Applebaum Family Philanthropy and Guests Guide +Impact Studio Founders and Applebaum Design Fellows During Special Visit

On Friday, December 9, 2022, representatives from Applebaum Family Philanthropy, Applebaum Ventures and three Detroit entrepreneurs came to the +Impact Studio to provide feedback and advice to UM students in the +Impact Studio Founders and Applebaum Design Fellows programs. Applebaum Family Philanthropy was represented by Pamela Applebaum (CEO & President of Applebaum Ventures), Andrew Echt (Director of Applebaum Family Philanthropy), Gabe Sharg (Director of Investments for Applebaum Ventures), and Julia Bleznak (Director of Applebaum Fellows and Community Development). Their guest included Veronika Scott (Founder and CEO of the Empowerment Plan), Kiana Wenzell (Co-Executive Director of Design Core Detroit), and Josh Sklar (Senior Product Manager at StockX).

Students Jarrad Henderson and Alex Perez-Garcia share ideas with Kiana Wenzell and Pamela Applebaum.

Students and professionals, along with Business+Impact staffers Cat Johnson, Loren Townes, Haley Phillips, Annaliese Fowler, Glenn Bugala and Faculty Director Jerry Davis began the day at 10 am with mingling.  This was followed by introductions and descriptions of the student teams, and then students teams met with Applebaum Family Philanthropy reps and guests in a round-robin series of breakouts. Students described where their ventures are, where they hope to go, and challenges/goals through which they are working.  Applebaum Family Philanthropy reps and their guests offered guidance, experience, and support. The event concluded around noon with final remarks and info sharing.

This was all part of a special Community Coworking Friday called “Idea Day.”  These Coworking Fridays are aimed at being an incubator of innovative ideas and projects related to social impact — from framing issues to ideation and prototyping of business ventures. Each week, student founders meet in the +Impact Studio to work on their ventures; collaborate on ideas; consult with Applebaum fellows, faculty, staff, and special guests; and support one another. These Community Coworking Friday sessions has been extremely beneficial to their entrepreneurial teams, making a positive impact on their social venture journey and even helping them unlock new insights. Many students also say the sessions have assisted them in overcoming the unique challenges that solo entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams can face.

Current student ventures include:

Pop Up Docs aims to democratize visual storytelling by centering and educating diverse creators while building a capable community of talented, experienced, and influential storytellers. Founder: Jarrad Henderson (2023 Knight Wallace Fellow); Applebaum Impact Design Fellow: Alex Perez-Garcia (MBA/MPP 2024)

PILs Ventures seeks to ultivate generational health-and-wealth for one million people in the Black, Latinx, and other historically overlooked communities by 2033. Founder: George Okpamen (MBA 2023);  Applebaum Impact Design Fellow: Grace Sanders (BBA 2023)

Bubble! Learn Science looks to improve the academic literacy skills of low-resource high school students and empower them to succeed in STEM careers. Founder: Rafee Mirza (LSA 2025); Applebaum Impact Design Fellow: Kelsey Hewett (MBA 2023)

Lifeboat is currently facilitating easier, safer, and more affordable gender-affirming medical procedures in the U.S. and abroad. Lifeboat believes that by building the infrastructure needed to facilitate domestic medical tourism, providers across the U.S. will be forced into cost competition, leading to better, higher quality, more affordable medical care for all Americans. Founder: Sasha Kolodkin (MSI/MBA 2024); Applebaum Impact Design Fellow: Carly Fink (MBA 2023)

Students George Okpamen and Grace Sanders share their plans with Gabe Scharg and Josh Sklar.

La Onda looks to create and foster community for Latinx individuals and reduce barriers to accessing mental health resources. Founder: Christian Ilarraza Colón (MBA/MPP 2023); Applebaum Impact Design Fellow: Alejandra Fuentes (MPP 2023)

G2G: Grow Together eases the financial and emotional burden of individuals experiencing major life hardships (divorce, infertility, caregiving, life-threatening ailment) by offering an app-based platform with 1:1 financial coaching, financial education modules that uses story-telling & behavior change principles, and a community support forum.  Founder: Yasmin Abdulhadi (MBA 2023) Applebaum Impact Design Fellow: Bridgit Jung (IS 2025)

CliMates goal is to have ten million people invested into climate action through time, energy and money by 2030. Co-Founders: Akhila Kosaraju (M.Des 2023), Isha Goel (MS Corporate Sustainability 2022) & Chris Okumura (BS, Electronics 2022);  Applebaum Impact Design Fellow: Grace Sanders (BBA 2023)

See the complete photo album from the event here on Flickr.

Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Round Two Winners

Ann Arbor, December 5, 2022 – The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition has announced the eight teams advancing in its Seigle Impact Track.

For Dearborn founder presents to an audience and judges in 2019 Michigan Business Challenge.
For Dearborn presents in Round Two in 2019.

Many student teams submitted proposals for MBC, with one third submitting for the Seigle Impact Track. After passing a qualifying round, teams advanced to Round One, which was held at the Ross School of Business on Friday, November 14, via video link. In the Seigle Impact Track, eight teams will now advance to Round Three, taking place on Friday, January 20, 2022. From there, four teams will advance to the Finals on Friday, February 10, 2022.

Eight impact teams will advance from this round to the next:

  • e3 – a holistic chrome extension that bridges the information gap to allow consumers to conveniently identify more sustainable choices by scanning and scoring clothing product pages on their environmental impact and providing recommendations for alternative eco-friendly items. Joshua Glynn, BBA ’24; Manal Shaikh, BBA ’24; Alexander Bower, BBA ’24; Saavan Kaneria, BBA ’24; Sena Kaddurah, BBA ’24; Lucas Coman, BBA ’24

  • FUSE – a one-stop financial empowerment hub for refugees that allows asylum seekers to open a bank account without a social security number, build credit, access financial orientation resources, professional development opportunities, local coupons, and manage their government cash assistance in any language they speak. Margarethe Steinhaus, MPP ’23; Christian Neubacher, MPP ’23

  • G2G: Grow Together – a wealth-building platform that uses financial planning, learning modules, and a community forum to support individuals experiencing life hardships (i.e., caregiving/infertility/life-threatening ailment/divorce). Yasmin Abdulhadi, MBA ‘23; Bridgit Jung, LSA ’24

  • International Footprint – a global comprehensive toolkit that provides access to mindfully translated information about legal policies, including visas, taxes, and healthcare, for international students and workers. Yeonkyoung No, BBA & BA PPE ’25; Dan Atlman, BSE Mechanical Eng ’24; Gyu Been Moon, BA Political Science & BA Korean Literature and Culture ’24; Justin Park, BA Cognitive Science ’22

  • LexoFin – a Web3 platform that translates financial terminology on the fly to make the world of finance & investing accessible to everyone. Bryant Burciaga, MBA ’24

  • SeaSpider – Aiming  to improve the identification of abandoned fishing nets in sensitive coral reefs in order to allow conservation organizations to remove abandoned fishing nets that kill wildlife and destroy coral reefs. Joe Huang, CS ’22; Adam Zhang, BS Environment  ’23

  • Solar Fridge – working to develop an inexpensive, solar-powered energy independent, and low-maintenance vaccine refrigerator to ensure vaccine availability and viability in low-resource communities. Thomas Chen, BS ’23; Ryan Fang, BS ’25; Avani Govindswamy, BSE ’24; Gabriel Ferriero, BSE ’25; Alan Shi, BSE ’24; Cara Gallagher, BSE ’25; Aham Lee, BSE ’23; Ryan Hamby, BSE ’22; Carina Gallagher, BSE ’23; Nancy Chen, BSE ’23; Allison Lee, BSI ’24; Thiago Reis, BSE ’24; Paola Zavala, BSE ’25; Eldon Xu, BSE ’23

  • Unavigate – College connection service that allows high school students to communicate with college students and ask questions regarding their school/major. Yash Singhvi, BBA’26; Esha Patel BS(Econ)’26; Rikhil Sankati BBA ‘26

Additionally, 8 teams are advancing in the the Innovation Track, and 8 teams are advancing in the Invention Track.

