Inspiring DNEP Clients Teach Valuable Lessons in Entrepreneurship & Community

By Allison Wei (BBA ’25)

Something that surprised me about my experience working with the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project +Impact Studio for Local Business (DNEP +ISLB), is the sheer caliber of clients we work with. Beyond being extremely charismatic and hardworking, all of our clients view their businesses as a means of service to their community. Going into the internship, I had some sense of how amazing the clients are that we work with, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to work with Lisa Ludwinski, owner of Sister Pie, a specialty pie bakery in Detroit’s West Village.

As a pie lover and avid baker myself, Sister Pie is a business I’ve long idolized from afar — both for its tantalizing selection of products and Lisa’s inspiring story of starting Sister Pie in her parents’ kitchen and then building her storefront on Kercheval as a space for sisterhood and neighborhood gathering.

Sister Pie in Detroit

So far, it’s been an amazing experience working with Lisa. I am part of the Customer Retention team, which has been analyzing sales data to optimize Sister Pie’s menu and increase the bakery’s overall profitability. Here is some of what I’ve learned:

  1. Social impact not only requires heart, but courage: Sister Pie operates on a triple bottom line business model – which includes taking care of their staff and paying them a livable wage. Initially, Lisa told us that her mindset was to continue growing Sister Pie until one day she would be able to pay her employees a liveable wage. Now, she operates with a different mindset: rather than building her business first, then paying her employees a liveable wage, Lisa has chosen to pay a liveable wage now and build a business model that can sustain that. This is business that is radically people-first, that believes in the worthiness of work and of people. And yet this is an incredibly scary business move — especially in a post-pandemic world where everything seems so uncertain. But that hasn’t stopped Lisa: she kept all of her staff throughout the pandemic and just started a 401k plan for her employees as well (something incredibly rare in food service). While some may call Sister Pie’s business model “nontraditional,” working with Lisa gives me hope for a new business tradition. Indeed, Lisa reminds us that there is a higher calling to business, a nobler purpose beyond bottom lines and balance sheets, which starts and ends with service at its core.

  2. It’s not just about the data, but the story it tells: Throughout most of my life, I have shied away from data-heavy work and quantitative analysis, as someone who “wasn’t the best at numbers.”  I always loved English class and writing because of the emphasis on storytelling. And yet, being on the Customer Retention team, I’ve spent many hours poring over data in Excel, crunching numbers, and organizing data. What I’ve found has surprised me: rather than despising data analysis, I now see numbers as important, valuable, and even interesting.

    Time and again, after the Customer Retention team finished up the latest round of data analysis, our faculty advisor, Chris Mueller, would ask us: “What’s the story?” We would then go over multiple iterations of creating hypotheses, validating them, and refining them based on the data, until we finally arrived at a consistent, supported narrative. I have realized that what I thought was just number-crunching was actually storytelling through a different medium. Stories don’t just exist in obvious narratives, but are often lurking just below the surface if you simply look closely enough to see it.

  3. Slow down to speed up: As someone who’s naturally action-oriented and futuristic, I tend to prefer always moving over taking a slow, methodical approach. But this internship has shown me that busyness doesn’t always equal productivity — sometimes it’s actually better to slow down. Especially given the nature of DNEP +ISLB — working in a consulting environment managing multiple clients and deliverables —  it can be easy to get caught in the weeds and do work that doesn’t actually solve the root issue. There were multiple times where after spending hours in Excel, our team had to take a break and ask the question: “What is our end goal?”

    Sometimes we found that the direction we were going was wrong or there was in fact another analysis we needed to run. I’ve found that these times of pausing to ask simple but powerful questions were actually some of the most effective uses of our time. While hard work and perseverance requires its own discipline, I’m learning that there is yet another discipline of simplicity and contemplation that is equally important.

A heart on the Sister Pie sidewalk

As a kid, I dreamed of starting my own bakery. Working with Lisa has given me a deeper glimpse into what that might look like. But whether or not I end up starting my own bakery one day, I know I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from DNEP wherever I go: that sometimes to speed up you need to slow down, that data and storytelling do in fact go together, and that a pie can be so much more than a pie, but can even be a means of service, community, and love.


