ANN ARBOR, Mich., Aug. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This summer, eight MBAs from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business set out from Ann Arbor on road trips to help social entrepreneurs improve their businesses. Sponsored by the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Center for Social Impact and Chevrolet, the Ross Open Road program spanned five weeks, seven states and nine businesses to give students firsthand experience in solving the challenges facing today's social entrepreneurs.
Ross Open Road is modeled after the MBAs Across America program, which sent teams of students across the country for several weeks in order to work with and learn from entrepreneurs and small businesses located across the United States. Teams spend one week on an intensive consulting project with each company. Ross Open Road embedded two teams of first-year MBAs in their chosen companies, allowing them to build on the skills learned in their foundational classes and apply them to real-life situations.
Team IBAM, composed of Aaron Steiner, Iris Nguyen, Blake Van Fleteren and Mikaela Rodkin, visited companies with deep social impact and community roots.
"It was inspiring to work with people like Tippy Tippens of Goods That Matter, who is dedicated to the environment and making green products," said Steiner. "Our team built a financial modeling tool to project her revenues that she's already planning on sharing with other makers. After operating the business for more than five years, she's a veteran entrepreneur and requires resources like these to take her to the next level—and we can't wait to see the impact her company will create."
The companies the team visited included:
- Sweet Potato Sensations, a bakery in Detroit looking for help cost accounting to better understand their margins and position their company in the marketplace, as well as to identify bottlenecks during pie preparation to help keep up with Thanksgiving demand
- Discovery Recycling, a recycling company in Daleville, Ala., that needed help launching an electronic waste recycling business
- Goods That Matter, a one-woman product design shop in New Orleans that wanted to increase revenues and decrease overall expenses
- AMP360, an organization dedicated to empowering the underserved to prevent incarceration and recidivism in Austin, Texas, that sought help creating a volunteer management program
- Connecting for Good, a nonprofit closing the digital divide in Kansas City, Kan., that needed to grow its efforts sustainably
Team SASA, composed of Anita Lin, Sarah Haroon, Sanmeet Jasuja and Alexander Ho, focused on organizations with roots in agriculture and IT. From the moment they walked through the door, the team was fully immersed in the problems these entrepreneurs faced and the communities that rallied around them.
"We only had a few days to fully integrate ourselves into the business and culture of every company we visited, and we were impressed with what we found every time and inspired to help them improve," said Ho. "Flipgrid, for example, is dedicated to improving the classroom experience and giving each student an equal voice. We were able to develop a full marketing strategy and suggestions for new product features down the road that we hope will enable them to help even more teachers. By helping one business, we have the ability to affect the whole community."
Team SASA worked with:
- Mitten Crate, an experiential marketing company working with food producers in Detroit that needed a product launch plan
- Garden Fresh Farms, a hydroponics company in Maplewood, Minn., looking to raise enough capital over two months to support the business
- Emerging Prairie, an organization that connects the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fargo, N.D., looking to design a Community Activities Office to serve the Fargo community and retain lasting quality talent
- Flipgrid, an edtech company in Minneapolis with a platform that allows teachers to pose questions that students can answer with short video responses
"Entrepreneurs are the heart of innovation and local economies in this country," said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. "Giving students the chance to use what they've learned to embed themselves in the heartbreaks and successes of being an entrepreneur is crucial to their development and potential to be the next generation of innovators."
"Our students increasingly seek business solutions that also deliver social impact," said Rishi Moudgil, managing director of the Center for Social Impact. "This was a great opportunity for them to partner with like-minded small business owners in creating positive change in their local communities."
"Open Road is the ultimate representation of what Ross stands for: entrepreneurial, student-run, social impact minded, action-based," said Rodkin of Team IBAM. "The experience hit its mark and gave me the perfect opportunity to put into play everything I've learned thus far."
The Ross Open Road program is sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Social Impact, the Sanger Leadership Center and Chevrolet. For more information on the program and posts on this year's student experiences, follow #RossOpenRoad on Instagram and Twitter or visit the Ross blog.
About the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
The Institute and its Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance bring together an impactful combination of deep-seated knowledge, enriching experiences and strategic opportunities from the front lines of entrepreneurship and alternative investment. Students' learning experiences are further enhanced through internships, entrepreneurial clubs, business competitions and campus-wide events that foster valuable networking and engage the business community. The School's five student-led investment funds, with over $8.5M under management, immerse students in the entrepreneurial business sourcing, assessment and investment process. Founding Zell Lurie advisory board members include Samuel Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, and Eugene Applebaum, founder of Arbor Drugs Inc. For more information, visit the Institute's website at www.zli.bus.umich.edu.
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 driving positive change in today's dynamic global economy. The Ross School's mission is to develop leaders who can solve global problems and contribute to the betterment of the world. Through thought and action, members of the Ross community drive change and innovation that improve business and society.
Ross is consistently ranked among the world's leading business schools. Academic degree programs include the BBA, MBA, Part-time MBA (Evening and Weekend formats), Executive MBA, Global MBA, Master of Accounting, Master of Supply Chain Management, Master of Management, and Ph.D. In addition, the school delivers open-enrollment and customized executive-education programs targeting general management, leadership development and strategic human resource management.
SOURCE Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies