Bonnie Nawara, an entrepreneur herself, came on board Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women as CEO nine years ago. Nawara reflects on GROW's impact in West Michigan as it celebrates 30 years.
What does GROW's 30th anniversary mean to Grand Rapids?
This milestone equates to many economic dollars poured back into our community by those businesses we helped create. I think this is pretty important, as we are primarily federally funded and supported by local philanthropists. We have helped to leverage our federal dollars to support our local economy.
How has leading GROW changed you?
I have grown in being a better leader and really listening to people and really understanding what they want. And, I tell you, leadership is not for the faint of heart—because it's not easy. It's been a wonderful opportunity for me. GROW is the No. 1 love of all the careers I've had.
What do you find the biggest setback for women who want to become an entrepreneur?
I think there are numerous things. No. 1: As women, and we know this, we tend to doubt ourselves all the time. So I think that there is that nagging voice in your head—the fear, the doubt—I think that is big. Becoming an entrepreneur or starting your own business is a pretty big step. Usually, there's more people than just you involved; you may have family to consider and some families may not be supportive.
Have you seen women try, time after time, to launch a business but not make the cut?
Usually those that try and try again are the ones who eventually make it because they are so persistent.
At GROW, not only is it our job to start and grow businesses but it's also our job to help you figure out if being a business owner is truly in your wheelhouse.
We have a business assessment quiz we have people take that asks various scenarios with tough questions, to make people understand what being an entrepreneur is all about.
As GROW has existed, where have the women come from?
They have come from all different areas. At GROW, we like to work with people where they're at.
People have come to us with ideas. They have come to us with "side hustles" already going on that they want to expand and make into a full-time hustle.
We work with them.
We coach them.
We counsel them.
There are people who come to us that are startups. We work with them on their business plans and financial projections, so they can realistically see how long it will take.
Final thoughts on GROW's milestone?
GROW was not the entity it is today. We've really focused on access to capital for our clients.
How much better can it be than empowering women, especially in this day and age?
Written by Jennifer A. Pascua, Digital Content Strategy Manager for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in West Michigan Woman.