MBC Seigle Impact Track Spotlight
The 2021 Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) Finals are quickly approaching! The days leading up to the final round of the campus-wide business plan competition, ZLI will highlight the innovative teams advancing from the MBC Semi-Finals.
Parcel Health Inc. creates global impact through sustainable healthcare product innovation. Our first product aims to disrupt the current plastic prescription bottle industry by innovating a 100% curbside-recyclable solution. Melinda Su-En Lee (PharmD’21), Victor Le (PhD’21).
What was the origin of this venture? How was the problem or opportunity discovered?
This opportunity was discovered when I (Melinda) was completing my pharmacy internship at a local pharmacy. I overheard a pharmacy technician complaining about numerous patients that have come in demanding for the pharmacy to stop using plastic bottles. This piqued my interest because I did not realize it bothered patients — it bothered me as a student behind the counter throwing away hundreds of bottles a day from patients who do not pick up their medications. This happened around the same time China began refusing plastic waste from the United States, diverting many of the trash to Southeast Asia. I’m an immigrant from Malaysia and my family still lives there. I hated the idea of more American waste being exported to sit in my parent’s backyard. I decided to test the viability of this idea at OptiMize, another competition hosted at University of Michigan, through the program, I was able to validate the idea and build a team.
What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
I hope it provides an opportunity to healthcare systems to be environmentally sustainable. Every other industry has been disrupted by green technology, such as the automotive and consumer-goods industry, but healthcare has largely been untouched by green technology. I hope it increases the bar for healthcare systems. We need to all work together to address America’s waste management problem that disproportionately impacts developing countries.
How did you form your team?
I connected with my cofounder through LinkedIn. I met Victor at the UM Campus Challenge for COVID-19 and we got along great at the time. He has such an upbeat attitude and sharp wit, I knew I had to include him on our team.
How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
We have been challenged to think about financial aspects of our business, which we had not spend much time on before. MBC created a safe space for us to explore and research this aspect of our business, along with expert advice and guidance from the faculty at Zell Lurie Institute. The MBC judges are very sharp and ask good questions, giving us the opportunity to hone on our answering skills. Experiencing this has increased our confidence in speaking about our business venture to other potential clients and investors.
What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
The business plan is never done! There is always more to do to improve it as we learn more about our market and our competition.
What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
We plan to purchase a design software for our designer so we can improve on our drawings to our manufacturer. The prize money will also help us pay for third-party certifications to ensure it is child-resistant and yet easy-to-use by patients with arthritis.
What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
As a student, field for as much advice as you can from potential customers and also faculty at University of Michigan. Be open and welcoming to critical feedback because these are most valuable to testing the viability of your business idea. It’s also always much better to get bad criticism at the beginning and adjust your business venture accordingly, than to spend years on something only to hear it from a potential investor. Free advice from experts and customers are valuable catalysts to any student business venture.
How can others connect with your venture?
2021 Michigan Business Challenge Finals
Learn more about these great University of Michigan student startups by following the Michigan Business Challenge Finals on February 26 through ZLI social media. Route for your favorite team during the MBC final presentations and cheer on the winners as they accept cash award prizes totaling over $100,000!