Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) was started because its founder, LeAnne Moss, a Hope College graduate, believed that micro-enterprise could be the ticket to economic self-sufficiency for low-income women in Grand Rapids’ inner city.
With the help of many volunteers and supporters, Moss was able to develop GROW’s first training course, “Minding Your Own Business” (MYOB), a 15-week, 90-hour intensive business plan class.
The first class of nine women entrepreneurs graduated in August 1990 and of those nine, one woman, Georgina Johnson, is still in business for herself.
Johnson is the owner of Busy Bee Child Care Services, which she ran for 10 years after graduating from the program. In 2000, she retired from direct care to begin a consulting business to help other child-care providers learn from her experiences.
Since that first class, 390 women and two men have completed business plans and graduated from GROW.
The business plans created and businesses opened have ranged from All Around Art, a framing and matting business owned by Chantal VanHeest, who graduated from Class 14, and West End Homes, a property management company run by Amy Jo VanArsdale, who graduated from Class 24, to Fishladder Inc., run by president Mary Jane Pories, who graduated from the program and now holds a position on the board.
“My training from GROW was extremely valuable,” said Pories. “I received information on SBA loans, SCORE, and I even received a GROW scholarship. It really gave me a great resource on how to start my business and have everything set out before I just jumped into it.”
To formally celebrate 13 years of turning out numerous successful businesses, GROW will graduate its 25th MYOB class at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 12.
Included in the class are two men who will join the 23 women in having completed all the requirements to earn a graduation certificate. These budding entrepreneurs will celebrate their graduation with a special ceremony in the Loosemore Auditorium in the DeVos Center at Grand Valley State University.
Over the past 13 years, GROW has grown from one program to four: MYOB; Economic Literacy, a five-session introduction to understanding basics of money management, credit and credit repair, budgeting and simple principles of economics; Bright Ideas, a pre-MYOB business exploration; and Dollar Divas, a money management and life skills training program for high school girls presented in a fun and relaxing manner.
For more information on becoming involved with GROW visit the Web site at www.growbusiness.org.