Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) works with women who are aspiring business owners and are looking to become economically independent. By offering small business training, networking opportunities and entrepreneurial training, GROW gives women the encouragement and resources needed to take the first steps.
Marketing and Communications Manager Elyse Wild has been with GROW since August 2020 and helps “create an empowered and equitable West Michigan through business ownership,” she said.
GROW provides business loans to people with low credit and nothing to secure the loan. They work with their clients to get them approved and help guide them on a successful track to pay it back.
Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) is taking off at GROW. It provides credit and financial services, and GROW receives money from the federal government to deploy into underserved minority communities.
Clients don’t have to be applying for a loan to use the resources that are offered. Whether you are a new or established business owner, GROW offers free training and webinars that are open to anyone where clients can gain the information they need to reach their economic goals. Clients are paired with an on-staff business development officer, and that officer is the client’s resource for everything.
“The officer doesn’t hold their hand but walks by their side,” said Wild.
It wasn’t until 1988 that women could obtain a business loan without a male relative’s signature. GROW believes in advocating for women in business because even though women have come so far in the workforce, they are still three times less likely than a man to get a loan for their business.
“We make women in the workforce a priority,” Wild said. “Women use their wealth in ways that positively impact the community more so than men do.”
Many people reach out to GROW for help and tips, but the business also does a lot of outreach themselves. They are working on how to engage with women who don’t have a set business idea. As GROW helps women reach their economic goals, it gives women control over their lives and schedules.
“When women come to GROW to start their own business, they thrive,” said Wild.
GROW already serves nine counties in West Michigan but has future plans to expand and create a more substantial presence in new places.