Michelle Richards

Great Lakes Women's Business Council

Executive Director

Michelle leads the organization she established in 1984, now known as the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council (Great Lakes WBC). She is a respected leader with an inspiring story of challenge, triumph, and positive impact fueled by her commitment to creating an inclusive environment where people are valued.

Great Lakes WBC is among the top economic development organizations in Michigan and Indiana, comprised of four initiatives: WBE Certification, CEED Lending, Women’s Business Center, and Corporate Membership. With more than 1,400 certified women-owned businesses, 100 global corporate members, and providing small business loans totaling more than $9 million and generating 1,800 jobs.

Michelle played a role along with other pioneers at WBENC in national efforts to persuade major corporations that doing business with women-owned businesses is both prudent and profitable. Her primary target was getting the automotive sector to set spending goals with women-owned businesses. Her passion for service to others and her roots in social work, Michelle blends her community activism and business acumen to advance women, minorities, and small businesses.

Although modest about her accomplishments and successful advocacy, Michelle’s work has not gone unnoticed. Michelle has provided expert testimony to both the U.S. Senate and House small business committees on behalf of women business owners. In addition to numerous awards and recognitions that she has received throughout her notable career, Michelle was inducted into the Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame by the American Institute for Diversity and Commerce.