The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition where student businesses have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling over $100,000, gain feedback from leaders in the business community, and expand their business network. Ross’ Seigle Impact Track is sponsored by the Mark and Robin Seigle Entrepreneurial Innovation Fund and co-managed by Business+Impact at Michigan Ross, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies

Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Round One Winners

Ann Arbor, November 16, 2022 – The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition has announced the eight teams advancing in its Seigle Impact Track.

Approximately 65 student teams submitted proposals for MBC, with 23 teams submitting for the Seigle Impact Track on Tues, Nov. 1. Teams advanced through Round One, which was held at the Ross School of Business on Monday, November 14, 2022. In the Seigle Impact Track, seventeen teams will now advance to Round Two, taking place on Friday, December 2, 2022. The semifinals will take place Friday, January 20, 2023, and the finals will be Friday, February 10, 2023.

Hattie McKinney’s Great Quality Developments won the 2022 MBC Seigle Impact Track in February of 2022.

Seventeen impact teams will advance from Round One to Round Two:

  • Azarias – Enterprise resource management software for small nonprofits and insightful small nonprofit data provider for donors. Matt Martin, BSE ’22

  • CliMates – A platform that educates Millennials & GenZ and facilitates investment/donations to green technology and projects in underserved countries. Akhila Kosaraju MDes’23, Chris Okumura BS’22,  Isha Goel MS Corporate Sustainability ‘22

  • COLORSCOLLAB – a community festival featuring local artists/musicians and curated creative spaces that pull YOU in to participate – paint or sculpt your own pieces, learn about audio and lightning, envision the future of your city! Anna Lam, MBA/MURP ’23

  • e3 – a holistic chrome extension that bridges the information gap to allow consumers to conveniently identify more sustainable choices by scanning and scoring clothing product pages on their environmental impact and providing recommendations for alternative eco-friendly items. Joshua Glynn, BBA ’24; Manal Shaikh, BBA ’24; Alexander Bower, BBA ’24; Saavan Kaneria, BBA ’24; Sena Kaddurah, BBA ’24; Lucas Coman, BBA ’24

  • FUSE – a one-stop financial empowerment hub for refugees that allows asylum seekers to open a bank account without a social security number, build credit, access financial orientation resources, professional development opportunities, local coupons, and manage their government cash assistance in any language they speak. Margarethe Steinhaus, MPP ’23; Christian Neubacher, MPP ’23

  • G2G: Grow Together – a wealth-building platform that uses financial planning, learning modules, and a community forum to support individuals experiencing life hardships (i.e., caregiving/infertility/life-threatening ailment/divorce). Yasmin Abdulhadi, MBA ‘23; Bridgit Jung, LSA ’24

  • International Footprint – a global comprehensive toolkit that provides access to mindfully translated information about legal policies, including visas, taxes, and healthcare, for international students and workers. Yeonkyoung No, BBA & BA PPE ’25; Dan Atlman, BSE Mechanical Eng ’24; Gyu Been Moon, BA Political Science & BA Korean Literature and Culture ’24; Justin Park, BA Cognitive Science ’22

  • Kinetic – an energy harvesting floor tile that can generate electricity from footsteps. We make renewable energy more accessible one step at a time. Tirth Patel, MBA ‘24; Pooja Saran, MBA ‘24

  • LexoFin – a Web3 platform that translates financial terminology on the fly to make the world of finance & investing accessible to everyone. Bryant Burciaga, MBA ’24

  • LumeSolar – a residential and commercial solar panel installation and distribution firm. Fredy Rosado, BBA ’25; Korey Zelda, BS Econ ’24

  • Nexeus – a Solutions R&D ecosystem for State and local governments to leverage emerging technology to create solutions for Societal and Humanitarian concerns. Toinu Reeves, PHD Candidate Economics ’24

  • PILs Ventures – Building the platform to help close the generational health-and-wealth gap. George Okpamen, MBA ’23

  • SeaSpider – Aiming  to improve the identification of abandoned fishing nets in sensitive coral reefs in order to allow conservation organizations to remove abandoned fishing nets that kill wildlife and destroy coral reefs. Joe Huang, CS ’22; Adam Zhang, BS Environment  ’23

