Michigan Ross MBAs Team up with Detroit’s Food Community to Solve Business and Social Issues

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MBA Leadership Program Will Leverage Business to Make Positive Impact on Public Health in Local Communities

Michigan Ross today unveiled details of its annual Impact Challenge, one of the most ambitious and immersive leadership development programs of its kind for business school students. Organized by the Sanger Leadership Center, the 2016 Impact Challenge will again bring together the entire incoming class of first-year, full-time MBA students to engage in a four-day, fast-paced business challenge to make a positive difference in the community. This year, students will be tasked with creating sustainable business ventures that will not only improve public health in Detroit, but also have potential to be scaled or replicated to have an impact globally.

Kicking off today, teams of MBA students from Michigan Ross will partner with 20 Detroit-based food entrepreneurs—all up-and-coming or in the early stages of developing their ventures—to create business ventures that impact healthy food access and affordability, food waste, and consumer choice. New to this year’s Challenge, students will also launch crowd-funding campaigns to raise funding for their entrepreneur’s continuing education.

Throughout the week, students will be exposed to a number of speakers, community stakeholders, and experiences to help inform their recommendations and guide their learning—including a daylong immersion into local businesses, nonprofits, and neighborhoods; keynotes by Dean Scott DeRue and Slows Bar BQ owner Phillip Cooley; and a food fair featuring 14 Detroit and Ann Arbor-based vendors. The week-long experiential learning program will culminate in a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition where teams will present their business solutions to a panel of judges that includes DeRue; Devita Davison of FoodLab; Stewart Thornhill, Ross professor and executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies; Lily Hamburger, Ross alumna; Cynthia Gardner, senior vice president of PNC Bank; and Kristen Schultz of Deloitte. The winning business concepts can be advanced by the food entrepreneurs who are participating in the program, with ongoing support from Ross students and centers.

“The Impact Challenge has become a rite of passage for new Michigan Ross MBAs and is the perfect foundation of the Ross experience. It demonstrates the power of business and making a positive impact, while also providing students with an exciting, innovative opportunity to learn outside of the classroom,” said Jeff Domagla, associate director at the Sanger Leadership Center. “This year’s challenge is particularly unique, as it will allow MBA students the opportunity to not only make a lasting impact on Detroit, but to also create a sustainable, scalable solution that can be applied globally. Many students come to Michigan Ross because they want to leverage the power of business to become a force for positive change, and the Impact Challenge is the start of that journey.”

For more than 20 years, Ross has hosted community service projects in Detroit as part of the onboarding of new students, and 2016 marks the sixth year that has come in the form of the Impact Challenge. The experience is an intensive, action-based learning program for students and core to the Michigan Ross mission to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. Past challenges have raised more than $65,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; created new business ventures to impact Detroit’s most pressing social issues; and provided a large-scale back to school fair to help more than 3,000 Detroit kids and parents get a positive start to the school year. This year’s challenge has been redefined in order to make a more sustainable and lasting impact by supporting entrepreneurial endeavors already underway in the community and by creating solutions that can also be applicable worldwide.

"By connecting the dots—the resources, ideas, opportunities and people—FoodLab and the University of Michigan are opening the eyes of the students of Michigan Ross and the Detroit-based food entrepreneurs to what they are capable of achieving by collaborating together on how they can make a positive difference on both small and large scales," said Devita Davison, Co-Director of FoodLab Detroit. 

"Detroit’s local food system is culminating in one of the most cohesive entrepreneurial ecosystems in the region,” said Achsha Jones, entrepreneur participant and owner of Soul Food Shop. “There is support for the smallest entrepreneur that's just percolating in someone's kitchen as well as the business looking to become a model to solve the major problem of healthy food access. FoodLab sits at the nexus of this network and through multiple partnerships FoodLab has created a strong center for all of the other organizations, such as University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, to layer on services where they are needed." 

General Motors, Deloitte, and PNC Bank are sponsoring this year’s challenge, and local partner organizations include FoodLab, FoodPlus Detroit, and Detroit Department of Health. Participating entrepreneurs include Mary Ann Baier of Day to Day Fresh Frozen Foods, Jay Redford of Social Sushi Detroit, and Priya Dass of Nirmal Indian Cuisine.

Members of the community and media are invited to attend the pitch competition, taking place at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 18 in Michigan Ross’ Robertson Auditorium. Follow all of the Impact Challenge action on Twitter and Instagram using the tag #RossImpact or learn more at http://michiganross.umich.edu/sanger/impact-challenge.    

 

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.

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 PhD. In addition, the school delivers open-enrollment and custom executive education programs targeting general management, leadership development, and strategic human resource management.

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