Read the Michigan Ross version of this post on the Michigan Ross website »

PODCAST: AI and the Gig Economy in the Global South

In this episode of Social Impact Design for Business, Jerry Davis of Michigan Ross’ +Impact Studio interviews Bama Athreya, Deputy Assistant Administrator with the Bureau for Development, Democracy and Innovation at USAID. Ms. Athreya discusses how the Global South has technologically leapfrogged past the expected little steps toward automation and straight to a gig economy where AI tracks employees, for good or for bad.


Q&A: Hear From Eight Michigan Ross All-Star Student Athletes on U-M’s Powerhouse Sports Teams this Year

It certainly is not easy playing for a Big Ten sports team at the University of Michigan while also attending a top-ranked degree program at the Ross School of Business.

Nevertheless, dozens of Michigan Ross students prove that it is possible to excel in both athletics and academics each year. In addition, the Ross student athletes say they are able to translate their classroom learning to their athletic performance, team leadership, and communication.

Included in this article is Erik Portillo, a BBA ’23 who will play in the NHL after graduation, and has been working with the +Impact Studio founders’ business Dualete, which partners college athletes with school-age athletes to encourage mental health awareness.

Read full article on Michigan Ross website

Course Spotlight: Michigan Ross and U-M Students Create Designs For Equitable Enterprises

by Hannah Shapiro

Can restaurants be good employers and good businesses? How should they recover from the pandemic?

Ten teams of graduate students from the University of Michigan presented their answers to those questions in April at Demo Day, a key component of an award-winning, impact-themed business course at the Ross School of Business.

That course, Impact Studio: Translating Research into Practice, is hosted by the +Impact Studio and co-taught by Jerry Davis, the Gilbert and Ruth Whitaker Professor of Business Administration at Michigan Ross and the Business+Impact initiative faculty director; and Cat Johnson, managing director of Business+Impact. Through the course, students have the opportunity to enhance their research and design skills while collaborating across boundaries to tackle some of the world’s most pressing business challenges. 

Read full story on Michigan Ross Website

ESG Reporters’ Bootcamp 2022

ESG Reporters' Bootcamp 2022:

Covering the Truth about Ethical Investing and ESG

Around the globe, the demand for ethical investing is exploding amid shareholder concerns about climate change, social justice, and corporate responsibility.

In 2021, more than $649 billion poured into funds focused on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues, a set of standards used by socially conscious investors to screen investments. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, corporations are pulling out of Russia or suspending their operations. As ESG-labeled funds take in billions, what do journalists need to know to report the truth about them?

In May 2022, the Ross School of Business and the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists at the University of Michigan presented three engaging and interactive sessions for journalists on understanding and evaluating industry claims around ESG. We heard from newsmakers, corporate leaders, and Michigan faculty experts on how to look beyond the corporate gloss, dig into data, and bring transparency to this complex and often politicized topic. 

Whether you’re a reporter covering business, climate, social justice, or general news, these sessions were designed to help you understand the most current issues driving the business and investing world. 

Click on the tabs below to see videos on each subject of the ESG acronym:

2022 Impact Internships Reach Across the USA

Dimitri Giraldo with internship funder Jason Gordon.

This year, Business+Impact’s Summer Fund is financially supporting the summer impact internships of 29 University of Michigan students, and overall we are supporting 57 U-M students in several types of summer experiences.

Each summer, Business+Impact awards competitive grants for summer internships to MBAs and BBAs in the Ross School of Business as well as MPP students in the Ford School of Public Policy.  MBA funding comes from the Give-A-Day Fund, a student-led MBA pay-it-forward fund, and from General Motors. Additionally, the Gordon Impact Entrepreneurship Fund provides support for BBA or MBA student internships with ventures or funders seeking to create societal impact. 

Finally, Business+Impact and Zell Lurie are supporting MBAs taking part in Open Road at Ross, funded by the Ford Motor Company.  This year teams are back on the road, covering the nation in solid MBA consulting! 

The Summer Fund

The Summer Fund is funded in part through the Give-A-Day Fund (for MBAs), Business+Impact (for BBAs) and the Ford School of Public Policy (for MPPs).


