Toast, Clover, Square – How University of Michigan Students are Using FinTech to Support Detroit Small Businesses

by Simone Turner (UMSI ’22)

The Congregation Detroit is a perfect melding of a coffee shop, bar, restaurant, and community space located in a historic church on the west side of Detroit. When renovating the long-abandoned space, co-owner Betsy Murdoch and partners focused on preserving the integrity, historical detail, and finishes of the place to keep its structure the same as it was in 1924. Pews were repurposed into a bar. The old pipe organ is still in the back. Comfortable antique furniture abounds. The Congregation opened in March of 2020, just before the pandemic. The timing was unfortunate, but they survived the first year of working through glitches. Their point of sale system was one of the initial steps in opening their doors — and that’s where I enter the business’ story.

For the last nine weeks, I have been interning with a team of students from across the University of Michigan to support Detroit small businesses through the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project’s (DNEP’s) +Impact Studio for Local Business. I’m on the point of sale team, which is focused on using financial technology, or “fintech,” to analyze and optimize small business owners’ payment systems and inventory management systems. Most small business owners don’t have the time, knowledge, resources, or staffing to take on the tasks of performing a cost analysis, researching the various payment system platforms, and then making the switch to a new platform. If they do have extra time, most would rather spend it on marketing.

Fortunately for our DNEP clients, my colleagues and I find it fascinating. Fintech sits at the intersection of the skills and knowledge I have gained through my classes at the School of Information. This internship has given me a chance to use my skills to meet an unmet need. 

Point of sale systems are now essential for businesses of every size. While the most-established companies (Square, Toast, Clover, Lightspeed, and Shopify) all offer similar products and services, they each serve different business volumes, have varying billing structures, and offer differing features that best fit assorted sale models. DNEP faculty and staff observed that many business owners were paying high fees for features they were not using, imposing unnecessary costs on small business owners. 

The Congregation Detroit was one such example. It has been using a Clover point of sale system, but was paying for features they were not using. Clover offers an add-on inventory management system, but it was time consuming to set up and master, so like many other small business owners we have worked with this summer, the company was paying for the electronic inventory management subscription–and then managing their inventory manually in an excel spreadsheet. This meant that small business owners were spending lots of time manually tracking and managing their stock, missing the opportunity for advanced inventory data and freed up time that is better spent elsewhere. After analyzing the sales data, our team recommended that the business move its inventory management to the Clover system, and subscribe to a built-in Stock app to fully digitize its inventory management system. The business owners will spend less time on inventory, and should save money through streamlining and standardization of vendor orders. What’s more, The Congregation Detroit will only be paying for features they use.

Detroit Sip is another local business that needed a point of sale system overhaul. This Six Mile coffee shop temporarily closed during the pandemic, and sales revenue has not yet regained pre-COVID rates. What’s worse, however, is that the business was still under contract with Shopkeep, paying high monthly and transaction fee rates for unneeded features that didn’t add value to the business. As a busy entrepreneur and attorney, owner Jevona Watson did not have the resources or time to do research, make phone calls, and then go through a new system set-up on her own. So we did the research for her. My team provided Jevona with a personalized cost analysis spreadsheet for her business so she could compare subscription costs between top companies based on her business’ monthly transactions and average revenue per transaction. While the decision to take a leap and try something new is difficult, especially as a small business owner, Jevona made the decision to switch with the resources we provided. With IOS hardware in place, my team was able to help Detroit Sip make the switch to Square, which should save the business $1000 per year. We also moved over her menu, inventory, and customer data to ease the process. 

Throughout this summer internship with DNEP’s +Impact Studio for Local Business, I have learned project management skills, developed some expertise in the top point of sale systems and related hardware and software, and learned a lot about point of sale integrations. It feels great to be helping businesses use fintech to improve their operations and profitability, and has opened up new career possibilities for me. Overall, this experience has been invaluable and I feel honored to have worked with these inspiring Detroit small business owners. 


