Alumni Achievement Award: Melanie Owen
Lake Michigan College alumna Melanie Owen developed, co-owns and manages Lazy Ballerina Winery, the only women-owned winery in southwest Michigan. The winery will celebrate its two-year anniversary this June, and the business continues to grow, opening an additional tasting room in Bridgman this summer.
Owen earned a certificate in hospitality management from LMC after graduating from Coloma High School. She took a job as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines after college and enjoyed traveling the world. She returned to southwest Michigan after realizing how much she loves the area.
Southwest Michigan is also home to Owen's large extended family, including her cousin, Lauren Kniebes, the other co-owner of Lazy Ballerina Winery. The two were exposed to winemaking originally from their grandmother, Juanita Kniebes, and they named two of their wines for Grandma Nita, who passed away a few years ago. The cousins also use grapes from the family farm now run by Laurens’ father, Robin Kniebes, for the Lazy
Owen says that she is grateful for the connections she made at LMC, where she earned an Associate in General Studies in addition to her hospitality management certificate. She was able to get feedback from her former instructors as she planned the opening of Lazy Ballerina. The assistance now goes the other direction, too. Owen returns occasionally to present to marketing classes at LMC.
Melanie Owen received the Alumni Achievement Award in 2017.