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Tawnie Wilson | SBJ

12 People You Need to Know in 2024: Duan and Michelle Gavel

A Duo for Diversity

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Husband and wife Duan and Michelle Gavel have a bold vision to use digital innovation to connect customers with diverse businesses.

In 2022, the pair launched a directory-style app, which is free to users and participating businesses, called All Things Diverse SGF. The app connects consumers with diverse businesses, such as cosmetologists that specialize in hair braiding, restaurants that serve international cuisines, and university resources for international and diverse students. When the Gavels first moved to Springfield as students, they had trouble finding all the services they needed. They say their own experiences led to the app’s creation years later.

Since the June 2022 launch, the app has recorded 1,500 downloads at the App Store and on Google Play, and it now has over 400 resources listed.

Duan’s degree in information techonolgy software development gave him the know-how to create and manage the phone app.

Michelle says the success of the app, and a related Facebook group with 1,600 members, is not only measurable in numbers, but also in the fact that it’s growing organically.

“Just that word-of-mouth is spreading around the community,” she says. “That’s something that isn’t measurable. We see growth that way, but it’s still relevant because of those conversations about how we maintain a vibrant, diverse workforce. That’s a part of it, highlighting what diverse resources we do have in Springfield.”

Duan says the university resources on the app have grown recently, to include Drury and Missouri State universities’ programs for diverse students, so that diverse or international students have a ways to connect with the university community easily.

The two also work full-time jobs, Michelle as director of student access and opportunity with Springfield Public Schools and Duan as an electric systems designer at City Utilities of Springfield.

Duan is also second vice president for Springfield’s Multicultural Business Association and treasurer for the local NAACP chapter, and he serves on MSU’s Black Alumni Council. Michelle is on the board of the Ujima Language and Literacy nonprofit.

“We do take pride in and open ourselves up to the community,” Duan says. “It does feel good that people are willing to come to us and ask us how we can help. If we can’t help them ourselves, we can get them plugged in with the right person or the right organization to them.”

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