honor women veterans and encourage and empower them,” she said. “We want to restore women back to where they were before service or even better than where they were.”

Zaneta Adams with friends celebrating around her.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
Zaneta Adams holds trophy with friends around her.
Kendra Stanley-Mills

Adams said she is honored to receive the award and is committed to her job because of being a disabled veteran herself. Adams was injured during a military training exercise in 2005 while in South Carolina preparing to go to Iraq. Doctors said she would never walk again, but after two years of rehabilitation, she proved them wrong.

“I was almost a statistic,” she told the crowd. “But, I decided against suicide because women veterans pulled me out of that. And, as innovators, we second guess ourselves, but I had people around me to push me and encourage me to keep going.”

Adams was recognized as a Department of Veteran Affairs Trailblazer in 2021 for her work. She also founded the women veterans recognition day held June 12 every year in Michigan.

She pointed out there are more than 44,000 women veterans in Michigan and more than 2 million nationwide.

Zaneta Adams.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

Sponsors of the award ceremony were Varnum LLP, Consumers Energy, Lakeshore Fab Lab and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The other award finalists were:

Jill Batka and Curtis Chambers - Dynamic Conveyor Corporation

Curtis Chambers noted a lack of light-duty portable conveyors available to serve injection molders like his Pliant Plastics Corporation. So, he designed a modular plastic conveyor loosely modeled after Legos. DynaCon has grown under the leadership of Jill Batka, one of Chambers’ three daughters who own Dynamic. Dynamic designed a new line of easy-to-clean conveyors specifically for food processing and packaging. The DynaClean sanitary conveyor line has a simple design allowing easy access to internal components. The DynaClean conveyors offer the food industry a line of plastic, custom conveyors that are eco-friendly, easy to clean, and save time and money. A line of specialty conveyors was introduced in early 2020. 

Beth Beaman - Playhouse at White Lake

The Playhouse at White Lake has utilized inventive methods to remain connected and relevant over the past year. In order to continue offering new content amid the pandemic, The Playhouse traded in its live, in-person Summer Theatre Festival to become a three-camera movie production house. With only a four-week turnaround, Managing Director Beth Beaman decided not to cancel the beloved summer season, but rather, to pivot and engage with audiences virtually, all while putting displaced artists to work. In addition, the White Lake Youth Theatre Council was formed to help support year-round arts education programming at the Playhouse. The White Lake Youth Theatre Council aims to cultivate a compassionate community, leadership and life skills through arts education at The Playhouse. This program is open to all area high school students and hones inclusivity and business skills in the next generation of arts leaders.

Michael Hyacinthe - Wimage, LLC

Michael Hyacinthe founded Wimage, LLC in 2014 after creating the Wimage app, an educational application that allows kids to input words to create images and turn their ideas into a visual story. Wimage stands for "words to images." The goal of Wimage is to move kids from being passive consumers of digital content to being creative producers of content. Studies show low-income students and students of color are more likely to be passive consumers, and students learn better when they use technology to create their own content, rather than just consuming content. In cooperation with the Kent District Library, Wimage, LLC also created an educational livestream show that engages children through visual storytelling and vocabulary building, meeting the unique needs of students, educators and parents during the pandemic.

Brent Raeth - CatchMark Technologies 

CatchMark Technologies was founded in 2013 with the purpose of delivering professional technology services to small and midsize businesses throughout West Michigan. The “CatchMark Gives Back” program was created to encourage CatchMark teammates to use their skills, expertise and company resources to improve the communities they are part of. In the last year, CatchMark has donated to multiple high school sports programs, provided computers to local robotics teams, donated “Causeway Cams” to the White Lake Chamber of Commerce, and provided free tech services to multiple churches and struggling organizations. In August 2020, Montague Area Public Schools approached CatchMark Technologies to help them find a solution to a viewership issue caused by COVID restrictions established by MHSAA and the state of Michigan. The restrictions only allowed for two fans per player to watch any athletic event live and in person. CatchMark offered to purchase equipment and help run a Livestream at all home athletic events.

About the Muskegon Innovation Hub

The Muskegon Innovation Hub is a business innovation center that provides business incubation, coworking space, funding assistance, events and programming. It is a key partner in the regional innovation ecosystem, and supports startup businesses, entrepreneurs and corporate innovation teams. For more information, visit gvsu.edu/mihub.