Simone Turner is a rising senior at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, majoring in information analytics. She thanks the businesses profiled for allowing her to share information about their operations to benefit others for this story.

 

Social Enterprise Spotlight: FoodFinder

Earlier this year Business+Impact introduced a new series on U-M alumni who have created social enterprises and continue the work of entrepreneurship after graduation. Our inaugural spotlight was about Thawra; now we focus our spotlight on FoodFinder,  a tech platform making it easier for families in need to find nearby food assistance programs.
In early 2018, Jack Griffin (BBA ’19) was a finalist in the Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track, with his phone app, FoodFinder, and won first place in the Elevator Pitch competition. At that time he said, “The heart of FoodFinder’s value comes from our platform’s ability to combine the speed and privacy of an online tool with the care, compassion, and reliability of a human.” At the time, he hoped that eventually, FoodfFinder would become an institution within the food assistance space.
That has come to fruition, as recently Google’s Find Food Support engaged FoodFinder as a key partner in their work.  We caught up with Jack as he increases staff and scope with his “venture-on-the-run.”
Jack Griffin (BBA ’19) presents FoodFinder in the finals of the 2018 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track.
  • Describe your business: FoodFinder is a nonprofit organization and tech platform whose mission is to make it as easy as it should be to find emergency food assistance nearby. Our website (us) and mobile app (FoodFinder – Fighting Hunger) show food insecure families across America exactly when, where, and how to get help from more than 50,000 different food pantries, soup kitchens, and school meal sites nearby in their communities.
  • What is your biggest recent discovery about running a tech nonprofit? Does anything from Ross or MBC come to bear in your work recently? The best thing about running an all-virtual nonprofit is that the efficiency of our operations allows us to have an extraordinary impact with far less investment needed than brick-and-mortar nonprofits. FoodFinder wouldn’t be here without the free food programs on the ground serving those in need, but thankfully we don’t have to worry about shelf space or any physical capacity constraints. Our food pantry map is available 24/7/365 – in every corner of the country – for anyone who may need it. I’d also say that my biggest lesson from my time at Ross and my experience with the Michigan Business Challenge was the emphasis on FoodFinder’s financial sustainability. Even as a nonprofit, the only way for us to help as many people in the long run as possible is to take care of ourselves first and ensure that we live to fight another day. And even with the challenges the pandemic brought, FoodFinder hasn’t just survived but thrived.
  • FoodFinder in action.
    How did the pandemic affect the success of your app, and why? COVID-19 presented an unparalleled hunger crisis, and we rose to meet that challenge. While we could never have anticipated something like this, FoodFinder’s digital tool was perfectly suited to overcome the challenges of a disease-based crisis. Precisely on March 13th, 2020 (the day that the United States declared COVID-19 a national emergency), our platform’s usage immediately quadrupled from 700 people per day to 3,000 people per day. We broke our record single-day user totals constantly throughout March and April of 2020, and our daily traffic remained double our pre-pandemic levels throughout the remainder of 2020. In total, FoodFinder has connected 475,000 users of our platform to free food programs during the pandemic, more than double our cumulative lifetime impact of nearly 6 years pre-COVID. Financially, FoodFinder’s receipts actually grew 20% in 2020 compared to 2019, and we’ve more than tripled the size of our team in the last year. The pandemic has been a massive challenge for absolutely everyone, but we’re grateful to do our small part to guide families in their time of need.

