GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In early celebration of Black History Month, a West Michigan business owner is sharing her journey of success.

Graci Harkema says for her, it was always a struggle being her true, authentic self in the workplace. It’s a problem many people of color face, which is why she’s now using her experience to help others.

Harkema says she’s glad she’s now able to share a story of hope with others, but on the job, she says that wasn’t always the case.

“I knew working in a corporate environment in the past what it felt like to feel like I couldn’t come to work as myself,” said Harkema.

Harkema is the former diversity and inclusion director for Founders Brewing Company. She resigned from the position near the end of 2019 as the business fought a racial discrimination lawsuit. Harkema decided to start her own company.

“I started Graci LLC as an opportunity to make an impact,” said Harkema.

Graci LLC is a diversity and inclusion consulting firm that specializes in implicit bias training and talent management for businesses, among other things. Harkema says the company’s growth has shown her that it’s important to speak up.

“I realized just being true and being real and speaking my truth was what drew clients to want to work with me,” said Harkema.

She hopes this issue will be permanently brought to light in hopes of creating a healthier workplace for all.

“What we’re seeing in this time in society is this need to be able to address the issues, to talk about the hard things, to work through the biases that we may have, and to be able to come out better on top,” said Harkema.

More information about Graci LLC can be found online