SAHI Cosmetics Takes Top Honors at University of Michigan’s Michigan Business Challenge
More than 200 students across the University of Michigan’s 19 schools and colleges have tirelessly honed their pitches and refined their business plans for the chance to win the top prize at the Michigan Business Challenge. After several rounds of competition culminating in the finals on Friday February 17, student startup SAHI Cosmetics emerged as the winner, taking home a total of $27,000 from the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies’ 34th annual competition.
Founded by Shelly Sahi (MBA ’16), a former materials science engineer at Ford, SAHI Cosmetics provides customized private blend cosmetics for women of medium skin tones, solving a major pain point for women of Arabic, Indian, Pakistani, Mediterranean and Hispanic descent.
“I’ve received great support from the Zell Lurie Institute through Dare to Dream grants, the Zell Entrepreneurs program and the Desai Accelerator. The Zell Lurie team has helped coach me through each step of founding SAHI Cosmetics, from planning and researching the original concept through its launch date,” Sahi said. “The Michigan Business Challenge required me to vet out my strategy for the next five years and gave me a supportive place to practice my pitch before I take it to outside venture capitalists.”
Born out of Sahi’s own frustration with the lack of products available for her on the market, SAHI Cosmetics both addresses a need in the wider marketplace—and represents an opportunity for Sahi to seriously challenge herself in a new way. “At Ford, I was making good money and creating a great professional network,” she said. “But I wanted to do more with myself. It’s extremely fulfilling to create something and share it with the world. Working 70 hour weeks on SAHI Cosmetics is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”
In addition to the Pryor-Hale award for best business for $25,000, SAHI Cosmetics took home an additional $2,000 for the award for outstanding presentation.
proteinbits, founded by Ellis Fried (BA ’17) won the second place prize. proteinbits is an on-the-go bite-size protein snack served fresh in a handheld resealable package, making for the healthiest, tastiest and most convenient high-protein snack on the market. proteinbits was also honored with a best presentation award, best undergraduate team award and one of two Marketing Associates Mark Petroff marketing awards.
The teams competing in the Michigan Business Challenge took part in a rigorous four-stage competition, requiring them to rework and refine their businesses in order to create a viable business plan. Along the way, student ventures were supported by individual coaching from the Zell Lurie Institute’s entrepreneurs-in-residence, training through startup workshops facilitated by Institute staff and feedback from industry and venture capital judges.
“Taking the lessons from the classroom and applying them to real-world situations is one of the most valuable opportunities we can offer our student entrepreneurs,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “Programs like the Michigan Business Challenge push students to produce ideas good enough to be validated by a wide community of entrepreneurs and investors. We’re proud of every student who rises to the challenge, and confident that the resources they receive from the Zell Lurie Institute will help them and their companies reach their full potential.”
Michigan Business Challenge
The Michigan Business Challenge competition focuses on student teams testing real-world business concepts through engaging in customer discovery, vetting financial models, conducting market research and developing a complete business plan. Over the course of the entire competition, $85,000 was awarded to winning teams.
In addition to SAHI Cosmetics and proteinbits, the Michigan Business Challenge finalists included:
- AIM Tech, founded by Stephen John (MD ’19) and Aaron Steiner (MBA ’17), has developed an affordable, high quality, low-tech pressure ventilator to help prevent the deaths of over one million babies each year from respiratory illness in low-middle income countries. The NeoVent ventilator requires no electrical power and costs less than 1/100th of the price of ventilators currently on the market.
- MoxyTech, founded by Udai Mody (MBA ’17), has made the communication of pain objective and quantifiable at the individual and population level. Its flagship technology, GeoPain, gives patients the ability to communicate more effectively with clinicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers, leading to a reduced measure of primary care, smaller clinical trials and better care.
In addition to the general competition, ventures may compete in the Impact Track,
presented in partnership with Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute and the Center for Social Impact, which showcases companies that prioritize social or environmental considerations. The winners of the Impact Track were:
- AIM Tech, which took home the grand prize for $15,000.
- Sage & Grace, the winner of a Dare to Dream Shaping Grant during last year’s award ceremony, won the runner-up prize of $7,500. Launched in 2015 by Holly Price (MBA ’16), Sage & Grace is a website and concierge service that helps grieving families navigate the funeral planning process. By educating and guiding families, the company helps them save significant time and money, reduce stress and process their grief more effectively.
- Find Your Ditto, took home third place in the Impact Track. Founded by Parisa Soraya (MHI’17), Find Your Ditto is a mobile platform that connects individuals living with the same chronic illness locally for on-demand, in-person peer support.
Additional honors are awarded to teams with innovative marketing plans, business and engineering partnerships, and more. The following teams received additional honors:
- AIM Tech received a Marketing Associates Mark Petroff Marketing Award.
- CarryCott, founded by Benjamin Eu (BSE ’19), Jolene Ng (BSE ’18) and Natalie Shepich (BBA ’19), took home the Williamson Award for Outstanding Business & Engineering Team has designed the world’s first dual wheel self-balancing stroller, which is easy to close, carry and maneuver, making going outdoors more convenient for the parent and more comfortable for the child.
- Morning Brew, led by Austin Rief (BBA ’17) received the award for Best Written Plan. Morning Brew is a business news and educational content company with the purpose of connecting college students with the business world in a way that engages, educates and inspires.
“A good business plan is critical if we are to scale and make an impact,” said Stephen John
(MD ’19), co-founder of AIM Tech. “The Michigan Business Challenge really provided the motivation to dig into our plan, check our assumptions and research the market.”
Throughout the competition, student teams presented their business plans to leaders from venture capital and startup firms. Teams that advanced to Round 2 are also eligible for consideration to participate in intercollegiate business plan competitions and receive support from the Zell Lurie Institute. For more information on the Michigan Business Challenge, visit: http://zli.umich.edu/programs-funds/michigan-business-challenge.