  • Solar Fridge – working to develop an inexpensive, solar-powered energy independent, and low-maintenance vaccine refrigerator to ensure vaccine availability and viability in low-resource communities. Thomas Chen, BS ’23; Ryan Fang, BS ’25; Avani Govindswamy, BSE ’24; Gabriel Ferriero, BSE ’25; Alan Shi, BSE ’24; Cara Gallagher, BSE ’25; Aham Lee, BSE ’23; Ryan Hamby, BSE ’22; Carina Gallagher, BSE ’23; Nancy Chen, BSE ’23; Allison Lee, BSI ’24; Thiago Reis, BSE ’24; Paola Zavala, BSE ’25; Eldon Xu, BSE ’23

  • The Cookout – an immersive experience of performances, activities, and food to highlight and uplift the diversely rich communities on a college campus. Maria Fields, BSE ’24

  • Unavigate – College connection service that allows high school students to communicate with college students and ask questions regarding their school/major. Yash Singhvi, BBA’26; Esha Patel BS(Econ)’26; Rikhil Sankati BBA ‘26

  • Ways to Future – Collect food scraps from dining halls, convert them into animal feeds, and sell back to local farms. Lanzhao Cheng, MS’24, Hejing Hu, MS’24, Dawei Liu, MS’24, Langheng Pan, MS’24

The seventeen enterprises feature multidisciplinary student teams from the fields of Engineering, Economics, Sustainability, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Public Policy, Urban Planning, Design, and Business. Additionally, 8 teams are advancing in the Invention Track, and 20 teams are advancing in the Innovation Track.

The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition where student businesses have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling over $100,000, gain feedback from leaders in the business community, and expand their business network. The Seigle Impact Track is sponsored by the Mark and Robin Seigle Entrepreneurial Innovation Fund and co-managed by Business+Impact at Michigan Ross, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies

Social Enterprise Spotlight: Clear Computing

Business+Impact has introduced a series on U-M alumni who have created social enterprises and continue the work of entrepreneurship after graduation. For this edition, we are shining the light on  Clear Computing, a service company offering local, professional help with computers for our elder community.

Earlier this year, in the Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track, James Giordani (MSW ’22) was one of four finalists who presented before the judging team. Clear Computing helps older adults learn how to use technology to better their quality of life and extend their independence.

Describe your business.

Clear Computing provides tech lessons and in-home tech support tailored towards older adult needs. We do not just provide cookie cutter tech support like how companies “fix” an issue then just leave a client hanging. We take the time to learn each client’s unique tech skills and experience then help match those to their unique tech goals. Our goal is to help people learn to use their computer, smartphone, and other tech devices independently and confidently.

What is your biggest recent discovery about founding a tech support company? What do you enjoy most about it?

I received my MSW from UM in May and the most enjoyable part of what we do is definitely when the work becomes more “social worrky” and we have a direct impact on client’s lives. For example, two weeks ago I received a call from someone who recently had their leg amputated due to diabetes. He was now homebound, living alone, and relatively low-tech-experienced. The hand-me-down computer from his son wasn’t turning on, which cut him off from  friends and family he would normally interact with via email and Facebook. Also, his internet was not working, so he was forced to watch broadcast television, commercials and all, instead of that wonderful on-demand content his Roku brings. So we got him a low-cost refurbished machine and made shortcuts directly to his email and Facebook for maximum ease of use. His router had been inconveniently placed in his now inaccessible basement, but resetting it got the internet working throughout the house — so no more TV commercials. That type of impactful work is so meaningful. It’s really cool when we have an opportunity to significantly improve the quality of living or extend the independence of a client

How does a firm like yours stay on top of a rapidly changing tech landscape?

Well I definitely wouldn’t say we’re on top of anything! What sets us apart is our old school approach. Devices used to come with robust manuals so people could learn how to use them on their own. Also, those constant updates, intrusive popups, unintuitive gestures, dark patterns, and nagging notifications can be huge barriers for use. We do our best to strip out those nagging elements and write out instructions in a way our clients can reliably refer back to, just like a well-written manual. Most tech companies just want to slap an app on a problem and call it a solution. We like to work with what people already have and know.

