MBC Seigle Impact Track Spotlight
The Zell Lurie Institute’s campus-wide business plan competition, the Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), concludes on Friday, February 26. ZLI will highlight each of the innovative student teams competing in the 2021 MBC Finals.
EQuity is a learning and development venture that provides digital training and coaching to help clients advance racial justice by developing emotional intelligence. Justin Woods (MBA/MSW ’21)
What was the origin of this venture? How was the problem or opportunity discovered?
After five years of working in the social justice space, most recently working to address racial HIV health disparities, it became clear that addressing systemic racism was a prerequisite to undoing race-based disparities in all life outcomes. As I began to engage more dialogue on the topic of anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and racial inequality, it became clear how emotionally charged and discomforting the conversation was for everyone involved. My increased engagement in racial justice work coincided with my own personal journey on better mental and emotional health. The more I explored emotional intelligence on my personal journey, the more clear it became that skills like emotional self-awareness and self-regulation are also critical competencies for doing the emotionally charged work of advancing racial justice.
What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
I think the long-term impact of EQuity is creating more courageous individuals, organizations and communities wherein we have the skill sets necessary to advance racial justice in a way that is emotionally healthy.
How did you form your team?
EQuity is still growing our team. We look forward to bringing on individuals energized about business development, content development, and marketing!
How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
MBC has forced us to really clarify our value proposition, solidify our revenue model, and better define the marketplace for our services. Most importantly, we’ve been forced to think about how to communicate those insights in a clear, concise, and compelling manner. Seeing our vision for a more equitable world spelled out in a business plan and pitch deck has been a validating journey that we look forward to carrying forward!
What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
As a founder that is a dual-degree MBA/MSW student, I’ve always been motivated by the social work values of social justice and human connection. MBC forced me to translate my social work values into a business framework that will allow our venture to be financially sustainable. The ability to bridge my academic disciplines in an action-based manner that advances my professional ambitions has been the highlight of my graduate education.
What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
EQuity looks forward to investing our MBC earnings into expanding our team and continuing to develop content as we digitize and scale our racial justice, social-emotional learning curriculum.
What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
When you’re starting a business, there is a lot of building the train as its going down the track. So first, just start. Your idea will never be perfect, but as you put it out into the world, you will continually get feedback on how to iterate and refine, and it’s that process that gets you to a viable idea. Second, build a community that will sustain you as you go on that emotionally taxing, uncertain journey. The world needs your actualized ideas in it!
How can others connect with your venture?
2021 Michigan Business Challenge Finals
The 2021 Michigan Business Challenge Finals will be held Friday, February 26. Follow these outstanding University of Michigan student startups – as they compete for more than $100,000 in cash prizes – through the ZLI social media channels.