Meet this year's finalists for Innovator of the Year

Five finalists have been selected for the 2022 Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award, presented by Grand Valley State University’s Muskegon Innovation Hub.

The award celebrates and recognizes the most innovative ideas and entrepreneurs on the Lakeshore. The winner will be announced at a ceremony from 5-7 p.m., July 28, at the Hub, located at 200 Viridian Dr. in Muskegon. 

Zaneta Adams, the 2021 recipient of the Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award, will be this year’s keynote speaker. Adams is president and founder of WINC for All Women Veterans and created the Military Sisterhood Initiative, an online/app network platform for women veterans to connect. 

For more information on this year’s event, visit

This year’s finalists are: 

Amanda Barnes and Holly Ziemba

Portrait of Amanda Barnes and Holly Ziemba
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

What started as a family event has become a summer tradition along Muskegon Lake. Sisters Amanda Barnes and Holly Ziemba took over the management of the Muskegon Pub Pedal in 2016 and turned it into a nonprofit, which uses the annual event as a fundraiser for a family with medical expenses. Over the past six years, the increase in participants and supporting businesses has allowed the event to help up to two families in need. 

Martin Bennett

Portrait of Martin Bennett
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Sawyers Brewing Company in Montague faced a big challenge before its doors even opened to the public. Owner Martin Bennett purchased the brewery’s space in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and kept his business afloat by building connections across the White Lake community. The craft brewery became a staple for performing musicians and entered into a partnership with a local food truck. For rookie brewmasters, Sawyers created a kitchen, which educates about the home-brewing process and eliminates the upfront costs for new brewers. If a novice wants to pursue home-brewing, Bennett and his team will even set up the necessary equipment at their home. 

Nick Carlson

Portrait of Nick Carlson
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

As business development director for Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, Nick Carlson laid the groundwork for a partnership between Goodwill and HydroBlox Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based company that specializes in plastics recycling. The collaboration will allow Goodwill to eliminate more than 500,000 pounds of plastic waste from its donation stream and produce HydroBlox stormwater management systems used in road and trail projects, retention walls and green roofs. Goodwill will purchase an 80,000-square-foot building in Muskegon County to produce and distribute HydroBlox products by late 2022.

Deondra Pentecost

Portrait of Deondra Pentecost
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Writing a resume or a cover letter can be a daunting task for a recent college graduate or someone looking to change careers after decades in the workforce. Deondra Pentecost and her company, Precise Writings, make the process less stressful and bring a jobseeker’s qualities to life on the page. She’s also provided thousands of dollars in charitable services to help underserved jobseekers find sustainable, fulfilling employment; build hope and confidence in young people and instill equity in the labor market. 

Marisela Sierra

Portrait of Marisela Sierra
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Marisela Sierra is a third-generation restauranteur to manage Navarro’s Mexican Takeout, a fixture in the Muskegon restaurant scene for more than 40 years. Sierra took over and reorganized the family restaurant after her mother died, modernizing and expanding its business model. Sierra also found opportunities to reach customers beyond retail, pivoting toward farmers’ markets in 2022. The strategy paid off as Navarro’s has quickly become a favorite at the Muskegon Farmers’ Market and the Grand Rapids Fulton Street Farmers’ Market. Her passion for entrepreneurship led her to create her second business, producing themed charcuterie boards.


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