What UM/SSW courses or Michigan Business Challenge workshops have helped you the most in building out the business?

The therapy classes I took really helped me identify the fear, anger, and anxiety a lot of folks have tied to their tech devices. So often I would hear “I’m so stupid when it comes to the computer,” or “I’m such an idiot when it comes to these things.” Just letting folks know that they’re not alone in their struggles, and also being able to point out the specific design aspects — which make using devices difficult (and even trip up a lot of young users) — has been a helpful big skill.

The whole Michigan Business Challenge experience really changed Clear Computing. What used to be a side gig to pay for grad school is now a functioning business with a growth plan.

Together that blend of social work and business gives Clear Computing a unique feel. There’s that societal problem solving mission developed from the School of Social Work plus the business planning and structure rooted in Ross programming. Shout out to the whole crew from the Zell Lurie Institute, who were so responsive and helpful despite having so much on their plates.

I see on your LinkedIn page that ironically, you are not a big fan of social media?  What areas of tech or social media endanger or cause harm for older folks or URMs?

We’ve recently started focusing on collaborating with older adult living facilities and it’s been shocking to see just how widespread tech-related scams are. Almost every workshop we put on has had multiple people who have fallen victim to a tech support scam or fake purchase scam, many who didn’t even realize it. What used to be loner criminals occasionally scamming one or two older adults has evolved into a branch of modern organized crime which needs to be addressed from micro and macro levels. One challenge is that there are so many scams and vulnerabilities for bad actors to take advantage of, so it’s hard to sum everything up in a digestible manner. At a minimum, make sure everyone in your family has a decent antivirus (not McAfee or Norton) an adblocker (preferably uBlock Origin), and that they know that Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and other big companies do not want you to call them on the phone, and to never give remote access to your computer.

What new ideas are you looking toward to next, or what connections are you looking to make in the near future?

We definitely want to find a more business-oriented partner so I can focus more on product development and training. We’re also hiring Tech Helpers, so if you know someone who is charming and a little tech savvy, send them our way! This is some of the most meaningful and fun work they’ll ever do.

Older adult tech literacy is a huge and growing societal problem which is woefully underserved. The big dream is to pivot into a more venture capital friendly, rapidly scalable structure focused on designing apps and environments tailored for older adults, so they won’t have to keep calling their children for support!

James can be reached at james@clearcomputing.net.

Read another Social Enterprise Spotlight:

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

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.

Great Quality Developments Wins Michigan Business Challenge Seigle Impact Track

Ann Arbor, February 26, 2021 – The winner of the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track is Great Quality Developments (click to learn more) – (Hattie McKinney, BA ’16, JD ’22) a community focused, mixed-use development company that specializes in integrative developments that increase affordable housing, homeownership, and community resources in Detroit, MI. The Seigle Impact Track competition, co-sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute and Business+Impact, began in November with 40 teams. Eight semi-finalists competed on Fri, Jan. 21 for the four finalist spots in the Seigle finals competition.

Other finalists included:

Clear Computing (click to learn more): Private tech lessons and in-home tech support to help older adults use their devices independently and confidently. James Giordani, MSW ’22

Seconds Labs (click to learn more): A novel, performance-boosting whole-food beverage, leveraging an underutilized “superfood” as our key ingredient – the fruit surrounding coffee beans, for an offering that promotes a healthy lifestyle and environmental sustainability. Matt Baker, WMBA ’22; Claire Bissa, WMBA ’22; Austin Clowes, WMBA ’22

WILD (click to learn more): The funeral industry is highly fragmented, outdated, and offers little to no transparency. WILD is an all-in-one digital platform that combines technology and human support to save people time, money, and stress when experiencing or preparing for the loss of a loved one. Maura McInerney-Rowley, MBA ’22

Great Quality Developments received $15,000 for first place in the Seigle Impact Track.  Clear Computing was the second place winner of the Seigle Impact Track, and received $7,500 as well as $500 in the Elevator Pitch Competition. Seconds Labs and Wild were the 3rd and fourth place finishers in the Seigle Impact Track and won $1500 each, and both won $250 each in the Elevator Pitch competition. All participants in the Seigle Impact Track finals received at least $250 for pitching in the finals.

