Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) is a nonprofit economic development organization, which has helped individuals achieve economic independence through self-employment since 1989. GROW’s services include business training and counseling, networking, matched savings accounts, and personal finance training.
“Minding your Own Business” (MYOB) is the 10-week entrepreneurial training piece, which teaches its participants how to successfully plan, launch, and run their own businesses. Learn more about following your own dreams at GROW’s website.
The businesses of five GROW graduates are featured below – click on their website links for locations, hours, and contact information. More info on these and other GROW grad operated businesses can be found in GROW’s Green Pages directory.
Sage & Roses – www.sageandroses.com
Jeannie Marvin found GROW in 1995, after displacement from her 20-year corporate management position. “I recommend GROW to anyone planning to start a business. Writing the business plan during that class was a great help to me to become a self-sufficient business woman.”
Now Jeannie has a storefront in Rockford, Michigan, where she creates custom orders with dried, herbal and silk flowers to customers’ specifications. “I can use their antique, collectible or heirloom containers, or containers from my retail shop to create a design that blends with their décor.”
Jeannie offers all-natural, environmentally-friendly aromatherapy, bath, beauty, and cleaning products. Other unique and affordable gift items include small custom floral designs priced from $20 to $30, and aromatherapy products, ranging from half-ounce bottles of essential oil for under $10, to aromatherapy reference books around $50. Check out Jeannie’s specialty foods and primitive décor, too.
Aromatherapy, floral arranging, and “Go Green” classes present even more possibilities.
BRECC Custom Carpentry, LLC – www.ronscabinetry.com
GROW’s mission statement says it “exists to provide business and economic training to women in transition,” but Ron Banaszak learned men are welcome, too. “The name ‘Grand Rapids Opportunities for Woman’ implies it is for women, so men may not pursue it.”
But Ron found his GROW experience very rewarding. “Besides the knowledge gained, you get to talk with others who are intent on success.” Ron thinks of GROW as a business support group and believes participants benefit from their relationships with GROW even beyond their last day of class.
Ron “brings to life” his clients’ ideas for furniture and cabinetry, and his work has been highlighted as heirloom furniture in The Grand Rapids Press. “The client has to be completely involved in the design aspect. If there is a style they like, we sit down to look over books to spark their interest and give them more knowledge of furniture and design.”
Pricing depends on the item and crafting a custom piece takes time – “typical orders should be placed two to three months in advance.” While a Shaker-style 18″ square-top table with a single drawer in cherry or maple runs approximately $1000, small maple or walnut burl veneer boxes range from $100 to $175.
And what was it like for Ron to be the only male in his GROW class? “No different than home, where I have three girls.” Ron is glad his daughters learned about GROW and the opportunities in life GROW can offer them, too.
Pat’s Curios Sewing and Alteration – www.patscurios.com
Pat Haring says GROW gave her the insight to run her Northwest Grand Rapids business more efficiently and market herself more successfully. The classes showed Pat how to “assess just what the business part of a sewing production entailed,” including advertising, finances and networking. Pat says discovering what banks want to see in an organization was an “eye-opener.”
With over twenty years experience in art shows and sewing wearables, Pat adjusts wardrobes to fit customers’ personal styles “by creatively adding or tweaking an existing favorite item.” If an entirely new piece is what excites a customer, Pat is ready, willing and able. A two-week turnaround is the norm with her custom work.
Website testimonials confirm how much Pat’s creative expertise is valued by her customers year-round. She’s also affiliated with the Grand Rapids American Sewing Guild, the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
Monogrammed gifts and wearable art at affordable prices are popular. Items under $20 include 18″ Christmas stockings; bibs; 8″ zippered bags themed for soccer, coffee, or office; multi-colored, fabric-themed coasters; and fun hot pads in contemporary colors. Whimsical, fun-to-wear jackets start at $30.
Christine Wedding & Portrait Design – www.gribblephotography.com
Speaking from experience, Christine Gribble says, “GROW is a fantastic organization that truly changes lives – and it does so right here in West Michigan!”
Christine runs a two-part business in Northeast Grand Rapids: the more client-focused side (personalized lifestyle portraiture) and the art photography side (such as her dramatic landscapes and international images).
What makes Christine’s work so unique? “Me!” she says. “No other photographer can have the exact same approach or viewpoint. I try very hard to connect with my clients and create images that represent who they are, not just show what they look like. I have a unique way of blending the artistic with the simple.”
Christine’s original art photography appears on bookmarks and magnets for under $10, note card packages under $15, and posters under $25. Photographic prints, which include mounting and protective lacquer coating, start at $35, and images on crystal, aluminum and canvas run from $85 to $1300.
Portraiture pricing varies, so talk to Christine about her packages – contact detail can be found on her site. Whether it’s a basic location portrait session, the ‘Baby Steps’ plan (which captures a child’s first year) or a ‘Moments in Your Life’ collection, Christine’s work is guaranteed.
“I feel it is an honor and a privilege to capture memories and create family heirlooms. I understand that one day this will be all that is left of a particular moment in time and that is priceless.”
Forrester Farm – www.forresterfarm.com
Ann Forrester chose GROW because she wanted to start her business out on the right foot and build it on a solid foundation for future growth. “GROW offers an amazing program, not only for those who are beginning a business, but also for those who need extra advice and support in running their business.”
Ann describes how her business unfolded: “Beginning with a love of gardening and all things beautiful, Forrester Farm was started in 2000 with a small dream… and has been growing ever since. Providing cut flower bouquets at local farmer’s markets and creating hand crafted botanical products for local art shows and stores has grown into providing wedding floral design and event coordinating. Forrester Farm botanical products are created with real flowers that are grown on the farm. Each product is handcrafted and unique.”
For those unable to visit Ann’s Belmont, Michigan store in person, exquisite gifts are just mouse clicks away – link to Ann’s website to enter her online store. Beautiful botanical dishes, candles, and vases, starting at $10, are typically shipped within 2 days of order. Every featured product is one-of-a-kind, so the selection is always changing. Gift certificates and floral services are also available.
These are just a few examples of how GROW grads proudly and professionally serve their customers every day. Check out GROW’s Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more about whether becoming a GROW grad is right for you.
Featured GROW graduates
GROW Program Director, Denise Miller
GROW website: http://www.growbusiness.org/
Original AC Article: “Christmas Shopping in Grand Rapids” by C.A. Gage (DEC 2008 prices)