Applebaum Impact Design Fellows and Founders Showcase Their Work This Summer During +Impact Studio Summer Demo Day

August 18, 2021 – ANN ARBOR – Michigan Ross +Impact Studio‘s Applebaum Impact Design Fellows and Founders in the newly launched Founders Program shared their venture concepts and summer learnings with key entrepreneurial stakeholders during a demo day co-hosted by +Impact Studio Innovator-in-Residence, Moses Lee and Business+Impact Managing Director, Cat Johnson.

Through the generosity of Applebaum Family Philanthropy, students this summer were able to collaborate in the Founders Program to develop and prototype ideas for impact. Students from the Ross School of Business, School of Social Work, STAMPS School of Art and Design, LSA, U-M School of Information, and Michigan Engineering worked on multidisciplinary teams to move these student impact ventures forward. 

Each impact venture team worked with an Applebaum Impact Design Fellow to identify key stakeholders, conduct interviews, and ultimately move the enterprise forward on its path toward impact. They did this work primarily remotely but had periodic in-person meetings following Covid-19 protocols.

Andrew Echt, Director of Applebaum Family Philanthropy (AFP), congratulated all of the students and shared “Applebaum Family Philanthropy is proud to partner with Business+Impact. By supporting Applebaum Impact Design Fellows and Founders in this program, we are supporting ideas and innovation that can be leveraged from inspiration to creation to ultimately help change the world. This connectivity and focus is core to our DNA at AFP!”

Recap of the Applebaum Founders Presentations

Each Applebaum Founder spent 5 minutes discussing the mission and vision of their enterprise, where they started the summer, goals they set with their partner Applebaum Fellows at the beginning of the summer, work that was performed during the summer, and what they believe their next steps will be as a result of this work. After each presentation, there time for Q&A. Below are summaries of each team presentation:

EQuity – Founder: Justin Woods (MBA/MSW); Fellow: Claire Babilonia, MBA
EQuity is a learning and development platform that focuses on advancing racial justice by developing emotional intelligence. The prototype Justin has developed is a digitally immersive course (15 hours of learning over 8 days) that uses mixed methods like live training, virtual modules, office hours, and a learning community to give people practical skills for building emotional intelligence and advancing racial justice. This summer the team launched a scholarship essay contest with a $5000 prize to support students and raise awareness around these issues. Next steps include developing a new B2B business model to launch and test the course prototype.

Venture Field Guide – Founder & Fellow: Jess Halter, MBA/MS

Jess chose to lead development of this venture because while in the +Impact Studio course BA670, she had the chance to engage with small business owners in Detroit and SE Michigan. They shared their experience facing tremendous stressors as entrepreneurs and leaders. Journalling can help entrepreneurs reflect, be intentional, get important work done, and be less stressed about the rest. This summer Jess worked with the studio to conduct entrepreneur interviews, develop a 36 page print prototype and run 21 user tests. In addition to fine tuning this prototype, Jess will be prototyping a new Sustainability Field Guide using her insights from the summer to help people seeking to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Plucky Comics – Founders: Nathan Alston, MBA, Daniella Gennaro, MBA/MA Education; Fellows: Onyekachi  Ezirike, MBA, Lucy Jiang, MSI

Stories and facts about Black queer historical figures are often not taught, and there are currently very few resources for teaching it. Plucky Comics seeks to develop imaginative, affirming, and informative historical materials for learners of all ages using comics and graphics, teacher editions, and innovative learning approaches. This summer, Plucky released four comic book covers on James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Sylvester, and Marsha P. Johnson and reached 15,000 Instagram accounts. Next steps include a merchandise-focused revenue model to further advance the brand and develop a full print and digital prototype comic book.

Fit with Ayo – Founder: Ayodele Ojo, BBA; Fellow: Claire Babilonia, MBA

Fit with Ayo is focused on inclusive, accessible fitness and overcoming barriers to health for all women, so they can grow into their strongest selves. During the summer, Ayo and Claire looked at their audience and conducted interviews to discover what was most important to them. They discovered that a planner, motivational texts and bi-week community workout classes could help customers, along with a subscription box to help them with accountability and motivation. The next step includes testing a series of boxes with their clearly identified demographic.

Team TBD – Founders: Cindy Gu, LSA, Edward Huang, MBA, Raeed Rasul, BSE, Ronit Tiwary, BE; Fellow: Elizabeth Sofranek, MBA

After a pivot guided by interview insights gleaned this summer, the founders on this team noticed that a lot of athletes are opening up about their mental health experiences, and that these mental health challenges begin in youth. Now that college athletes are allowed by law to earn money from their name, images, and likeness, there is an opportunity for them to partner in a new business where they mentor youth on mental health issues unique to athletes. This team plans to develop a prototype of their app and try it out with college and youth athletes.

Studio X – Founder: Seth St. Pierre, BA; Fellows: Onyekachi Ezirike, MBA, Lucy Jiang, MSI

Studio X founder Seth St. Pierre graduated this month from the STAMPS School of Art and Design. He formerly worked with Marvel and now works at Dreamworks. He asked the question, “What if the entertainment industry used a portion of the billions of dollars a year they make in revenue to teach communities around the world to create and take risks?” This summer, the +Impact Studio was helpful in providing clarity on the direction of Studio X, and the team did countless interviews. Now Studio X will work to develop a few shorts demonstrating its work, and will finish its website.