Undergraduate Team Upstart Wins the University of Michigan 2018 Social Impact Challenge

ANN ARBOR (February 7, 2018) — The University of Michigan Center for Social Impact, in partnership with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) and the Ford School of Public Policy announced the winners of the University-wide 2018 Social Impact Challenge, held on February 6, 2018 at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. The top team, Upstart, took home a $3,000 cash prize, and all team proposals were focused how pop-ups can encourage neighborhood revitalization and small business development in Detroit.

The challenge began on January 17, 2018 with a record 144 students from 9 colleges at U-M. Of those, 22 teams with 103 total students entered proposals for the competition, and after the first round of judging on January 31, three team finalists were selected to pitch their ideas at the finals: Upstart, eMpower and Snap Crackle Pop-up. Watch the entire MSIC18 Finals Event on Ross MediaView photos from the Finals Event

The winner, Team Upstart, was comprised of five undergraduates from the U-M Ross School of Business, College of Engineering and the College of Literature, Science & the Arts: Nick Walsh-team leader (BBA ‘19), Michael Ralph (BSE ‘19), Shalini Rao (LSA ‘18), Brie Riley (BBA ‘19), Samuel Ungerleider (BBA/LSA ‘20). They won $3,000 for their innovative and research-driven proposal that highlighted a sensitivity to incomes and accessibility when choosing their ideal business corridor.  Prizes this year were sponsored in part by U-M alum S. Scott Stewart, Managing Partner at Capitol Seniors Housing.

The following teams won second ($1500) and third ($500) prizes, respectively:

  • eMpower [Sonia Jose (MBA ‘19), Saskia DeVries (MPP/MSI ‘18), Sanjana Rajagopalan (MS ‘18), April Shen (MBA ‘18), Aishwarya Varma (MBA ‘18)]
  • Snap Crackle Pop-up [Ali Raymond (MBA/MA ‘18), Kettiane Cadet (MBA ‘19), Elana Fox (MBA/SEAS ‘20), Marjace Miles (MBA ‘19), Hannah Smalley (MBA/MPH ‘20)]

Student teams spent two weeks intensively studying the economic and social issues surrounding Detroit’s neighborhoods, evaluated key neighborhood corridors, visited successful existing pop-ups in Detroit, and pored over Detroit history and data. In the finals, various ideas included a focus on ethnic strengths, partnerships with U-M for training and development, and a central community meeting space for developing a tiered pop-up strategy.

“As we developed our plan, I was struck by all of the factors you have to consider on the social side, from community engagement to economic awareness. Until that point, I had been solely focused on dollars and cents.” said Michael Ralph, a member of the winning team.

Kettianne Cadet of Team Snap Crackle Pop-up said, “Community buy-in, engagement and involvement is vital to any work done in Detroit, otherwise you risk resentment. From speaking with store owners in our targeted corridor, we learned that it’s essential to be transparent with all you do, in order to avoid replicating the gentrification seen in other neighborhoods.”

After the pitches, the final decision was reached by challenge judges who are deeply involved in Detroit neighborhood revitalization:

  • Kyla Carlsen – Small Business Services Finance Manager for Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
  • Brandon Hodges – Development Manager for The Platform
  • Brianna Williams – Owner of DCreated Boutique
  • Alexa Bush – Senior City Planner for the City of Detroit

Lily Hamburger, Small Business Development Manager at DEGC and U-M graduate said, “The opportunity to partner with my alma mater on meaningful social change in Detroit is very exciting. We have enjoyed this partnership, and we trust that it was mutually beneficial to DEGC, the city, and the students.”

Additional prizes went to participating teams as follows:

  • Best Branding Idea – La-La-Lady Bosses
  • Most Creative Idea – D-Impact
  • Most Ready for Implementation – 139 Squared
  • Social Media Prize – eMpower

Work on the Social Impact Challenge winners’ proposal will likely continue, with further projects and a possible summer internship offered through Business+Impact. Such plans are in line with the Center’s purpose to provide action-based programs that offer students multidisciplinary and cross-sector opportunities to deliver social impact.

“We believe the best way to learn about delivering meaningful social impact is to actually work on the ground with community leaders on projects that will have a lasting impact,” said Matt Kelterborn, Program Director for Business+Impact. “In all of our programs, students engage across sectors and disciplines on real challenges, and we look forward to assisting DEGC in the next stage of work.”

Watch the entire MSIC18 Finals Event on Ross Media

About the Social Impact Challenge

Every winter semester, the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Impact partners with urban partners on a project that helps tackle a pressing social or economic need. The Social Impact Challenge is an opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students across the entire university to collaborate and solve complex social issues in a competitive environment with real-world implications.

About Business+Impact

Since its inception in 2014, the Center for Social Impact at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business has engaged hundreds of students across U-M and worked with a wide array of partners to define and advance the practice of social impact, social innovation and entrepreneurship. The center has a significant interest and stake in the city of Detroit. For more information, visit businessimpact.umich.edu.

About Detroit Economic Growth Corporation

DEGC is an independent, non-profit organization that serves as Detroit’s lead provider of business retention, attraction and economic development services. DEGC is led by a 50-member board comprised of business, civic, labor and community leaders. The team of professionals provide staff services for key public authorities that offer tax-increment and other forms of financing for projects that bring new jobs or economic activity to the city. DEGC also provides planning, project management and other services under contract to the City of Detroit.

PRESS CONTACT: Glenn Bugala, gbugala@umich.edu, 734-764-8189

PHOTOS ARE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD HERE: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1200792380054160.1073741885.527395197393885&type=1&l=feca66e162