Michigan Business Challenge Spotlight – Sage & Grace

Shannon Beeman
February 18, 2016

The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), is the Zell Lurie Institute’s campus wide business plan competition. The four month long event concludes this Friday with the Semi-Finals and Finals at the Ross School of Business.  Each day leading up to the competition, ZLI will highlight one of the Semi-Finalist teams competing for $85,000 in cash prizes.

MBC Semi-Finalist Team

Sage & Grace – Holly Price (MBA ’17)Sage & Grace Michigan Business Challenge Zell Lurie University of Michigan

What inspired your team name?

In dealing with the funeral industry, it was important to me that the name didn’t directly sound like a funeral company. I want to evoke feelings of comfort and warmth since those feelings are largely absent when someone is grieving. Sage is an ancient herb that has been used historically to represent healing and purification. Grace stems from the Christian principle of grace, a belief that love and forgiveness is available to all, not just those who “earned it.”

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

After reading about how manipulative and expensive funeral planning can be, and reading about emerging trends to make funerals more affordable, environmentally friendly, and less stressful, I became intrigued by the industry but not sure what I could do to help. When my mom got really sick last summer, I realized I had no idea how to plan her funeral and the idea of planning one sounded so overwhelming I was not sure how we would get through it. After she recovered, I decided to pursue the idea of Sage & Grace. Through this idea, I hope to empower consumers and peel back the curtain on what goes into a funeral so that planning can be done more effectively and affordably. There are a lot of disparaging practices that are commonplace and I believe a little bit of consumer education and some well-designed planning tools could go a long way towards quashing predatory methods. Sage & Grace is only unique insofar as it applies proven methods, techniques, and design principles that have been established in other industries to the death care industry.

How has the MBC experience helped transform your business strategy?

MBC has pushed me to be much bolder in my aspirations: I realized I was discounting my vision before anyone else could. This crash course in building a business has made my MBA courses feel much more relevant and interesting because I’m applying concepts to my idea instead of thinking about them theoretically.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

Grieving for a loved one who has recently died is one of the hardest periods of our lives. I believe Sage & Grace has the potential to reduce the stress of funeral planning during an immensely stressful period and, at scale, fundamentally shift how the funeral industry communicates with consumers and raise the standards on how funerals are planned.

What has been your biggest takeaway?

It has been very encouraging to see how many people are excited about the idea of Sage & Grace and its potential impact. I started this idea almost embarrassed to talk to people about the funeral industry, worried that people would see me as morbid, and I am now so excited to spread my ideas with others because I continue to find amazing individuals who understand how big the problem is and excited to help.

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

If I win, I’m immediately going to start looking to hire a UX designer. Win or lose I have karaoke plans that night, but whether or not I win may influence my song choice.

Final thoughts?

I am so grateful for the opportunity to compete in the semi-finals of MBC. The further I go, the more impressed I am by the resources that ZLI offers to our community and the talents of my fellow students. #outsideofmycomfortzone

Michigan Business Challenge Zell Lurie Institute University of Michigan Ross

Learn more about these great student startups by attending the Michigan Business Challenge Showcase and Finals on February 19. Route for your favorite team during the MBC final presentations at 3p.m., mingle with local entrepreneurs during the showcase at 5p.m., then stay to cheer on the winners as they accept cash award prizes totaling up to $85,000!

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