Helping To Grow Sustainable Enterprise Since 2006

Our mission is to fund, mentor, and grow sustainable enterprises that are just as good for business as they are for the communities in which they work.

So, who are we?

Established in 2006, Grow Forward was founded based on Jim Murphy’s passion for launching and accelerating community-driven businesses.

He has decades of experience raising investment capital and helping founders launch and propel their business forward. Jim has served in several leadership posts at the Chicago Board Options Exchange for his 25 year tenure.

Typically involved in early stages of a business, Grow Forward partners with In-Focus Ventures to provide business and financial leadership to its portfolio brands.

In-Focus works with management teams, providing affordable access to talent and support for all levels of the business—from handling the day-to-day financial and administrative transactions to developing strategies for achieving profitable growth, and everything in between.

Portfolio Brands

Grow Forward’s expertise is finding forward-thinking food companies and technologies, partnering with founders that champion sustainable practices, and seizing strategic opportunities that invest in the growth of locally, sustainably-produced food.

It’s not just better business, it’s better for us all.

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Rural & Urban Enterprise

A Focus on Local Jobs & Career Growth

MightyVine alone employs 70 local residents at this time. In the past year, they have been able to expand growing operations from 7.5 acres to 15 acres and hope this growth continues into the future so they can grow more and employ more.

“We were able to bring the next generation of agricultural production back to a plot of land that had previously had all the topsoil stripped for development [of a warehouse before the building plans fell through due to the 2008 economic crisis].”

This commitment to local workers is seen through other portfolio brands, namely Carbon Green BioEnergy that provides career training and employment to nearly 50 residents of Odessa, Michigan.

Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund

Jim founded the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund (DMSF) in 1989 to enrich the lives of Chicago youth. DMSF provides high school scholarship assistance and educational support to Chicago students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

DMSF seeks to make a life-altering difference in the lives of its scholars by providing them with the best opportunity to succeed in high school and college. To date, DMSF has awarded more than 2,200 scholarships. 100% of DMSF scholars who graduate high school gain acceptance to a four-year college or university.

Chicago International Charter School

Jim was founding president for the Chicago International Charter School in 1997, which now serves more than 8,000 students across 14 campuses.

Chick Evans Scholarship Program

Jim also serves as alumnus and Director for the Chick Evans Scholarship Program, which has provided scholarships to 935 students enrolled at 20 universities for the 2016-17 academic year. The scholarship fund provides more than $17.6 million in annual scholarships for housing and tuition assistance, and has awarded more than $348 million since its founding.

Frontera 30th Anniversary

With the help of Jim as event co-chair and Grow Forward as sponsor, the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration raised funds to benefit two Chicago-based non-profits: the Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed.

Founded by Rick and Deann Bayless in 2003, the Frontera Farmer Foundation is committed to promoting small, sustainable farms serving the Chicago area by providing them with capital development grants. The Foundation’s board has approved nearly $2 million in grants to Midwest farmers since its founding.

The mission of FamilyFarmed is to promote and expand locally grown and responsibly produced food in order to enhance the social, economic, and environmental health of communities. In 2004, FamilyFarmed launched the Good Food Trade Show, where nearly 5,000 people attend to meet annually to learn, get inspired, and do business.

Leadership

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Jim Murphy

President & Chairman

Jim Murphy is the Chairman & President of Grow Forward. A founder and longtime supporter of several nonprofits, Jim serves as chairman for numerous businesses. Jim’s passion for health, food, and renewable energy comes from decades of industry experience and achievements. Grow Forward is the culmination of those successes.

Team

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Pat Lauscher

President/CEO – InFocus Ventures

Patrick joined Grow Forward in 2015 with 22 years of diverse business experience, having worked for several divisions of a $2 billion private manufacturing company. He led a successful startup as CFO/COO of a retail marketing-services company, growing that business to an $80 million valuation. Patrick successfully led turnarounds as General Manager of a manufacturing company and a supply chain services business (both > $100 million), and as Controller/Sales Manager of a food service supply company. He graduated magna cum laude with a BSB in Accounting from the University of Minnesota, and later earned his MBA from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

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George Madzhirov

CEO, Co-founder – HandCut Foods

George Madzhirov comes from a well-rounded hospitality background working in both hotels and restaurants. George began his career with a hospitality management degree in his native Bulgaria. Just prior to HandCut Foods founding, George pioneered an innovative nutrition services and catering program as the General Manager for food service at the Latin School of Chicago. He has also managed front of house operations for multiple hospitality and catering operations. George started HandCut Foods to make eating at schools and work more enjoyable and prioritize the importance of customer experience around food.

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Julie Martin

VP, Finance & Corporate Social Responsibility – InFocus Ventures

As a Certified Public Accountant, Julie Martin brings to the team a technical understanding of the complexities of the financial landscape of our business. Julie graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BBA – Accounting. With experiences ranging from the nonprofit sector to private equity, Julie has a unique perspective of grassroots operations.