Ben DeVries, ‘12 BBA, is the founder and CEO of Oranje (oh-rahn-yuh) Boven Marketing, a marketing agency that specializes in supporting small and medium-sized organizations. He has worked for festivals like the famed Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan. He has also helped Circle Michigan boost tourism in Michigan.
Ben transferred from Grand Rapids Community College to Davenport’s Traverse City Campus in 2010 after learning about Davenport’s many different campuses and online learning opportunities. The ability to take in-person and online classes enabled DeVries to work and gain experience while getting a degree.
“The professors at Davenport were always willing to take the time and help support my education and professional journey whenever they could,” said DeVries. “While I think that grit and tenacity are very important, you also need to learn to lean on the resources around you, and that’s something that Davenport showed was very important.”
After graduating from Davenport, DeVries decided to go back to his family business, Group Tour, and continue working as a database marketer.
“While I was at Group Tour, I went from marketing into a sales role, and then into an advertising sales role where I really sharpened my skills in both marketing and sales by basically being on the front lines,” said DeVries.
Eventually, DeVries started to take over his family business as the marketing director, and within a few years, he launched a brand refresh by redirecting which customers were being targeted. While the brand refresh was a great success, and he enjoyed working with his mom, he wanted to find his own path.
After leaving Group Tour, DeVries joined a leadership startup that allowed him to use the skills he had acquired over the years. Unfortunately, after he had spent a few years with the company, the pandemic hit, and the company was forced to downsize.
After about three months of planning what to do next, DeVries started freelancing full-time. He decided to name his new agency in honor of his grandparents, who all came to Michigan from the Netherlands after the Nazi occupation during World War II. Oranje Boven is Dutch for “Orange is the best,” and it is a chant used in the Netherlands during sporting events.
While DeVries was planning his next step, he began to notice a pattern in the marketing world. “I realized there is this gap in the marketing world,” said DeVries. “When you leave college and get a marketing job, most of those jobs will be at small companies with one marketing person, generally junior people, and then they get asked to do everything. That can either be a curse or a blessing, depending on how you respond to it.”
He noticed that most people do not respond well to performing all marketing tasks for an organization because most people are not good at every aspect of marketing.
“To use Tulip Time as an example, I handle all of their strategy and media buying and some of their PR, but I have specialists to handle the design, copywriting, and social media,” said DeVries. “I do that because I know that people have found their specific niche, and we can really utilize their strengths at a fraction of the cost of hiring one social media person and then asking them to do the design, the strategy and the website,” he said.
DeVries said he felt prepared for this next step because Davenport helped build him into a well-rounded business student. Learning from professors with real-world experience and taking classes that were not simply marketing-focused allowed him to have knowledge in every aspect of the business world.
The success of Oranje Boven allows Ben to enjoy a flexible schedule so he can spend time with his wife and three young children. His family enjoys playing pickleball together and hiking in Michigan’s forested trails. He likes that he can control his destiny and that whatever he does, good or bad, it is all on him.