2024 Game Changers Womans History Month_Showcase-Cassin_2568x1444_v1

DETROIT – Carolyn Cassin is no stranger to the Ilitch name. When she worked for Continuum Health Partners Hospice, she was a caretaker for Marian Ilitch’s father and was inspired by Ilitch’s work with Little Caesars. Getting to know Ilitch was what inspired her to become a businesswoman and launch Vista Care, the first national for-profit hospice company in the United States.

“I had a great career in the hospice industry, but after my company was sold, I wanted to do something good for the community that had really given me my start and all the people within it,” Cassin said. “I made a conscious decision to work with this company then called Michigan Women’s Foundation, but we evolved and instead of giving money away, we decided to invest it in women.”

In the last decade, Michigan Women Forward has invested more than $10 million and has made 430 loans to 345 businesses. The organization started its first year investing in two women and now invests in more than 100 women each year.


“It’s been an exciting journey, but we’ve made the focus and fundamental premise of the organization what we give people,” Cassin said. “People who haven’t had access to capital or haven’t come from a background with the ability to grow a business, we invest in them and give them the support and resources they need. It’s really changed the face of entrepreneurship in the state of Michigan.”

Cassin is the first 2024 Women’s History Month honoree of the Game Changers series, which celebrates community members making a profound difference for youth in Detroit. In partnership with Comerica Bank, the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers are recognizing one Game Changers honoree per week during select months throughout the year to receive a $1,000 grant dedicated to the charity of their choice.

“As we enter Women’s History Month and bring forward the stories of incredible leaders in our community, we’re delighted to celebrate Carolyn Cassin as a Game Changers honoree,” said Kevin Brown, Director of Community Impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Through Michigan Women Forward, Carolyn and her team are making a profound difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs across Michigan by delivering necessary economic resources and opportunities to succeed in their endeavors.”

HerImpact CJC

Aside from her work with Michigan Women Forward investing in small businesses and entrepreneurs, Cassin also co-founded a company called the Belle Impact Fund. This company focuses on larger women-owned businesses and helping them scale their businesses and organizations.

Cassin said she planned to go to Michigan Women Forward and help for a short time; she’s now been with the organization for 13 years.

“I just wanted to help them out a little bit, get them on the right track and give them a good business model. I was going to do my thing and leave and then go back into hospice but I didn’t, I stayed here,” Cassin said. “Now we’ve built the largest micro lender in the state and a program that has really changed the lives of hundreds and hundreds of women as they’ve been able to start and grow their business.”

Cassin said she is grateful for the recognition and the full-circle moment it’s brought her.


“I think of Marian [Ilitch] often,” Cassin said. “It’s the American dream that she did and now I get to help do. Give opportunities to people who might not otherwise have them. It’s an honor to be recognized by Ilitch Sports + Entertainment because I didn’t have many businesswomen to look up to, aside from Marian, and now I am trying to create an ecosystem of women entrepreneurs who help each other and support each other.

“To get the recognition from a company that was started by world-class entrepreneurs, I’m not in the same league as them at all, but the fact that someone at the organization recognized me and my team’s work is great. I’m accepting this on behalf of all the people that we help, we want them to pay it forward and continue to help others, too.”

To learn more about Michigan Women Forward, visit miwf.org.