University of Michigan’s Zell Founders Fund Invests in Sneakers By Jordana
The Zell Lurie Founders Fund of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business today announced that it has invested in Sneakers by Jordana, a customizable design company founded by University of Michigan alumna Jordana Schrager, BBA ’16. The $100,000 investment from the Zell Founders Fund – released in two installments of $50,000 – will enable Schrager to design, produce and sell her products at a faster rate.
The Zell Founders Fund, a $10 million seed fund that invests in extraordinary Michigan Ross students and recent alumni whose ventures need funding to move from idea to profitability, was made possible by a 2015 gift from business magnate Sam Zell. The student-led team is comprised of the top talent from the Institute’s established student-led funds, based on recommendations from Zell Lurie executive director Stewart Thornhill, who is also the managing director of the Founders Fund, and the faculty directors of Zell Lurie’s other student-led funds: the Wolverine Venture Fund, Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund and the Social Venture Fund. Each recommended a student member who showed exceptional talent and promise in investing. Ashka Davé, MPH/MBA ’17, Christine Priori, MBA/MMP ’17 and Florence Noel, MBA ’17 comprise the inaugural Zell Founders Fund team.
“I am amazed by the caliber of students who have worked on this fund and the level of skill they have brought to this particular investment,” said Thornhill. “Their diverse expertise – not only as investors but as individuals – has allowed them to work together in a way that provided Jordana with a level of guidance and expertise she could not have found elsewhere. The team and I are excited by this first investment for the Fund and look forward to watching Jordana’s business continue to expand.”
“From my experience recruiting for the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, many women do not think they’re cut out for investing,” said Noel. “It is very telling that three women were recommended to serve on the Zell Founders Fund. It is an honor for me to be an example to others, and show women that we have a place here, too. We have the expertise; we have the capacity; we have the input. If we’re not here, it is a problem because that means businesses are not getting the full scope of support they need to be successful in this world.”
In 2016, Schrager competed in the Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition where student teams have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling more than $85,000. Impressed and motivated by the MBC experience, she was one of the first students to submit an application to the Zell Founders Fund, and the team was immediately captivated by her idea. Shortly after meeting, the students began the due diligence process, conducting extensive competitive research and creating a score card that outlined where the business was strong and the areas in which the team had concerns. From this research, the team determined the best approach was to offer Jordana $50,000 in seed funding upfront and create milestones she will be required to reach before they disperse the additional $50,000. This includes selling at least 50 percent of her first batch of product, establishing significant relationships and partnerships with other businesses and increasing her social media following by 50 percent by March 2017.
“As a female entrepreneur, it has been an amazing experience to work so closely with a talented women- and student-led investment team,” said Schrager. “Not only have I received the financial resources I need to move my business forward, the team has also provided me with valuable guidance and advice that will continue to have a huge impact on me and the business decisions I make for years to come.”
Schrager began doodling on her own white canvas sneakers back in high school. After positive feedback from friends and family, she began designing customized sneakers for others. After a short time, she had grown her wait list to nearly three months, and Sneakers by Jordana was born. During her time at Michigan Ross, Jordana has continued to expand her business, designing customized sneakers for celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Arianna Grande and Selena Gomez. She has also attracted the attention of major corporations including Jamba Juice and Taco Bell, with whom she has partnered for social media campaigns. Future plans for the business include expanding into mass production of sneakers and other products, including cell phone cases, that will feature her designs.
“It is a profound honor to be in a position where I am able to reach graduates and help them realize their entrepreneurial dreams,” said Davé. “As a Michigan Ross student, I did not expect to have such an influence on another student. I believe in Jordana’s business, and with the funding and guidance our team provided, I know that she will succeed and continue to establish a renowned organization.”