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Michigan Ross' Zell Lurie Institute Awards $90,000 to Startups

3/2/2012 --

Michigan Business Challenge Designed to Launch New Ventures

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Michigan Ross recently awarded nearly $90,000 to promising student startups at the University of Michigan.

Student winners of the 2012 Michigan Business Challenge and recipients of the Applebaum Dare to Dream Grants and Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Grants received funding for innovative new business concepts and compelling business plans. Several teams will go on to compete at intercollegiate business plan competitions where winning Michigan teams in 2011 brought home more than $325,000 in prize money and services.

"The Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream grant program exemplify how the Zell Lurie Institute connect students from multiple disciplines and provide teams with the support and resources needed for the development of nascent business ideas into compelling business plans with the potential to launch," says Tom Kinnear, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. "This multifaceted, learn-do approach prepares entrepreneurially ambitious students with lifelong entrepreneurial skills and connects them with key individuals important to their career pursuits."

Michigan Business Challenge
The 29th annual four-month, multi-round Michigan Business Challenge began last fall with nearly 145 students from across campus representing 45 teams. The rigorous competition process awarded $62,000 in total prize money. In the past decade, more than 500 teams have participated in the challenge, winning nearly $375,000 in prize money.

Over the course of two rounds of competition, teams were narrowed down first to eight and then to a field of four finalists that presented their businesses in an interactive session with professional investors. They competed for the Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business, a top prize of $20,000.

That award went to Fashion Forward Maternity, a socially responsible online boutique where savvy professional women can borrow high-quality and designer maternity and nursing fashions at a fraction of the price of new. The team is comprised of Erin Lewis, an executive MBA student at Michigan Ross, along with Judy Skiles Lavers and Sannie Sapier.

"The Michigan Business Challenge has been critical in helping us get ahead," Lewis says. "I found my team through the executive MBA network, but the challenge has been extremely valuable as a way to receive feedback and refine our model. We received some initial funding in 2011, and our win will certainly help take the company to the next level."

Other top winners included:
Converge Medical Technologies ($10,000 runner-up winner): A medical device company that develops patient brain-function monitoring solutions through principles of neuroscience. Team members include U-M graduate/professional students Mike Johnson, Jay Johnson, Anna Ng and Anthony Tsai, and colleague George Mashour.

@FingerTips ($7,500 for the Erb Award for Environmental and Social Sustainability and $5,000 for the Williamson Award for Most Successful Team of Business and Engineering Students): A for-profit social entrepreneurial company that builds devices enabling the blind to use modern touchscreen devices. Team members include: U-M graduate students Siyang Chen and P.K. Mishra, U-M undergraduate Roger Potter and colleague Nick Wilcox.

Applebaum Dare to Dream Student Startup Grant Recipients
The Applebaum Dare to Dream Grant program funds students looking to test their business idea, formulate a plan and work toward launching their business while earning their degree. Venture Shaping grants of $500, sponsored by the Mayleben family, was awarded to 10 teams to help them determine how to transform identified opportunities into businesses. Three more venture-ready teams were given $1,500 Applebaum Assessment grants to establish the feasibility of their business or a $10,000 Integration grant to move their company toward launch. Grants are awarded in the fall and winter terms.

A total of $27,000 in grants was awarded for winter term. Top winners included:

@Fingertips (Applebaum Dare to Dream Integration Grant of $10,000): A for-profit social entrepreneurial company that builds devices enabling the blind to use modern touchscreen devices. Team members include: U-M graduate students Siyang Chen and P.K. Mishra, U-M undergraduate Roger Potter and colleague Nick Wilcox.

The Beet Box (Applebaum Dare to Dream Integration Grant of $5,000): Provides healthy fast-food options that support and reward a healthy lifestyle. Team members include: U-M undergraduates Daniel Morse, Alexander Perlman, Kay Feker, Kendra Hall and Peter Hans Ward.

Mary Nickson



For more information, contact:
Mary Nickson, (734) 615-4424 mnickson@umich.edu