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U-M Ross Business + Impact
U-M Ross Business + Impact
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Ice Cream Nachos and Consulting: A Match Made in Heaven

By Carlie Peterman (BBA ’26)

I’m from a small town in the middle of Michigan called Gowen, far from the city buzz. I grew up with farm animals and cornfields in my backyard. Always repping the maize and blue M, I dreamed of attending the University of Michigan — and my aspiration came true. I began my adventure in the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, unsure of my future path, but driven to create positive change through business. I found myself drawn to the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project (DNEP), and a unique consulting role working with Detroit small businesses for ten weeks. For a short time, step into my shoes as I unpack my experience working with some of the brightest business owners in Detroit and my fellow interns!

Diverse group of 12 young men and women from the University of Michigan posed in front of a white brick wall.

Me and my fellow interns

My DNEP journey kicked off eight weeks ago in the cozy confines of the Impact Studio’s “living room,’’ where I met my fellow interns and staff for the first time. Christie Baer, our managing director, quickly highlighted the unique role DNEP plays in Detroit. As interns, we would be offering pro bono, hands-on consulting services to small businesses, with a focus on integration and implementation.

Soon after, I chose to be on the Point of Sales (POS) team. In business jargon, this meant I would be “enhancing backend technology,” but simply put, I was tasked with solving technology issues with popular payment systems like Square and Shopify. My goal is to make technology easier to use for business owners, allowing them to focus their time on turning a profit. A day in the life of the POS team looks something like this:

  • Morning — Research technological solutions to clients’ pain points
  • Early afternoon — travel to a client site where we turn our research into action by enhancing inventory settings
  • Late afternoon — Return to the Ross School’s Impact Studio, our home base, to address any issues we encountered during the site visit by calling or live-chatting customer service

Working on my POS team has come with many roadblocks…which means learning opportunities!

  • First: divide and conquer. Just like in a real consulting firm, we are working with multiple clients at a fast pace. This means we must prioritize numerous tasks, splitting off as a team to get work done. This has taught me to trust my team members’ ability to deliver.
  • Second: be a simple expert. Many local business owners aren’t familiar with or interested in technical jargon. It has been crucial for my team and me to deeply understand the systems we are working in well enough to offer simplified explanations to our clients about what we are doing to address their business challenges and meet their goals.
  • Third: stay proactive. In this work, encountering issues is inevitable. However, by staying ahead as individuals and as a team, we can resolve issues fast and prepare for unforeseen challenges.

Ice Cream Nachos from Junk Food and Friends

Alongside professional learning, there were also many enjoyable, non-work-related opportunities, like snacking on Ice Cream Nachos from Junk Food and Friends (I highly recommend it, by the way) and hand-picking cucamelons fresh from Featherstone Garden in downtown Detroit! I have had the pleasure and opportunity to work with both businesses.

Coming from a small area on the opposite side of Michigan, I never realized how much Detroit has to offer. It’s a vibrant place with amazing people. The best part of this internship has been meeting local business owners face-to-face and witnessing their enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit firsthand. They are some of the most inspirational people I have ever met, and I will carry their stories with me for the rest of my life! Go DNEP and Go Blue! Carlie Peterman is a rising junior at the Ross School of Business.

Carlie Peterman is a rising junior at the Ross School of Business. LinkedIn