  • Tell us about your new partnership with Google and their nationwide hunger relief program? Glad you asked! FoodFinder’s biggest partnership ever just launched at the end June as we joined forces with Google to help power their new Find Food Support hunger resource site. The website itself is a one-stop-shop for all things hunger relief, including information on SNAP benefits, stories from the community, and the headliner that FoodFinder helps populate: an interactive nationwide map for folks looking for nearby food pantries, food banks, or summer meal sites. Their team shared with us how Google wanted to lend their support to the fight against hunger in the wake of the pandemic, and Find Food Support with Google is the end result of that. Their team has been a joy to work with, and we can’t wait to see how many more people we can serve in the coming years!
  • What new ideas are you looking toward, or what connections are you looking to make? I’m always looking forward to hearing new ways that technology can make even bigger strides in hunger relief – Feeding America’s MealConnect and MEANS Database for instance do a great job with exactly that. But at least for how I currently look at FoodFinder’s future, I can’t stop thinking more and more about the ultimate goals we’re striving for. First and foremost, I’m most excited to see how FoodFinder can not just be the best emergency resource for food insecure people but also be a force for eliminating the root causes of hunger (i.e. a transition from only treatment to both treatment and prevention). When food is a prerequisite for a healthy life, people should never have to choose between paying for food, medicine, or utilities. Going forward, FoodFinder’s intent is to help Americans through our help locator while also using the data and policymaking levers at our disposal to address the deeply systemic root causes of food insecurity.
  • In May 2019, Jack went to Washington D.C. to speak at a hunger alleviation roundtable with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
    Do you still volunteer these days? As you might imagine, the safety constraints of COVID and the intense workload of leading FoodFinder have prevented me from (physically at least) volunteering at a food pantry for a while. However, I loved volunteering for several years at Maize and Blue Cupboard, the by-students for-students food pantry on campus. Back in my day, we just had our once a month grocery distributions on some tables in the basement of the Trotter Multicultural Center. I can’t wait to check out the fantastic new permanent location of Maize and Blue Cupboard on State St. the next chance I get!

  • What do you wish more people knew about hunger in America? Food insecurity in America skyrocketed last year as a result of the pandemic. News coverage (and rightfully so) highlighted how dire the need was, but it’s worth remembering that 35 million Americans were still struggling with hunger before the virus ever hit our shores. And if you’ll also recall, that’s when the economy was doing great, the stock market was surging, and we were at near full employment in the U.S.. Is that really the best we can do with all the resources at our disposal? FoodFinder’s number one goal right now is to help move the needle on hunger back to pre-pandemic levels, but as I just described, we weren’t doing that great beforehand either. We’ve come such a long way in the fight against hunger, but we’re not satisfied. Over the next decade, I hope that FoodFinder will help lift millions of Americans back into lasting, sustainable food security.

Read another Social Enterprise Spotlight:

Michigan Business Challenge Seigle Impact Track Winner Announced

Ann Arbor, February 26, 2021 – The winner of the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track is Parcel Health (click to learn more) – (Melinda Su En Lee (PharmD ’21) and Victor Le (PhD ’21)) a company that aims to disrupt the current plastic prescription bottle industry by innovating a 100% curbside-recyclable solution. The Seigle Impact Track competition, co-sponsored by the Zell Lurie InstituteBusiness+Impact, and the Erb Institute, began in November with over 50 teams. Eight semi-finalists competed on February 8 for the four finalist spots in the Seigle finals competition.

Other finalists included:

CLOVO Brand (click to learn more) – CLOVO Brand is a sustainable fashion company that produces the most comfortable and natural sheer tights using Tencel and a functional design to eliminate sagging, discomfort, and wardrobe malfunctions. Megan Martis (MS ’21)

EQuity (click to learn more) – EQuity is a learning and development venture that provides digital training and coaching to help clients advance racial justice by developing emotional intelligence. Justin Woods (MBA/MSW ’21)

Sustainium (click to learn more) –  Sustainium’s technology collects heat generated by spent nuclear fuel, a form of nuclear waste, and uses this heat to dry wastewater sludge. Jacob Ladd (JD’23), Luyao Li (MS’21), Anya Shapiro (MS/MBA’22), Aniket Yadav (MS’21)

Parcel Health received $15,000 for first place in the Seigle Impact Track, $2,000 for the Michigan Investment Challenge Prize, and $5,000 for the One Magnify Best in Business Award at MBC awards ceremony.  CLOVO Brand was the second place winner of the Seigle Impact Track, and received $7,500. EQuity won the $100 third prize in the Elevator Pitch competition. All participants in the Seigle Impact Track finals received at least $1750 for pitching in the finals. LeaseMagnets wont the Innovation Track, while EpiSLS won the Invention Track.

