Q&A: Jo-Anne Perkins

January 11, 2017
Business Journal Staff
Jo-Anne Perkins
Jo-Anne Perkins. Courtesy Cascade Cart Solutions/Ben T. Jacobs

Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.

After attending college in Toronto, Jo-Anne Perkins joined the family business and rotated through all the various functions until her late 20s when she left, with the family’s blessings, to start her own company.

After 13 years of building a successful business, Perkins sold it and went to work with Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids as a regional sales manager.

A few years later, she became the general manager responsible for Cascade Cart Solutions, one of Cascade’s largest business units in solid waste management.

Today, Perkins is the VP of environmental systems and services at Cascade Cart Solutions, which she said is "making a positive impact in the communities we serve."

Biggest career break?

There was no one event or lucky break in my career. Instead, my entire working life has been built on the lessons I learned growing up in a home with two entrepreneurial parents who ran a successful company all through my childhood and into my adult life. Their positive influence on my confidence level as a woman, while instilling a high level of expectation for what I could achieve through hard work, influenced me immeasurably and positioned me to have the confidence to not only start my own company as a young person, but to go on to run other people’s companies in later years.

Proudest moment?

My mother died of breast cancer at 51, and years later, my proudest moment came when we launched the pink cart program, in association with the American Cancer Society, at Cascade Engineering. On our very first day of pink production, we were supported by the attendance of Fred Keller, our founder and chair and Governor Rick Snyder and First Lady Sue Snyder, who is a breast cancer survivor. It was a remarkable day launching the program, which has now placed more than 130,000 pink carts nationwide, while raising more than $600,000 for breast cancer awareness and research.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Nobody's better than you, and you're no better than anybody.

How did you make your first dollar?

Working on the shop floor of my parents manufacturing plant cleaning up after the welders. They were from Yugoslavia, very messy and I liked listening to them chat back and forth in their native tongue. By the way, my father didn’t pay me very well…something about getting to eat that day.

Most-treasured possession?

My sense of humor, although others may not agree. But I’m hilarious.

Dream job?

Anything that allows me to do good work for the company and the community makes me feel happy and fulfilled. The stronger the connection between the two, the better.

If I were president for a day, I would…?

Bring our soldiers home safely. Take a nap.

Fix the national gender pay gap. Take a nap.

Feed, educate and love on our young people to get them ready for life. Take a nap.

End discrimination.

Last book you’ve read?

“Reinventing American Health Care” by Ezekiel J. Emanuel

Last thing you googled?

Snow tires. After all, we live in Michigan.

Your worst habit?

Wanting to make everyone happy ALL of the time

To unwind, I like to…?

Hang out with my husband, both kids and all four dogs

Dream vacation?

My husband and I would like to travel to Asia to experience the people and culture for an extended period of time.

Favorite food?

Hot bowl of tomato soup with a grilled-cheese sandwich

Person you most admire?

My father, Clifford Gordon Kerr — gone too soon, but always top of mind.

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