Marianne Ballas, President of Ballas Buick GMC located on W. Central Avenue, stumbled into her business by accident as a college student at The University of Toledo. She found that she loved the automotive industry and since has risen to the top of her field and was nominated for the 2015 TIME Magazine Dealer of the Year Award.
Marianne got her start in the industry while she was studying to be a teacher. To help pay for her education, she got a job at the George Ballas dealership in Sylvania preparing titles. She loved her role at the dealership so much that she continued to grow her career there and began to learn all aspects of the business.
In 2004, she was presented with an opportunity to purchase the business. The automotive industry is predominantly male and requires an intensive amount of cash for entry, but Marianne didn’t let that stop her. She approached the finance arm of General Motors, and she was able to secure a loan to purchase the business. Though the next few years were incredibly difficult for the industry, with gas prices skyrocketing and General Motors declaring bankruptcy, Marianne was able to keep her team together and continue to be profitable.
Giving back to the community and providing a positive example to other women is something that is important to Marianne. “I love having the opportunity to be a leader and to let other women know that they can do these things if they just persevere.” She is chairman of the Women’s Retail Network at General Motors and their goal is to educate and recruit women into automotive fields. “We do believe it [women in leadership roles] changes the culture.”
Her advice to young entrepreneurs, “You get what you give.” She encourages leaders to deliver a really good product because only then will people support them. “The people of Toledo have supported me. They have embraced me as a woman leader, and I really appreciate that. My obligation is to give back.”
Not only known for her leadership in the automotive field, Marianne is a philanthropic leader in the community and has been a founding member of several scholarship programs in our area. Ten years ago, she was instrumental in working with a group of dealers in the area to start ADUK (Automotive Dealers United for Kids), which to date has given $1.5 million to aid in the education and welfare of the children of "Greater Toledo.”
Marianne is proud of her Alma Mater, The University of Toledo. So much so, that she was a founding member and chair of a group at the University called “Women in Philanthropy.” The organization gives gifts back to colleges within UT that have requested grant funding for various projects. She was also a founding member of The University of Toledo Medical Center’s “Medical Research Society.” Members of the organization make a yearly contribution to fund a medical research project in one of the disciplines of medicine. The first year they supported research on ovarian cancer and last year their money went towards studying Alzheimer’s.
Toledo is home to Marianne, her two sons, and her grandchildren, and she is excited about the community. She states, “I selected this as my hometown.” When asked why she chose to make it here, she reflects that when she first moved here from Central Ohio, “I found Toledo to be a very warm town. People were very friendly and very open, and there was a lot of sophistication.” From cultural treasures like the Toledo Opera, Symphony, and the Toledo Museum of Art, to the great department stores downtown at the time, Marianne was happy to see herself put down roots in Toledo. “I fell in love with Toledo and the people.”
Having seen the excitement of a bustling downtown Toledo, Marianne is excited to see the energy of businesses re-establishing themselves downtown. She says, “There is no question in my mind that there is a renaissance downtown, and I am so excited about it.”
It Matters Where You Make It ®