5 Michigan business women thrive and give back

Carol Cain
Detroit Free Press
February 27, 2016

Michigan is blessed with some amazing women rocking their careers as they also give back to help the community.

Women like Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of General Motors, Suzanne Shank, chairman and CEO of Siebert Brandford & Shank, Gretchen Valade, chairman emeritus of Carhartt, Andra Rush, founder and chairman of Rush Group, and Najah Bazzy, founder and executive director of Zaman International.

Though they hail from different backgrounds, these powerhouses have made helping the community a priority.

“Life is a boomerang,” said Terry Barclay, president and chairman of Inforum, the state’s most influential women’s business group. “What you give, you get. Smart women know that the fastest way we rise is by lifting other people, particularly women.”

With Women’s History Month kicking off this week, these five women are following the tradition of earlier trailblazers who impacted the community.

Leaders like Eleanor Josaitis, who cofounded Focus: HOPE and worked to ease Detroit’s racial and economic divide, former first lady Betty Ford, who changed the conversation about substance abuse and breast cancer, and Rosa Parks, a seamstress who inspired the civil rights movement when she refused to give her seat on the bus to a white man during segregation in 1955.

Today, a new group of leaders is blazing new trails.

Andra Rush
Andra Rush (Photo: Paul Pytlowany CBS62)

Barra, Shank, Valade, Rush and Bazzy are also profiled in “Eye on the Future: the Power of Women,”  a TV special airing at 6:30  tonight on CBS 62.

Rush’s business story began with a $5,000 loan from her parents and her credit cards, which she used to buy a van and two pickup as she launched Rush Trucking while in her twenties.

She worked hard and the company flourished. Today, she’s chairman of Rush Group, which includes companies that focus on auto manufacturing, assembly, logistics and supply chain management. Rush Group generates more than $1.5 billion in annual sales.

“When I was in college, I thought I could run a few companies and my family could soon retire, I would also be able to help find a cure for diabetes,” said Rush with a laugh.

She learned how hard it is to sustain and grow a business.

Today, Rush, who is mom to three boys, also oversees one of the largest Native American-owned businesses in the U.S. and woman-owned companies in Michigan.

As she’s grown, she’s never forgotten the importance of giving back and helping those in need.

Rush is involved with numerous schools and organizations with a focus on helping Native Americans, women and children.

She is also focused on creating sustainable jobs in under-served communities where her facilities are based.

President Barack Obama gave kudos to Rush for her community efforts during his 2014 State of the Union speech. She sat in the audience next to Barra, who had just been named CEO of General Motors. Barra was also hailed by Obama in his remarks.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” said Rush. “For me it’s been a great journey, and I am amazed at the phenomenal people I have met along the way.”

 

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