Sehrish Hussain, Studio Gallery, D.C., Washington D.C.

Faith Richardson, Backpac, San Francisco CA

Ponette Rubio, Lirico, Ann Arbor

Tanmay Arora, Global CO2 Initiatives, Ann Arbor MI

Soumya Tejam, University Impact, Provo UT


Summer Abiad, Purposeful Growth Institute, Remote

Jillian Brown, Do Good Foods, Princeton NJ

Alexis Kenworthy, Pacific Community Ventures, Oakland CA

Emily Griffith, The Encore Musical Theatre Company, Dexter MI

Linnet Leon, The Nature Conservancy, Washington D.C.

Patrick Burden,, NYC

Kathryn Mioduszewski, Embolden Athletics, Ann Arbor MI

Jason Hefter, Launch Factory, San Diego, CA

Aiko Ueda, Global CO2 Initiatives, Ann Arbor MI


Ariella Stafanson, ACLU of Northern California – Racial and Economic Justice Unit, San Francisco CA

Trevor Orginski, Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, Labor, Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Washington D.C.

Alhan Fakhr, mHUB, Chicago IL

Marco Ramirez, National Academy of Social Insurance – 2022 Congressman Pete Stark Health Policy Internship, Washington D.C.

Ariel Freed, Center for Integrity in Forensic Science, Madison WI

Laura Meyer, United Way of Southeastern Michigan, Detroit MI

Ellie Jorling, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Lansing MI

Stephen Culbertson, City of Detroit, Detroit MI

Patricia Fisher, TABLE, Oxford UK

Daniel Hayes, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Washington D.C.

Luiza Macedo, The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute, Washington D.C.

Gordon Impact Entrepreneurship Interns

The newly established Gordon Impact Entrepreneurship Fund provides support for BBA or MBA student internships with ventures or funders seeking to create societal impact. 

Gretchen Ascher (BBA),Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Brunswick ME

Jillian Brown (MBA/MS – Erb), Do Good Foods, Princeton, NJ.

Nathan Lohrmann (MBA), Impact Venture Capital @ The Unreasonable Group, Boulder CO

Elijah Forrester (MBA), Africa Innovation Hub, Ann Arbor MI

+Impact Studio for Local Business

The +Impact Studio for Local Business internship continues to be robust in its third year. Student funding has been made possible by Ross’ Business+Impact and Applebaum Family Philanthropy, the School of Information, the Stamps School of Art & Design, and Ripple. Several community partners in Detroit, especially from TechTown, will be on hand throughout the summer to help orient students to Detroit’s entrepreneurial landscape, to refer business clients, and to serve as a sounding board and resource connector for students. 

Brandon Matja, BBA

Faiqa Alam, BBA

Nova Wyrobek, BBA

Grace Aretakis, BBA

Allison Wei, BBA

Open Road at Ross

Due to loosening of restrictions from the recent pandemic, we are making up for the lost years by launching our largest contingent of Open-Roaders ever! Driving from state to state, meeting socially- and environmentally-driven entrepreneurs, Ross MBAs spend one week on-site in each location, working closely with the entrepreneur, to provide a solution or recommendation to a business problem they are facing. At the end of each week, students pack up the car and hit the road again to meet with the next entrepreneur! Business+Impact and Zell Lurie Institute are proud to partners on this program, funded by Ford Motor Company.

Team Hidden JEMMS (MBA2s):

Jaume Boneta Seco, MBA

Eric Hopfenbeck, MBA

Mallory Leibowitz, MBA

Megha Savla, MBA

Team Community Collective (MBA2s):

Amanda Hsieh, MBA

Marissa Cooper, MBA

Kat Nguyen, MBA

Hemangani Pande, MBA

Real Execs of Ross (MBA2s):

Patrice Drummond, MBA

Shayon Donaldson, MBA

Whitney Pollard, MBA

SEEL the Deal (MBA1s):

Eden Berdugo, MBA

Linnet Leon, MBA

Esther Chen, MBA

Sai Madhavi Antharam, MBA

Geek Squad (MBA1s):

Joss Woodhead, MBA

Summer Abiad, MBA

Messeret Kebede, MBA

Chisom Uche, MBA

Eats Meets West (MBA1s):

Ashley Tran, MBA

Patrick Nguyen Burden, MBA

Sam Teng, MBA

Gic-Owens Fiestan, MBA

Working with Inspiring Business Owners in Detroit through DNEP +Impact Studio for Local Business

By Grace Aretakis (BBA ’24)

As the daughter of a female business owner, and the granddaughter of a first generation immigrant who came to Detroit to start his own enterprise, small businesses have been a central part of my family and life thus far. Through the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project +Impact Studio for Local Business internship, I have the privilege of working closely with driven entrepreneurs who are paving the way for  success for both their families and communities. 