In Parcel Health’s presentation, they drew attention to the fact that prescription bottles currently cause 100,000 tons of plastic waste a year. Their Phill Box is a water resistant, recyclable, child resistant prescription container that has met all the requirements of prescription medication packaging. PH is looking for entree into urban pharmacies before moving into independent and large chain pharmacies. The team is made up of Melinda Su En Lee (PharmD ’21) and Victor Le (PhD ’21), as well as Mallory Barrett, Alex Barrette, and Tyler Wright.  Corporate advisors include Melinda Lin Lee, James Stevenson of Omnicell, and Jared Crooks of Schmidt Futures.

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. 

Sustainium is a Finalist in the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track

One of the finalists for The Seigle Impact Track finals that will take place on February 26, 2021 is Sustainium. Sustainium harnesses heat from spent nuclear fuel to dry wastewater sludge and turn it into a sustainable biomass like fertilizer or fuel. In the process, we turn two negatives into a positive through an innovative circular solution. Jacob Ladd (MS’20, JD’23), Luyao Li (MS’21), Anya Shapiro (MBA/MS ’22), Aniket Yadav (MS’21)

Contact Information:
www.sustainiumsolutions.com

What was the origin of your venture?
We won the Nuclear Waste Grand Challenge to re-imagine the future of nuclear waste. The origin was that we wanted to design a circular solution that harnesses two waste sources (nuclear waste and sewage sludge) to turn them into a profitable and sustainable biomass like fertilizer or fuel. We also wanted to de-risk nuclear energy and the waste it produces in order to meet a decarbonized future. Finally, we wanted to find a way to prevent dried wastewater sludge from ending up in a landfill and releasing methane.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
Improving public perception of the nuclear energy industry (a critical part of the clean energy transition) and providing a reliable, low-cost, and clean energy source to dry wastewater sludge and divert it from ending up in a landfill.

How did you form your team?
We formed through a competition!

How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
MBC has helped us solidify our business model and double down on how we will provide a positive impact beyond sustainability and profitability- considering critical factors like environmental justice and community welfare.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
Impact and profitability can be synonymous.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
We will use the funds to build our first prototype of the technology and use it to pitch a pilot with several large utility companies in the Midwest. 

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
Form an interdisciplinary team, don’t be afraid of solving problems traditionally deemed “unsolvable”, and ask yourself the questions, “if not me, who?” “if not now, when?”

Parcel Health is a Finalist in the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track

One of the finalists for The Seigle Impact Track finals that will take place on February 26, 2021 is Parcel Health. Parcel Health Inc. creates global impact through sustainable healthcare product innovation. Our first product aims to disrupt the current plastic prescription bottle industry by innovating a 100% curbside-recyclable solution. Melinda Su-En Lee (PharmD’21), Victor Le (PhD’21)

Contact Information:
www.parcelhealth.co

What was the origin of your venture?
This opportunity was discovered when I (Melinda) was completing my pharmacy internship at a local pharmacy. I overheard a pharmacy technician complaining about numerous patients that have come in demanding for the pharmacy to stop using plastic bottles. This piqued my interest because I did not realize it bothered patients — it bothered me as a student behind the counter throwing away hundreds of bottles a day from patients who do not pick up their medications. This happened around the same time China began refusing plastic waste from the United States, diverting many of the trash to Southeast Asia. I’m an immigrant from Malaysia and my family still lives there. I hated the idea of more American waste being exported to sit in my parent’s backyard. I decided to test the viability of this idea at OptiMize, another competition hosted at University of Michigan, through the program, I was able to validate the idea and build a team.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
I hope it provides an opportunity to healthcare systems to be environmentally sustainable. Every other industry have been disrupted by green technology, such as the automotive and consumer-goods industry, but healthcare has largely been untouched by green technology. I hope it increases the bar for healthcare systems. We need to all work together to address America’s waste management problem that disproportionately impacts developing countries.

