For some time in his life, Matt Van Tuinen ’00 figured that he’d follow his father into the commercial painting business. He had spent many hours assisting his dad’s small business and liked the combination of physical and mental effort the work entailed.
“I liked how my dad ran his business—he was an entrepreneur and he taught me the correlation between hard work and success,” he said.
After earning a Calvin degree in business, diving into the sports-related public relations world and making strategic connections in the business, Van Tuinen did start a business, just in a different field.
He runs MVT Public Relations from Evanston, Illinois (near Chicago), and has expanded his reach from promoting specific athletic events and individual athletes to helping companies promote their sponsorship of the Olympic Games.
Van Tuinen said he would “put Calvin’s education up against any in the country.” It’s also why he and his wife, Tricia Volkema ’00, have funded a family scholarship for students with a marketing concentration. He was deeply influenced by his experiences in the Chicago Semester program.
“Chicago Semester made a big impression,” he said. “To sample life after college and experience life and work in a big city was formative.”
He also played on Calvin’s golf team, and sports was an abiding interest. At a career crossroads, he sought the advice of his Calvin golf coach, Jim Timmer Sr.
“Doc Timmer nudged me to get a sports management degree and make connections in the field through that avenue. It turns out that business and sports was the vocational combination I had been looking for,” he said.
Van Tuinen attended the University of New Mexico, getting a master’s in sports administration and interning for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
Convinced this was his calling, the Van Tuinens moved to New York City, where Matt worked for Taylor, a large sports and lifestyle public relations firm. While there, he promoted companies involved with everything from NASCAR to Major League Baseball to the NFL.
His work there promoting major tennis tournaments would prove to the gateway to his own business. At the same time the Van Tuinens decided to leave New York, the partners at his firm were ready to transition away from the tennis tournaments and they suggested that those clients hire Van Tuinen independently.
“For me, all of this is God’s providence,” he said. “The intensity of the work in New York was too daunting for us as a family, but God’s timing was flawless. He provided me the opportunity to keep doing what I love and start my own business.”
“...Success or failure is not a stamp of God's approval or disapproval. It is being faithful throughout the journey you're on, being patient and willing as God does his work.”Matt Van Tuinen '00
The Van Tuinens moved to Chicago, and MVT Public Relations was born. In addition to keeping the tennis tournament business, he worked with tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams on everything from charity events to clothing lines and with tennis pro James Blake on a book tour.
Contacts in the field led Van Tuinen to another big opportunity: working with network heavyweight Cisco on its sports and entertainment business unit and sponsorship of the NBA.
“Cisco became a major client,” said Van Tuinen, “and after working with them for a few years I got a call to assist the company in its engagement with the Rio 2016 Olympics. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and unique to be working on an event the whole world was watching.”
The successful endeavor in Brazil has led to similar work for Cisco around the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as well as with Live Nation, the global entertainment company.
The flurry of business has brought Van Tuinen to a reflective and grateful place.
“It has been a blessed year,” he said, “but success or failure is not a stamp of God’s approval or disapproval. It is being faithful throughout the journey you’re on, being patient and willing as God does his work. You try to embrace the process and learn that things won’t always be silky smooth. You try to relinquish control.”