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Jen Szymczak, Great Lakes West, Mattawan, Michigan

“25 years in the industry, it’s hard to believe! My very first experience in the industry was working for the drive-in movie theatre owned by family friends in my hometown.  I loved every weekend and knew almost every aspect of the business. It was a fun, fast-paced environment,” says Szymczak. Jen also gained experience doing sandwich/pizza prep at a local restaurant while going to school. After high school, Jen worked for a company for many years where she designed and sold residential kitchens, windows, and doors.

While working a side job waitressing and bartending, she became friends with Jim Heeter, owner of Great Lakes West at the time. Jim offered Jen a job, which she quickly accepted.  She has been with Great Lakes for ten years and couldn’t be happier.

Jen started in the contract estimating department for six years and then began the transition into sales.  “I primarily deal in healthcare sales around the country, but recently am getting more involved in hospitality ventures.  I enjoy being involved in all the different market segments.  I work nationwide and it can be a challenge to not be able to right in front of my customer every day, but with technology, we can always make it work. I handle sales from a one piece order up to a new construction or remodel project with a kitchen and front of the house.  There isn’t anything I can’t handle,” says Szymczak.

Strong team players that enjoy bringing value to their customers are unstoppable.

Jen really enjoys being in a position where she can make it easy for customers to get the equipment that they need for their operation.  “If I can go above and beyond, I will at every turn. Great Lakes West has a really great support system.  We step up to help each other whenever needed, we are all on the same team.  I’ve met some of my best friends through this company,” says Szymczak.

Jen is very successful in the SEFAPro program.  She is the one you will see quickly achieving new levels and putting her all into every training session.  She is currently a Level 3 SEFAPro and has earned and will be attending the 2019 Celebration Trip.  “SEFA training has not only helped me gain equipment knowledge, but how the proper equipment factors into a successful business.  The industry is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn.  Hands on training is invaluable and has helped to give me the confidence when talking to my customers.  Another great aspect of SEFA is meeting new people at every conference, many whom become longtime friends. I learn so much by talking to others.  We all have different experiences in the field or with customers, and you take something new away every time.  Also, having the opportunity  to cultivate relationships with the manufacturers and factory representatives is second to none.  To be able to say that you can call up the president of a company for a solution to a problem, that says something,” says Szymczak.

We asked Jen who has inspired her and helped her to get to where she is today.  “Honestly, I get inspiration from everyone that I meet.  I believe every person has something to offer with their unique perspective on life.  Without being dismissive to any of my colleagues or family/friends, Jim Heeter took a chance on hiring me without specific industry experience, just knowing my personality and my willingness to work hard. His son, Todd, has now taken over the business and he pushes me, along with every employee at Great Lakes West, to be my best.  He sees my potential and always tells me that he knows I can handle whatever is thrown at me.  I am constantly growing and taking on new challenges and while it can be stressful, I truly do love what I do.

Jen lives in the small town of Paw Paw, Michigan with her husband.  She enjoys cooking, golfing (when the weather permits), working out/running, reading, eating delicious food, having a good drink and she loves to laugh.

SEFA is proud to recognize Jen as Featured SEFAPro.  Jen is dedicated to staying on top of industry trends and learning about new equipment and supply solutions for her customers.  She builds relationships based on integrity, honesty, and trust. She is a true asset to the foodservice industry. Congratulations, Jen.