About Us

History
Client Statistics
Awards

For more than 30 years, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) has been working with thousands of entrepreneurs just like you, all with dreams of becoming economically independent. We focus on current and aspiring business owners, making us West Michigan’s source for entrepreneurial training, small business counseling, educational resources, and networking opportunities.

Whether the topic is business plans, finance, management, marketing, or strategic planning, GROW offers professional, high-quality training and business counseling. GROW is one of only 110 certified Women’s Business Centers in the nation, and one of three in the State of Michigan, all in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Success stories range from builders to manufacturers, farmers to restaurant owners, salon owners to dog walkers, and health care providers to graphic designers. Now it’s your turn. Whether you are a new or established business owner, let GROW guide you to entrepreneurial success. Attend one of our free Intro to GROW orientations to see all that we have to offer or contact us today to learn more.

History

  • February 1, 1989

    Original Steering Committee

    Meet the original steering committee members who helped LeAnne Moss in the creation of GROW. There are many familiar names from West Michigan, and many of these individuals are still supportive of GROW today.

  • March 1, 1989

    LeAnne Moss Has Idea for GROW

    The first steering committee meeting is held. LeAnne approached several leaders in the community to discuss the creation of an organization to serve women in low-income households and assist them in creating economic independence through business ownership.

  • April 1, 1989

    GROW is Founded

    LeAnne wrote a grant request to Dyer Ives Foundation to initially fund the organization

  • August 1, 1990

    First MYOB Class Graduation

    The first MYOB (Minding Your Own Business) class graduates. MYOB was a 16-week long program where participants met each week to work on different aspects of their business plan and development. This included classroom training, homework and other assessments.

  • September 1, 1995

    GROW Becomes A Certified Women's Business Center

    It was in 1995 that GROW became a Certified Women’s Business Center through the Small Business Administration Office of Women Business Ownership.

  • April 1, 1996

    Inger Giuffrida Named As Executive Director

  • April 1, 1998

    MYOB Class #15 Graduates

  • June 1, 2000

    Rita VanderVen Becomes Executive Director

    Rita Vanderven joined GROW in June 2000 as Executive Director. She would lead the organization through 2008.

  • May 1, 2004

    GROW Celebrates 15th Anniversary

    In 2004 GROW Celebrated the organizations 15th Anniversary with and audio CD, titled “Voices of GROW.” Check back soon so you can listen to a few of these great stories.

  • June 1, 2008

    Patricia Duthler Joins as Executive Director

    Grow welcomed Patricia Duthler as Executive Director from 2008 until 2010.

  • April 1, 2010

    AWE Incorporated Into GROW

    In 2010, the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs was incorporated into GROW programs to serve second-stage women business owners.

  • April 1, 2010

    Anonymous Grant Paves Way for Microloan Program

    GROW received an anonymous grant that paved the way to becoming an SBA intermediary Microlender. The organizations first 5 loans are made with this grant.

  • September 1, 2010

    Bonnie Nawara Joins GROW As CEO

    In September 2010 GROW welcomed Bonnie Nawara as CEO of the organization.

  • July 1, 2011

    Microloan Manager Added To Staff

    July 2011, GROW hired our first microloan manager to expand the lending program.

  • March 1, 2012

    Intermediary Micro Lender Under The SBA

    In 2012, GROW became an intermediary Micro Lender under the SBA (Small Business Administration).

  • August 1, 2013

    Microloan Program Triples Lending Capacity

    In August 2013, the GROW Microloan program tripled it’s lending capacity from $200k to $600k, allowing us to provide even more funding to local businesses.

  • September 1, 2013

    Small Business GPS Series

    September 2013 – GROW adjusted the MYOB program to provide classes in smaller “clusters”. The new Small Business Growth and Planning Series was formed.

  • July 1, 2015

    AWE Rebranded As Established Division

    In 2015, the (AWE) Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs was rebranded as the Established Division of GROW.  Women business owners who have reached a certain point in their careers have needs that are very different from those who are just starting out. That’s why we created the Established Division of GROW. It is a membership by invitation only group, intended for those who are looking for opportunities to learn, network, and share with other successful women.

  • January 1, 2017

    2016 Economic Impact Stats

  • April 1, 2017

    Launched EmpowerHER Program

    Spring 2017, GROW launched the EmpowerHER program for second-stage businesses. This is a cohort-based, year-long training program for women entrepreneurs who have been in business for at least a year and are looking for assistance with stabilizing and/or growing their companies.

  • October 1, 2017

    Received CDFI Designation

    In October 2017, GROW received the Certified Designated Financial Institute (CDFI) award, expanding lending levels. Read the news release here.

  • November 1, 2017

    Received GR Chamber Rising Star Award

    In November 2017, GROW was Recognized as a Rising Star, as part of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit with Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

  • January 1, 2018

    2017 Economic Impact

  • May 1, 2018

    SBA Michigan Women's Business Center of Excellence

    In May 2018, GROW was named SBA Michigan Women’s Business Center of Excellence.

  • July 1, 2018

    Expanded To The Lakeshore

    In July 2018, GROW expanded our programming & added full-time staff in Muskegon, inside the GVSU Innovation Hub.

  • April 1, 2019

    Nonprofit Champion Award from WMHCC

    In April 2019, GROW Received the Non-Profit Champion Award from West Michigan Hispanic Chamber.

  • September 1, 2019

    CORP! Salute To Diversity Award Winner

    In September 2019, our staff traveled to Detroit for CORP! Magazine’s Salute to Diversity.

  • October 1, 2019

    Celebrating 30 Years Of GROW

    Throughout 2019 we celebrated the 30 years of helping women, and men, to start and build their own businesses. We do so through continued support in training classes, business counseling, mentorship, connecting them to resources and of course our expanding loan programs.

Awards

As a community organization, we often collaborate with other West Michigan organizations. This is part of our core purpose in creating a better community and empowering entrepreneurs and business owners in Grand Rapids and the surrounding communities.

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  • September 2019 CORP! Salute to Diversity Award Recipient
    Diversity Champion
  • April 2019 Non-Profit Champion Award
    West Michigan Hispanic Chamber
  • 2018 SBA PRIME (Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs) Grantee
    Grant to develop an online training platform
  • 2017 Rising Star Award at GR Chamber D.E.I. Summit
    Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit
    Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
  • 2016 Official Network of Women’s Business Centers
    Maria Contreras-Sweet, U.S. Small Business Administration
    Awarded to Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women
  • 2014 Neighborhood Business Award
    John H. Logie Neighborhood Business Champion
    Awarded to GROW CEO Bonnie Nawara
  • 2012 Remarkable Women Award
    NuTheta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha
    Awarded to Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women
  • Center of Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED)
    Michigan Women’s Marketplace
    Outstanding Volunteer 2012
    Awarded to GROW CEO Bonnie Nawara
  • Heart of West Michigan United Way
    2012 Bronze Award
  • 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, 2012, 2014, 2016
    Grand Rapids Business Journal
    Awarded to GROW CEO Bonnie Nawara
  • Clinton Global Initiative, Commitment to Action
    September 20, 2011