Tony Farris is the Business Growth Manager for the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, formerly known as the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED). The nonprofit organization has been around for 31 years. CEED started in Detroit in 1996 as a micro lending firm and alternative financer for small businesses. Today the organization provides a number of tools and functions to help people learn how to start, maintain, and grow a business. They provide certification for for small business owners, help with financing and lending (their loans range from $5,000-$50,000 over a 5 year term), business outreach, and technical assistance. The organization, which has a history of helping minority, women-owned businesses, and small businesses, has had a hand in supporting7,000 businesses across the United States. CEED also has a webpage devoted specifically to networking. The Michigan Women’s Marketplace is a program within the organization that functions as an online business directory for women-owned businesses. It allows women from all over Michigan to participate in discussions and learn how to grow their businesses, as well as meet other women looking to do the same thing.

Aside from the workshops and orientations Tony hosts to share his vast wealth of business knowledge, there is also a roundtable event the organization puts on each quarter.  This year on Tuesday, August 4, there was an “Entrepreneur Roundtable” at St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church that focused on “Mastering the Pop-Up Dinner.” This free roundtable workshop is put on by the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council and FoodLab Detroit. The roundtable gave food entrepreneurs the opportunity to network with other business owners, chefs and aspiring restaurateurs, and offered guidance on how to design a successful “pop-up” dinner event.

Although Tony is the Business Growth Manager, he has experience in many other areas of business. As a small business owner himself, he has owned a successful janitorial supply business since 1984, Tony knows a great deal about how to run and grow a business. The various roles Tony has had in the business world enable him to help his clients with technical assistance, social media, marketing, and web design. Along with Tony’s expertise, he possesses a genuine desire to help people. He is enthusiastic about his work, and it shows. He says that it is “extremely rewarding to watch a business go from conception to success,” and he loves being able to “help the businesses grow as well as the community.”

In fact, community was one of the reasons that Tony chose to become a member at the Grand River WorkPlace. Tony said that he “saw an opportunity here,” and he wanted to “maintain a presence in Detroit.” With help from their partnerships with the Southwest Detroit Business Association and Focus Hope, the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council has put approximately $1.3 million into Detroit small businesses. Tony isn’t slowing down any time soon either. Tony was able to aid in the growth of two particularly successful local businesses: Sweet Potato Sensations and 3 Dogs 1 Cat. He hopes to have a hand in the growth of more local businesses in the future and share his wisdom and experiences with as many people as he can.