University of Michigan Ross School Center for Social Impact Awards $15,000 to Top Student Social Enterprise

Feb 24, 2016, 12:44 ET from The Stephen M. Ross Center for Social Impact

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- After a four-month, multi-round Michigan Business Challenge business plan competition, student startup Kulisha - a sustainable aquafeed company - emerged as the Social Impact Track grand prize winner of $15,000.

After piloting the program in 2015, the first full year of the Social Impact Track - presented by the Center for Social Impact in partnership with the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute and Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies - showcases new ventures that create social or environmental value embedded within their business model. Four student companies competed in the finals after narrowing down from an initial pool of 50 teams.

The Michigan Business Challenge is a multi-round competition for students from across the University's campus to create solid business plans. In addition to the usual components of launching a business, the Social Impact Track participants must consider other factors when building their enterprise. These include clearly identifying a social or environmental issue that affects an underserved population, quantifying and measuring social outcomes and building a financially sustainable financial model that is either for-profit or nonprofit.

"We launched the Social Impact Track as a part of the existing campus-wide business plan competition, because we know there is palpable interest from students to combine social impact with entrepreneurship," said Rishi Moudgil, managing director of the Center for Social Impact. "So many students identify as social entrepreneurs and we're helping them create both social and economic value through their new ventures."

Michigan Business Challenge - Social Impact Track Winning Teams

Co-founded by Eric Katz (BBA '17), Kulisha, which means "to feed" in Swahili - the national language of Kenya - is a sustainable aquafeed company. It produces commercial-grade fish feed from insects to help small-scale aquaculture farmers in Kenya increase profitability, while tackling food insecurity with more healthy animal protein. Kulisha helps to divert food waste going into landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop trawling.

"The Challenge has given us mentorship and guidance to create a business plan that we can execute on and hone in our social and environmental outcomes," said Kulisha co-founder Eric Katz. "The long-term impact of Kulisha includes decreased GHG emissions, decreased trawling, increasing farmer yields and decreased malnutrition and food insecurity."

Eric and a student team that spans the U.S and Kenya will begin operations this summer in the African nation.

StepFor received the runner-up prize for $7,500. Represented by Jordan Golshan (BBA '17), Andy Jinseok Lee (MS '17), and Hyorim Kim (BS '17), StepFor maximizes the marketing value of every dollar spent on corporate donations by effectively engaging users through fitness-powered crowdfunding. Their app encourages exercise tracking through existing wearables, that correlates cash donations to nonprofits via corporation sponsorships.

The two other finalist teams in the Social Impact Track included:

  • CARt leverages existing rideshare infrastructure to provide low-income, low-vehicle access individuals to and from fully stocked supermarkets. Inspired by the Medicaid Cab, in which Medicaid beneficiaries with no transportation are reimbursed for a taxi to medical appointments, they tackle the barrier of transportation for accessing healthy foods.
  • Project MESA designs, builds and distributes portable gynecological tables to rural, low-resource clinics. The group was formed after a trip to Nicaragua in 2010 revealed low access to gynecological exams, including critical cervical cancer screenings. They aim to increase access to exams and advocate for regular screenings in underserved rural areas.

All teams will receive continued support from the Center for Social Impact in order to launch and sustain their new social enterprises.

About the Center for Social 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.

The Center for Social Impact's model for delivering social impact includes focusing on developing four key elements: cross-sector thinking and leadership; multidisciplinary skill building; action-based, practical learning; and striving for positive, lasting change. Specialty areas include: social entrepreneurship, nonprofit and public management, social funding methods, community/economic development, urban renewal, social innovation and education management. For more information, visit socialimpact.umich.edu.

About Michigan Ross
The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is a vibrant and distinctive learning community grounded in the principle that business can be an extraordinary vehicle for positive change in today's dynamic global economy. The Ross School of Business mission is to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. Through thought and action, members of the Ross community drive change and innovation that improves business and society.

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SOURCE The Stephen M. Ross Center for Social Impact