University Entrepreneur Program Spotlight: University of Michigan

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan focuses on the importance of creativity and innovation. Combining these values with a well rounded education gives its students not only the building blocks to build their own future, but also the confidence to do so. Over the past five years, students and alumni have raised over $68 million in funding.

The University of Michigan, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has offered courses in Entrepreneurship since 1927. While the Ross School of Business did not establish the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurship Studies until 1999, the university has made clear their dedication to educating and mentoring up and coming entrepreneurs for nearly a century. The University of Michigan focuses on the importance of creativity and innovation. Combining these values with well rounded education gives its students not only the building blocks to build their own future, but also the confidence to do so.

The Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies (ZLI)

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business’s Entrepreneurship program, maintained by the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, was ranked #4 in the nation by the Princeton Review for its undergraduate program, and #9 in the nation for the graduate program. Before the birth of the Zell Lurie Institute in 1999, a small number of entrepreneurial courses were offered at the university. The students who participated primarily intended on running a family business or joining smaller local market companies. Now, after several generous donations from the late Robert H. Lurie’s family and Samuel Zell, the Institute is one of the best-resourced and top-ranked entrepreneurship programs around the globe.

The Zell Lurie Institute provides students access to entrepreneurial networks, various competitions, capital, and other resources that provide them with knowledge and support as they earn their undergraduate/graduate degree.

Courses & Cost

The cost to attend UM in 2018 is approximately $44,718. According to the U.S. News, “37 % of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid, and the average need-based scholarship or grant award is ,673.” The Princeton Review states there are 3,452 students enrolled in entrepreneurship courses as of 2018.

The University of Michigan offers over 50 courses in entrepreneurship. The basic core courses are:

  • Entrepreneurial Business Basics
    This course focuses on educating students on how to take their budding ideas and form them into a tangible, sustainable venture. This course covers several topics:

    • Motivations and Social Purpose of Entrepreneurship
    • Market Research and Product Development Activities
    • People Resource Management
    • Capital Resource Management
    • Go-to-Market Management
  • Entrepreneurial Creativity
    This course “explores the relationship between creativity, innovation, and problem-solving processes” (source). Incorporating creativity into the business building process gives students free reign to cultivate ideas that inspire and motivate them.

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business offers students a course load that combines theoretical and experiential learning.

“A broad range of over 40 entrepreneurial and venture capital electives provides students with instruction on the formation, financing, and management of ventures, as well as special topics, including urban entrepreneurship, turnaround management, franchising, legal, and social impact aspects of entrepreneurship. The diverse faculty, composed of academics and proven leaders in the entrepreneurial community, prepare students in their areas of interest. –The Zell Lurie Institute

Faculty & Mentor Program

The University of Michigan’s entrepreneurial programs engage students in the classroom and beyond. One exceedingly unique quality of this university is a program called Innovate Blue, which offers entrepreneurial opportunities to students majoring in entrepreneurship or other fields. Innovate Blue Student Associates are available to assist Entrepreneur students with:

  • General Advising
  • Course Selection and Planning
  • Entrepreneurial Campus Resources
  • Startup Project Advice

There are a wealth of opportunities designed to give students the skills and experiences needed to be effective leaders with the confidence to innovate, become entrepreneurs, and re-invent themselves. According to The top 25 Best Undergraduate Programs for Entrepreneurs, over 60% of the undergraduate faculty operate or are involved in a business venture and 375 mentors have worked with students through a sponsored school program. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business prides itself on a faculty composed of a variety of experienced professionals who continuously motivate and uplift students while simultaneously pursuing their own ventures further.

Dr. Stewart Thornhill

The Executive Director of the Zell Lurie Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, has immense global entrepreneurial experience. Before taking the position as director at UM, Dr. Thornhill served as executive director at the Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ontario. He has also held various professional positions in Germany, San Andreas, and France. Considering the strong focus on research at the UM, Dr. Thornhill is a perfect fit for the institution as he has published over 20 teaching cases, his research focused on leadership, strategic execution, and competitive strategy. These publications have appeared in several top management journals.

Student Competitions

University of Michigan students won 0,000 in prize money from competing in various competitions. Among these competitions is the Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), which is a campus-wide business plan competition in which students who participate have the opportunity to win over $90,000 in prizes. The Zell Lurie Institute hosts the MBC and provides startup workshops for students to help prepare the teams. Students also will receive feedback on their potential business ventures from leaders in the business community while networking.

Materials from these workshops (presentations, handouts, etc.) are made available on the ZLI canvas website under Startup Workshops. The competition takes place in the fall, starting with more than 100 teams. By the final round in February, only 4 teams will remain for the final round. MCB requires students to go through the entire cycle of creating a new venture, from creating a strong business pitch to writing a comprehensive business plan.

The competition is constructed into 5 rounds:

  1. Qualifying Round

    This is the kick-off round, with an expectancy of over 100 teams. Students who submit a complete application are invited to compete in this round. Teams are to give a three-minute business pitch to a panel of judges, which is followed by three minutes of Q&A. Approximately 75 teams are chosen to proceed.

  2. Round 1

    For this round, the 75 remaining teams will once again pitch their idea, this time to a new panel of judges. The pitch will last for three minutes, followed by four minutes of Q&A. Only 16-20 are chosen to proceed to Round 2.

  3. Round 2

    During this round, the remaining teams must give a seven-minute presentation that acknowledges a pressing market need, and offers a solution to this need with their potential business plan. Students must also provide an estimation of the size of their market and their financial assumptions. The presentations are followed by ten minutes of questions from the judges. All teams that participate in this round receive a $200 prize. Only 8-10 teams will proceed.

  4. Semi-Finals & Finals

    For this event, the students will complete their business plan then present them for fifteen minutes to a panel of judges. After, the presentation will follow with fifteen minutes of questions. 4 teams proceed to the final round, all teams that participated in the Semi-Finals receive $300 each. The finalists then discuss their budding businesses with another panel of judges during a 25 minutes interactive session.

  5. Team Showcase

    All Semi-finalist teams display their information about their business plans and interact with regional guests.

Successful Alumni

There has been an estimated total of $68,020,525.00 raised in funds by UM graduates in the last five years, along with a total of 323 startups launched.

An example of a Zell Lurie graduate success story is Marianna Kerppola. After graduating from UM in 2016, Kerppola launched her own online marketplace called “BetterHope”. According to Kreppola, BetterHope is a mission-based business that shows consumers that they can make better purchase decisions and help create a better world. This fall, Kerppola will be launching a beta site and use affiliate marketing to generate revenue. In directing consumers to established retailers websites, she will earn commissions based simply on the number of clicks or product purchases made by internet shoppers on the other retailer’s websites.

“I started a journey to explore how to create ethical, sustainable supply chains for clothing. Apparel manufacturing offers important, low-skilled jobs for people, mostly women, around the world. I want to ensure these jobs help to alleviate rather than perpetuate poverty… It’s been helpful to have wonderful mentors to point me in the right direction and provide emotional support.” – Marianna Kerppola

A two-year stint at Google in Ann Arbor supplemented her passion with a critical skill set, Internet marketing, and she decided to return to school to launch her company. Kerppola chose the University of Michigan to pursue her dual graduate degree in business and global social enterprise in large part because of the entrepreneurial coursework, support and mentoring offered by Zell Lurie.”  (source: Zell Lurie Institute Sucess Stories)

The University of Michigan’s initiative to cultivate entrepreneurs who are perpetually striving to find new methods of innovation and leadership in the marketplace and the community is one that only grows in prestige as time goes on. After nearly a century of mentoring and educating the innovators of the future, the university’s reputation and standard of excellence are firmly established nationwide.

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Dave Clark