My name is Grace Aretakis and I am a sophomore undergraduate student, studying Business Administration at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. After a little over a week in my internship, I find myself immersed in an environment that has allowed me to grow, explore my curiosities, and learn from the remarkable small business owners we have the honor of working with.  

Our first meeting with the initial set of clients set the tone for this internship. Our first two clients are two women who have centered their entrepreneurial visions around their dedication to the Detroit community. Not only are these business owners impressive for their entrepreneurial ambition, but also for their selflessness. They value the growth of their businesses for the growth it will foster in their community. What struck me from this meeting was how intertwined the goals of these businesses are with the needs of the community. When we went to visit the site of one of these businesses, I noticed that each interaction Felicia had with her customers was fueled by generosity and love. I am especially enthused to learn this summer by observing the passion and care these business owners have for the people they serve. 

Felicia Maxwell, Owner of Fit 4 Life in Detroit, led the Open Road team in a workout during our time with her.

In my short time so far, I have also learned how many roles the title of “business owner” truly encompasses. These women do not just hold the title of founder of their business, but accountant, marketer, maintenance, tech support, researcher, employee, employer, and the list goes on. Not only do they hold these many titles relating to their business, they also hold the responsibilities of mother/father, mentor, teacher, provider, and the list goes on. Understanding the many pressures and responsibilities these entrepreneurs face made me recognize what a responsibility and privilege we as students have in this internship. We have the opportunity to use the resources and training provided by DNEP +ISLB to take ownership of one of these titles to take this weight off of the owner. If we can take over “accountant” or “marketer”, and implement a solution that will free this burden, we can enable further success and growth for these business owners.

Felicia Maxwell passes a plate with ease as she directs our workout at Fit 4 Life in Detroit.

As we are introduced to new projects in the upcoming weeks, I look forward to soaking in the many additional lessons I will learn from the owners we work with, the challenges we tackle, and the talented student interns around me. This opportunity has allowed me to assess where I can grow as a business student and a member of a team. In such a short time, I already see myself becoming a more effective communicator and team member. By the end of this program, I look forward to seeing growth in myself along with the growth that we stimulate in the business we work with. Thank you to all who have made this rewarding opportunity possible. I cannot wait to see the impact we make during these upcoming weeks.

PODCAST: Labor – Effects of Remote Work and Monopsony

In this episode of Social Impact Design for Business, Jerry Davis of Michigan Ross’ +Impact Studio interviews Jagadeesh Sivadasan, Professor of Business Economics at Michigan Ross. Mr Sivadasan shares insights into changes labor markets where remote work and monopsony are radically changing the landscape. As remote work opens up, competition for jobs can increase in certain industries.


Board Fellows Partner Organization Info Sessions

Tues, May 17 @ Noon
Dearborn Room
UM Detroit Center

Thurs, May 19 @ Noon
Blau Hall, B1570
Ross School of Business

Are you a nonprofit organization in Southeast Michigan that is curious about the Board Fellowship program? Graduate student Fellows serve as non-voting board members during the academic year and complete a strategic project that can provide valuable capacity in areas such as strategic plan implementation, sustainability strategies, business plans, and dashboards. These sessions provide an overview for prospective organizations interested in participating during the 2022-23 academic year, and feature insights from nonprofit leaders currently participating.

Using our rigorous matchmaking and vetting process, students with the unique skills to work on your organization’s pressing issues will be assigned to your board as non-voting members. You will benefit from their expertise in project management, marketing, business systems, policy analysis, strategic planning, and more.

Applications from nonprofit organizations will be accepted from now through
Sun, June 26: