Michigan Business Challenge Starts 2015 Competition, Adds Social Impact Track

ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies has kicked off its annual business plan competition, the Michigan Business Challenge.

Now in its 32nd year, the challenge continues its evolution by adding a social impact track to the competition. This new track is presented in partnership with the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute and the Center for Social Impact.

The annual Michigan Business Challenge exposes students to a rigorous, multi-phase business development and planning process. More than 80 student teams from a number of different disciplines and schools are expected to participate.

These teams will have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling more than $75,000, gain feedback from judges and expand their business network with entrepreneurs and prospective investors.

Previous winners include Movellus Circuits, which is developing patent-pending clock generator technology for the microprocessor market; Focus, which offers Trainr, a smartwatch that serves as a personal trainer; and MyDerm Portal, an online application that helps dermatology physicians triage patients over the internet while still delivering quality healthcare.

The new social impact track was created to stimulate the creation of new businesses, products or services that prioritize social and/or environmental considerations. The $15,000 social impact award will recognize the business plan that best pursues a mission-driven goal through its product/service offerings and underlying operations of the firm, which may be either for- or not-for-profit. The winning team’s plan will clearly demonstrate clarity and viability of the business plan; social and/or environmental benefits of the
business enterprise, its products or services; social and/or environmental return on investment and ability of the management team to implement the plan.

According to research from Deloitte, millennials are eager to make a
difference and believe the success of a business should be measured with a focus on improving society in addition to financial gain. With this market shift, the Zell Lurie Institute, part of UM’s Ross School of Business, have encouraged social entrepreneurship through other initiatives as well, including:
• The Social Venture Fund which is among the nation’s first student-led impact investing funds, making early-stage investments in sustainable and innovative, for-profit organizations that deliver financial returns and place the generation of significant social impact at the heart of their mission.
• TechArb, a student business incubator jointly managed by the Zell Lurie Institute and the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship, that provides coaching and mentoring to student-led startups representing a broad spectrum of products and services including socially-oriented companies such as BetterHope, an ethical apparel online retail site created by MBA and master of science student Marianna Kerppola.

“There is a major shift happening in the marketplace and it’s important that our business plan competition and other programming encompass individuals that are striving to create businesses with social impact,” said Sarika Gupta, managing director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “We’re proud to partner with Erb and the Center for Social Impact and are confident that we will see many promising social ventures advance through the multiple phases
of the competition.”

Teams may be comprised of individuals from the general public or university faculty; however, they must have at least one University of Michigan student in order to compete, and that student is responsible for presenting at each round of competition.

Michigan Business Challenge Intent to Compete submissions are due by Monday, Nov. 17 at 8 a.m. Round One of the competition will take place on Friday, Dec. 5. Teams selected to advance to Round Two (Jan. 23), the Semi-finals and Finals (Feb. 20), will have the opportunity to write a marketing and financial overview for their company and complete a business plan. During each round, teams will pitch to a panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs and investors.

For more information on the competition, deadlines, process and eligibility, visit www.zli.bus.umich.edu.

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