BotNot won the $15k first prize in the Innovation Track, while Medvision won the $15k first prize in the Invention Track. BotNot also won the $2k MIC Investment Award and the $5k OneMagnify Best in Business Award.

In Great Quality Developments’ presentation, they drew attention to the affordable housing crisis in Detroit and their desire to provide residents with a pathway to actively participate in the development of their neighborhoods. Housing is a highly determinative aspect in a person’s life; it influences a person’s financial, medical, and educational outcomes. To that end, Great Quality Developments was inspired to increase opportunities for Detroit residents to engage in placemaking and neighborhood development.

An expert judging panel of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial specialists were brought on by Zell Lurie Institute for the Michigan Business Challenge. The Challenge is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition, of which the Seigle Impact Track is a subset focused on entrepreneurial student ventures focused on social  and/or environmental impact.  The competition is open to all students of the University of Michigan, and multidisciplinary teams are encouraged. 

Interviews with MBC-Seigle Impact Track Finalists for 2022

On Fri, Jan. 21, eight student teams competed in the third round of the 2022 Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) through a virtual platform. The competition was fierce, and the judges had a very difficult job to do.

Panels of esteemed judges from the entrepreneurial ecosystem were given the difficult task of winnowing down the 8 teams to just 4 that will advance in the competition. We are happy to announce the teams awarded the chance to compete in the MBC Finals on Fri, Feb. 11.

MBC Seigle Impact Track Finalists

The MBC Seigle Impact Track recognizes the business that best pursues a mission-driven goal and aims to stimulate the creation of new businesses, products or services that prioritize social and/or environmental considerations. The teams moving forward in this track include the following (read an interview with each team by clicking on the team name): 

Clear Computing: Private tech lessons and in-home tech support to help older adults use their devices independently and confidently. James Giordani, MSW ’22

Great Quality Developments: Great Quality Developments is a social-impact driven mixed-use development company that specializes in integrative models that increase affordable housing, homeownership, and community resources in Detroit, MI. Hattie McKinney, J.D. ’22

Seconds Labs: A novel, performance-boosting whole-food beverage, leveraging an underutilized “superfood” as our key ingredient – the fruit surrounding coffee beans, for an offering that promotes a healthy lifestyle and environmental sustainability. Matt Baker, WMBA ’22; Claire Bissa, WMBA ’22; Austin Clowes, WMBA ’22

WILD (Whether in Life or Death): The funeral industry is highly fragmented, outdated, and offers little to no transparency. WILD is an all-in-one digital platform that combines technology and human support to save people time, money, and stress when experiencing or preparing for the loss of a loved one. Maura McInerney-Rowley, MBA ’22

The MBC Innovation Track recognizes new ventures that offer a product, service, mobile application, or platform serving consumers or enterprises. The MBC Invention Track recognizes ventures that have intellectual property at the core of their high-tech venture and aims to stimulate the creation of new businesses in life sciences, physical sciences, mobility, AR/VR, and more.

Over the next few weeks, these student teams will continue to fine-tune their business plans for a chance at over $100,000 in cash prizes. Stay connected with the 2021 campus-wide competition through the ZLI website.

The Michigan Business Challenge is a multi-round competition for students from across 19 schools and colleges at the University of Michigan. MBC focuses on entrepreneurial teams testing real-world business concepts through engaging in customer discovery, vetting financial models, conducting market research, and developing a complete business plan. Throughout the competition, students have the opportunity to gain feedback from leaders in the entrepreneurial and venture investment community–allowing them to expand their business network.

WILD: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist

Who are the team members?

Maura McInerney-Rowley, MBA ’22

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

WILD (Whether in Life or Death) alleviates the burden (and reduces the friction) typically involved in handling a loved one’s affairs after they have passed. Our personalized funeral plans and easy-to-use platform empowers families to save time, money, and stress.

What was the origin of this venture?

Maura faced reality and the possibility of death at five years old when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After that, Maura watched as her mother continued to battle and beat breast cancer throughout her childhood until her mother passed right before her 21st birthday.