How did you form your team?
I connected with my cofounder through LinkedIn. I met Victor at the UM Campus Challenge for COVID-19 and we got along great at the time. He has such an upbeat attitude and sharp wit, I knew I had to include him on our team.

How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
We have been challenged to think about financial aspects of our business, which we had not spend much time on before. MBC created a safe space for us to explore and research this aspect of our business, along with expert advice and guidance from the faculty at Zell Lurie Institute. The MBC judges are very sharp and ask good questions, giving us the opportunity to hone on our answering skills. Experiencing this has increased our confidence in speaking about our business venture to other potential clients and investors.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
The business plan is never done! There is always more to do to improve it as we learn more about our market and our competition.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
We plan to purchase a design software for our designer so we can improve on our drawings to our manufacturer. The prize money will also help us pay for third-party certifications to ensure it is child-resistant and yet easy-to-use by patients with arthritis.

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
As a student, field for as much advice as you can from potential customers and also faculty at University of Michigan. Be open and welcoming to critical feedback because these are most valuable to testing the viability of your business idea. It’s also always much better to get bad criticism at the beginning and adjust your business venture accordingly, than to spend years on something only to hear it from a potential investor. Free advice from experts and customers are valuable catalysts to any student business venture.

CLOVO Brand is a Finalist in the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track

One of the finalists for The Seigle Impact Track finals that will take place on February 26, 2021 is CLOVO Brand.  CLOVO Brand is a sustainable fashion company that makes natural and sustainable sheer tights that leave less of an impact on the environment and empower women.

Contact Information:
https://clovobrand.com/
@clovobrand – Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Youtube

What was the origin of your venture?
Co-Founders Megan and Monica started CLOVO in 2018 while studying at Colgate University. Living through freezing Upstate New York winters, tights were a lifeline when wearing a dress or skirt. However, they absolutely hated how they felt, sagged all day, ripped easily, and were incredibly itchy! From this tight strife, EverTights came into existence. Their first idea was to figure out how to eliminate sag and fit all women better. That is where the spandex short integration idea started. Along the path of finding a manufacturer, they discovered how terrible nylon plastic is for the environment and for your skin. That is why they are working to eliminate it completely. The perfect pair of sheer tights grew from these two seedling ideas.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
CLOVO leaves positive impacts for the environment and for women. Our tights are over 80% produced from natural materials made in a renewable energy powered factory. Moreover, they leave less of an impact on the environment from production to end of life because they have minimal micro-plastics and are mostly biodegradable. Additionally, their functional design offers comfort and skin friendly benefits for women including: no sag, harmful chemical free, breathable, durable, and easy to put on and take off.

How did you form your team?
I formed the CLOVO team from the best fit interns that worked for us in our intern programs last year.

How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
MBC has really helped CLOVO solidify our financials, business plan, and our e-commerce strategy through the different deliverables that we had to complete. All together, we are much more organized as a result of this competition.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
My biggest takeaway is definitely the pitch experiences. I grew a lot as a speaker from having to create new and different pitches for the different rounds, learn how to present them in a intriguing, condensed way, and how to create a cohesive pitch deck.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
CLOVO’s next two biggest milestones are to enter retail and set up our international supply chain logistics. The prize money would be a huge help in achieving these two milestones.

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
The best advice I can give for student entrepreneurs is to find a project that you are passionate about and don’t be afraid to start working on it, even if it means taking small strides at first. It is amazing what you can accomplish with the resources you have access to in college.

