Vijay Dillet – Banking Center Manager, Grand Rapids, MI
For Vijay Dillet, giving back is all about nurturing the next generation. Vijay serves as the Banking Center Manager in Grand Rapids, Mich., and joined First Merchants Bank from Level One Bank – and he’s maintained a commitment to his community all throughout his long tenure in banking.
In addition to working with his local Chamber of Commerce, Vijay also serves as a mentor for prospective business owners, helping guide them through their first year.
“There are a lot of great ideas out there,” Vijay explained. “But when it comes to launching a business there’s often a knowledge gap – people aren’t sure exactly where to start.”
And that’s where mentors come in – a voice of experience that can help new entrepreneurs steer around common obstacles and get their dreams on the road to success.
Vijay’s journey as a mentor began in 2019 when a friend recommended partnering with an organization called SpringGR.
“It’s a 12-week incubator system designed for female and minority entrepreneurs,” Vijay explained. “Once they graduate from the program, they’re assigned a mentor depending on their business category.”
As a finance professional, Vijay often guides his mentees through the process of creating and implementing a business plan, as well as coaching them on how to handle business finances.
“You’d be surprised at how many people don’t realize that you need a separate checking account for your business,” he gave as an example.
It’s been three years since Vijay began partnering with SpringGR, and he said he’s found the role very fulfilling – but he especially loves the little “A-ha!” moments when a mentee figures out something vital about being a business owner.
“I had a mentee who was starting her own cleaning business, and she asked me what she should be charging for each cleaning,” he shared. “We sat down in my office, and I broke down the cost analysis for her – equipment, travel, time, everything. By the end of the session, she fully understood how to calculate what she should charge to make a profit, and she was floored. I love moments like that – where something clicks, and you’ve had a part in helping people prosper in that way.”
In addition to continuing to work with SpringGR, Vijay also plans to partner with another local organization, Mel Trotter – an area shelter that will soon launch a financial wellness program.
“A lot of people who are struggling financially have a ‘right now’ mentality,” he explained. “Their needs are immediate, and so it’s difficult for them to plan past the end of the week, or even into the next week. Our goal is to give them the skills and tools to see past that and start planning for the future.”
And his advice for getting involved? It’s the same advice he gives to his mentees.
“Start. Just start. Every mentee I’ve had has wanted to wait until everything was perfect before they started a business. If you wait for everything to be perfect, you’ll never start,” he said. “If you’re in a position where you can give back, I feel like that’s something you should be doing. If you can improve someone’s life for the better, why wouldn’t do that?”
First Merchants Bank’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility compels us to invest in our communities by finding ways to reduce inequalities, improve the quality of our neighborhoods, and promote positive economic mobility though our five community pillars: Employee Empowerment; Community Investments and Charitable Giving; Financial Wellness; Community Home Lending; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This series features First Merchants teammates who embody the spirit and impact of the company’s Vision: “to enhance the financial wellness of the diverse communities we serve.”