Maura struggled to navigate friends, work, and school while managing her grief, but she found momentary solace in a student grief group on campus. As time passed, Maura’s friends started to experience losses of pets, colleagues, grandparents, etc. Having gone through the experience before, she was able to empathize and help them navigate through their grief.

Last summer, Maura attended a friend’s wedding, where the night before, a guest of the wedding died. The death was unexpected and traumatic, which made Maura think about how the family would navigate their grief, let alone the logistics of it all. The day after the wedding, Maura flew to Alaska and spent the next week hiking in the backcountry contemplating the recent loss and reflecting on the loss of her mother.

One day as she was climbing the face of a rock in 30mph winds, 40-degree weather, and torrential rain, she noticed a beautiful purple flower (later identified as a harebell) standing steady. She thought to herself how magnificent this tiny thing was, so resilient in these extreme conditions all by itself. As she stopped to look at the flower, the rain started to dissipate, and a clearing in the sky let through the most magnificent sun-drenched view of Denali. Maura paused briefly, sat down in awe of her surroundings, and thought about how peaceful it would be to have your final moments in a place like this.

Days later, she returned to business school at The University of Michigan and was prompted to develop a business idea in her New Venture Creation class. It was then that the initial concept for WILD was born.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?

In the long-term WILD aims to have three positive effects on society; (1) social, (2) environmental, and (3) financial.

First, studies show that talking about your mortality makes you happier. By changing the discourse on death and dying, WILD empowers individuals to talk and plan for end-of-life. Second, by offering unique and eco-friendly solutions, WILD will help combat climate change and reduce the harmful effects traditional burials and cremation have on the environment. Third, by focusing on radical transparency and easy-to-access information, tools, and resources, WILD will help reduce predatory practices in the funeral industry and save individuals money.

How did you form your team?

I am a solo founder with a fantastic group of mentors and interns supporting me. I am currently seeking a tech co-founder.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?

It takes a lot of work to start a company! You must be comfortable asking for help, receiving negative feedback, and tackling ambiguous challenges.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?

Following MBC, I will continue to build WILD to help people during one of the most challenging times of their life. I plan to participate in phase three of the Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream grant program and conduct an independent study on the topic of death and dying with Ross Professor Dr. Marcus Collins, an award-winning marketer, and cultural translator.

If I win MBC, I will use the prize money to build an MVP to test with users.

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?

Join Twitter and DM me (@mauraball_) once you have.

Great Quality Developments: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist

Who are the team members?

Hattie McKinney, BA ’16, JD ’22

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

Great Quality Developments is a community focused, mixed-use development company that specializes in integrative developments that increase affordable housing, homeownership, and community resources in Detroit, MI. 

What was the origin of this venture?

It was founded out of a desire to respond to the affordable housing crisis and provide Detroit residents with a pathway to actively participate in the development of their neighborhoods. Housing is a highly determinative aspect in a person’s life; it influences a person’s financial, medical, and educational outcomes. To that end, we were inspired to increase opportunities for Detroit residents to engage in placemaking and neighborhood development.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?

We hope to promote greater engagement between developers and communities in Detroit without marginalizing those already present. Great Quality Developments aims to serve as a leading example of partnership placemaking. Additional long-term benefits of our company are increased affordable housing stock and economic development throughout the city of Detroit.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?

The biggest lesson that I have learned from the MBC experience is to trust the process. When I began this journey, I did not expect to walk away with lifelong friends but that is one of the unexpected — but extremely valuable — benefits of this opportunity. In addition to enriching my network with incredible people, the workshops have helped me develop smarter strategies to advance my venture.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?

Following MBC and my graduation from law school, I will continue to develop my skills and become a better asset to my community. A portion of the prize money will be put towards purchasing the land necessary to establish this venture. While the remainder will be used to conduct market studies with block clubs to better understand the neighborhoods and how to create a successful foundation.

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?

My advice to other student entrepreneurs is to follow your passion! There is a wealth of resources at your disposal as a student — use them. Do not be afraid to ask for help and pursue an idea that interests you.