EQuity a Finalist in the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track

One of the finalists for The Seigle Impact Track finals that will take place on February 26, 2021 is EQuity. EQuity is a learning and development venture that provides digital training and coaching to help clients advance racial justice by developing emotional intelligence.

Contact Information:
Justin Woods (MBA/MSW ’21)
www.equitysv.com
Facebook: @equitysv
IG: @equitysocialventure
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/equity-social-venture

What was the origin of your venture?
After five years of working in the social justice space, most recently working to address racial HIV health disparities, it became clear that addressing systemic racism was a prerequisite to undoing race-based disparities in all life outcomes. As I began to engage more dialogue on the topic of anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and racial inequality, it became clear how emotionally charged and discomforting the conversation was for everyone involved. My increased engagement in racial justice work coincided with my own personal journey on better mental and emotional health. The more I explored emotional intelligence on my personal journey, the more clear it became that skills like emotional self-awareness and self-regulation are also critical competencies for doing the emotionally charged work of advancing racial justice.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
I think the long-term impact of EQuity is creating more courageous individuals, organizations and communities wherein we have the skill sets necessary to advance racial justice in a way that is emotionally healthy.

How did you form your team?
EQuity is still growing our team. We look forward to bringing on individuals energized about business development, content development, and marketing!

How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
MBC has forced us to really clarify our value proposition, solidify our revenue model, and better define the marketplace for our services. Most importantly, we’ve been forced to think about how to communicate those insights in a clear, concise, and compelling manner. Seeing our vision for a more equitable world spelled out in a business plan and pitch deck has been a validating journey that we look forward to carrying forward!

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
As a founder that is a dual-degree MBA/MSW student, I’ve always been motivated by the social work values of social justice and human connection. MBC forced me to translate my social work values into a business framework that will allow our venture to be financially sustainable. The ability to bridge my academic disciplines in an action-based manner that advances my professional ambitions has been the highlight of my graduate education.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
EQuity looks forward to investing our MBC earnings into expanding our team and continuing to develop content as we digitize and scale our racial justice, social-emotional learning curriculum.

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
When you’re starting a business, there is a lot of building the train as its going down the track. So first, just start. Your idea will never be perfect, but as you put it out into the world, you will continually get feedback on how to iterate and refine, and it’s that process that gets you to a viable idea. Second, build a community that will sustain you as you go on that emotionally taxing, uncertain journey. The world needs your actualized ideas in it!

Four Impact Track Teams Advance to the Finals of the Michigan Business Challenge

January 29, 2021 – Ann Arbor – Business+Impact wants to thank all the teams and judges involved in Semi-final round of this year’s Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track! The competition has been very successful thus far, and the 9 teams from Round Two did a lot of hard work on their presentations.  In addition to the 4 Impact Track teams moving on, a total of 4 teams will compete in the Innovation Track, and 4 teams will compete in the Invention Track.

The Seigle Impact Track finals will take place on February 26, 2021 online most of the day. The finals are closed to the public. The following teams will participate there:

CLOVO Brand (click to learn more) – CLOVO Brand is a sustainable fashion company that produces the most comfortable and natural sheer tights using Tencel and a functional design to eliminate sagging, discomfort, and wardrobe malfunctions. Megan Martis (MS ’21)

EQuity (click to learn more) –
EQuity is a learning and development venture that provides digital training and coaching to help clients advance racial justice by developing emotional intelligence. Justin Woods (MBA/MSW ’21)

Parcel Health (click to learn more)  –
Parcel Health designs and creates sustainable medication products. We have created a 100% recyclable medication bottle replacement to replace orange plastic prescription bottles to drastically reduce plastic waste. Melinda Su-En Lee (PharmD ’21), Victor Le (PhD ’21)

Sustainium (click to learn more) –  
Sustainium’s technology collects heat generated by spent nuclear fuel, a form of nuclear waste, and uses this heat to dry wastewater sludge. Jacob Ladd (JD’23), Luyao Li (MS’21), Anya Shapiro (MS/MBA’22), Aniket Yadav (MS’21)

The Michigan Business Challenge is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition where the winning team has the opportunity to win  funding, gain feedback from judges and expand their business network.  The competition is open to all students of the University of Michigan, and multidisciplinary teams are encouraged. The at-large Michigan Business Challenge is sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, and the Impact Track is co-sponsored by Zell Lurie and Business+Impact.

Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Semi-Finalist Teams for 2021

(ADAPTED FROM ZELL LURIE INSTITUTE POST FROM DEC. 7, 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, bringing with it an opportunity for our University of Michigan entrepreneurs to pivot and persevere! On December 4, nearly 40 student teams competed in one of three tracks of the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) through a virtual platform.

Panels of esteemed judges from the entrepreneurial ecosystem were given the difficult task of selecting only 8 teams per track to advance in the competition. We are happy to announce the teams awarded the chance to compete in the MBC Semi-Finals in early 2021.

MBC Seigle Impact Track Semi-Finalist Teams

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: 

CLOVO Brand – Megan Martis, (MS ’21) presented CLOVO, a startup which creates sustainable sheer tights with a new design to empower women and the environment.

Donate Anything – Pitched by Andrew Wang (BBA ’24) and Abdullah Umar (BBA ’24), Donate Anything is a search engine that shows organizations that accept a list of items an individual would like to donate.

enna – Presented by Amani Badran (WMBA, ‘21), enna is a fashion and lifestyle magazine for Muslim women, by Muslim women.

EQuity – Justin Woods (MSW/MBA ’21) pitched EQuity, a learning and development venture that provides training and coaching to help clients advance racial justice by developing emotional intelligence.

Ground Up – Presented by Gabriel Doss (MBA ’21), GroundUp is an app-based marketplace for landscaping jobs and community service.

MoneyMoves – MoneyMoves brings intentionality to consumer spending by helping consumers discover and shop at minority-owned businesses, ensuring that money moves into the hands of under-represented business owners. The MoneyMoves team includes Sasha Kapur (MBA ’21), Claire Yee, (MBA ’21), and Ezana Tadese (MBA ’21).

Parcel Health – Presented by Melinda Su En Lee (PharmD ’21) and Victor Le (PhD ’21), Parcel Health strives to create global impact through sustainable healthcare product innovation.

SustainiUM – Our technology collects heat generated by spent nuclear fuel (SNF), a form of nuclear waste, and uses this heat to dry wastewater sludge. The SustainiUM team includes Aniket Yadav (MS’21), Jacob Ladd (JD’23), Anya Shapiro (MS/MBA’22), Luyao Li (MS’21), and Marianna Coulentianos (Ph.D.’20).

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.

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.

Lillian Augusta Wins Prize, Gets Local Recognition

Nana Britwum (left) and Jannice Newson won the 2020 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track

OCTOBER 20, 2020 – Last year’s  winner of the 2020 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track was Lillian Augusta – (Jannice Newson [MS ‘20] & Nana Britwum [MS ‘20]) a biodegradable hair braiding product made from Phragmites, which is an invasive plant species. 

Well, recently this unique “hair without harm” business won $10,000 in the Essence/McDonald’s Making Moves Pitch Competition.  Newsome said, “I have to catch my breath! It’s a great feeling,” she exclaimed. “Especially knowing we’re getting ready for our launch next year. This is really going to be very beneficial to get things in place for us.”

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Additionally, Lillian Augusta felt the love from Crain’s Detroit Business with a feature on their work.  In the article, Jannice and Nana shared that they chose phragmites because of its fibrous composition, and because it’s local. They harvest the phragmites themselves from wetlands owned by the University of Michigan.

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We’re happy for Lillian Augusta’s well-earned recognition, and we know that the rest of the world is jealous that we first got to see their pitch last year!