The next generation of leaders: Two Michigan women lead in business, community

What does the next generation of leaders in Michigan's business community look like? They might be a lot like Erin Monigold and Kristin Knoll. Monigold, of Traverse City, and Knoll, of Saginaw, both are 29, and are making names for themselves in their respective fields with leadership skills.

Monigold, an entrepreneur who owns and operates Social Vision Marketing in Traverse City, and Knoll, a public relations specialist at Covenant HealthCare, the largest health care provider in the Saginaw-Bay City area, are two on-the-go leaders who employ their skills both in business and in their respective communities.
"There are a couple of things that are crucial to being a good leader; first, the ability to communicate and to really listen to the other person's concerns," says Knoll, who graduated in 2005 from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of arts degree in communications and Spanish, and started her career at Covenant in 2010.
"The next important part of being a good leader is being genuine and having a real passion for what you're doing. Being genuine can't be faked, and it really inspires people," she says.
Knoll conducts public relations for Covenant, and that includes far more than setting up interviews for the media--although that is part of her role. She shares information with the communities surrounding Covenant HealthCare's facilities, which are spread throughout 20 counties in northeast Michigan, and 40 counties throughout the state.
Covenant is also the largest employer in Saginaw County.

One of her most gratifying duties is the work she performs with the Covenant HealthCare Foundation, a branch of Covenant that raises money for various worthy causes. She has been part of a telethon on WNEM-TV 5, which ran for its fourth consecutive year in April. The telethon raised money for Covenant Kids, and went toward pediatric services at the hospital.
"I don't have a health care background, so obviously I learn a lot every day about health care," Knoll says. "But, my duties are so varied, I do such different things every day, that I learn so much about so many things. That's what I enjoy about this job. The learning, the growth. It keeps everything fresh and exciting."
Even though she keeps very busy at Covenant, Knoll finds time to work in the community. She does charitable work with Girls on the Run, is a board member for Child & Family Services and Young Professionals of Saginaw, and serves in various capacities on the Saginaw Community Foundation and with the United Way of Saginaw County.
But there's more than one way to lead, and in Traverse City, Monigold is making her presence known by starting her own company.
Erin Monigold founded Social Vision Marketing in Traverse City after finding there was a dearth of social media marketing services in the area. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2006 with a bachelor of arts in marketing, worked for a search engine and marketing optimization company, followed by a year in a marketing and communication company in Traverse City. Monigold thought she had what it took to branch out on her own.
Turns out, she was right.
She now runs a full-service social media marketing and digital communications company for small- and medium-sized business mostly in Northwest Michigan. She also has clients in the Detroit and Chicago areas.
"It's all about helping them get their name out there, and helping them deepen their relationship with customers by interacting with them," Monigold says. "Most everyone knows about Facebook and Twitter, but you'd be surprised at how many people don't know the possibilities for their use in business. That's where Social Vision comes in."
Like Knoll, Monigold wakes up every morning with different duties on her plate. She enjoys the variety.
"I might be going to a winery, a restaurant, financial companies, and it takes a different eye for each one of them," she says. "Nothing ever gets hum-drum or boring, that's for sure."
Being self-employed has its challenges, but Monigold says she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I work a ton of hours, but it's a ton of fun," she said. "I really enjoy my work, and that's not a cliché, it's true."
Besides the many hours at Social Vision, Monigold started Traverse City Tweetup in June 2011 after attending a conference in Atlanta. There are 50 to 70 members who regularly tweet, and meet face to face at various locations throughout the year. They have met at Brew, a local coffee shop; Filling Station, a microbrewery; and Sleder's Tavern, among others.
"It's a fun way to meet people in person who you normally talk to only on Twitter," Monigold says. "We talk about the community, and the long-term goal is to help non-profits and figure out different ways to give back to the community."
Monigold also co-founded the Traverse City Geek Breakfast, a group of technical-minded people who meet the third Thursday of every month to talk about, well, technical-minded things. (By the way, she says it's OK to be known as a geek, but she doesn't like the term nerd.)
You would think this would be enough to fill Monigold's time, but she keeps busy volunteering, as well. She works extensively with AC Paw, an animal rescue group; and with the Traverse City Book Festival, an annual event held in November that raises money for the Traverse City Literacy Council.
There are countless young people thriving in business and the community in the Bay area, northwest Michigan and beyond. And if they follow the examples offered by Monigold and Knoll, they would be well on their way to being the next generation of leaders.
Jeff Barr is a freelance writer who has lived in Michigan for 46 years. He has covered every part of the state, including the Northwest and the Bay area. You can reach Jeff at
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