University of Michigan student startups took home cash prizes totaling over $100,000 in the final round of the 2020 Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition hosted by the Zell Lurie Institute on Friday, February 21. More than 100 students participated in the 37th annual MBC, the longest-running entrepreneurial competition at the university.
New for 2020, MBC featured three distinct tracks of competition for student teams to reflect the wide array of ventures competing:
- The Seigle Impact Track recognizes the business that best pursues a mission-driven goal and aims to stimulate the creation of new businesses, products or services that prioritize social and/or environmental considerations.
- The Innovation Track recognizes new ventures that offer a product, service, mobile application, or platform serving consumers or enterprises.
- The Invention Track recognizes ventures that have intellectual property at the core of their high-tech venture and aims to stimulate the creation of new businesses in life sciences, physical sciences, mobility, AR/VR, and more.
MBC takes participants through the entire cycle of new venture creation from creating a strong pitch to writing a comprehensive business plan. During each round, teams pitched to a new panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs and investors. Congratulations to our 2020 Michigan Business Challenge winners:
- Lillian Augusta took home first place in the Seigle Impact Track and received $15,000, in addition to the Michigan Investment Challenge (MIC) investment for $2,000 and the OneMagnify Best in Business Award for $5,000. Co-founded by Jannice Newsom (MS ’20) and Nana Britwum (MS ’20), Lillian Augusta is a brand that revolutionizes Black hair care by offering hair without harm, working to make plastic-based synthetic braiding hair obsolete by replacing it with biodegradable braiding hair made from Phragmites, an invasive plant species.
- For Dearborn (4D) was named the second-place winner in the Seigle Impact Track and took home $7,500 in addition to being named the MBC Best Showcase company. Rima Imad Fadlallah (MBA ’20) founded For Dearborn to create space for Arab and/or Muslim Americans (AAM) to self-actualize and thrive through digital media, programming, fashion and philanthropy.
- Comme Homme won first place in the Innovation Track and received $15,000. Founded by Kene Onuorah (MBA ’21) and Mejoy Lawson (MBA ’21), Comme Homme is a direct-to-consumer cosmetic and lifestyle brand serving American bald men. They are developing a two-pronged solution comprised of uniquely designed products and an omnichannel interactive community to inject confidence into the hair loss journey.
- Naya claimed second place in the Innovation Track and $7,500, along with third place in the elevator pitch competition. Founded by Mimi Huet (MBA ’20), Naya produces simple and delicious banana-based, non-dairy ice cream so consumers don’t have to choose between real, healthy foods and dessert.
- SlumberFlow won first place in the Invention Track, taking home $15,000. Founded by Allison Powell (MSE ’16, MD ’21) Juan Noda (MD/MBA ’20) and Lindsey Furness (BSE ’21), SlumberFlow designs and manufactures a nasopharyngeal airway device in order to reduce the negative effects of sleep apnea caused by upper airway obstruction. SlumberFlow also won first place in the elevator pitch competition and the $5,000 Williamson Award for outstanding business and engineering team.
- SSInnovations was named the second-place venture in the Invention Track and received $7,500. Founded by Braden Shugarman (BBA ’22), SSInnovations is developing an innovative eyelid speculum that improves the comfort, safety and cost-effectiveness of intravitreal injection procedures. The company also received the $5,000 Sillman Award for most successful undergraduate team.
- ZeroSixty won second place in the elevator pitch competition. Founded by Alec Kremins (BBA ’22), ZeroSixty is a consumer brand offering a fast-absorbing energy chew that provides convenient, on-the-go energy for active and busy adults.
“The Michigan Business Challenge gives students a real-world experience entrenched in the business creation process that they’ll face as entrepreneurs,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “Each year, students walk away with external validation – the knowledge that their idea is worth pursuing – a vote of confidence outside of their traditional networks.”
The Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and its Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance bring together a potent mix of knowledge, experience and opportunities from the front lines of entrepreneurship and alternative investments. The student learning experience is further enhanced through internships, entrepreneurial clubs and events that provide viable networks and engage the business community.