2022 Michigan Business Challenge Spotlight – ScentKeeper

Shannon Beeman
February 10, 2022

MBC Invention Track Spotlight

The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) takes participants through the entire cycle of new venture creation from creating a strong pitch to conducting a marketing and financial assessment and writing a comprehensive business plan. University of Michigan student entrepreneurs are one step closer to over $100,000 in cash prizes. Meet these innovative Wolverines in our spotlight series.

Startup Description

ScentKeeper Zell Lurie Institute University of Michigan Business ChallengeScentKeeper – ScentKeeper is developing a portable scent camera to capture, concentrate and store scents from any object or place for long-term enjoyment of the most important smells and memories. Matthew Smith (MPH ’22).

What was the origin of this venture? How was the problem or opportunity discovered?

I was previously a summer camp director where I would often give tours to past campers and staff and when we would walk in the main lodge, almost everyone would immediately remember the smell, unchanged from 40+ years ago. Memories would come flowing in shortly after and they could talk about their experiences for hours. More recently, when my grandparents sold their house, I wanted a way to preserve the scent inside, along with some of the best memories of my life, but such a product didn’t exist.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?

We hope to provide an avenue to utilize our sense of smell in more meaningful ways than we currently do. Scent-triggered memories are more vivid, more emotional and longer lasting than memories triggered by our other senses and our memories make us who we are. From remembering loved ones and favorite places to improving memory recall among Alzheimer’s patients.

How did you form your team?

Our small team was connected through the Chemical Engineering Graduate Society at the University of Michigan.

How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?

The Michigan Business Challenge has given us confidence, not in our idea which we have always thought is the coolest, but in our ability to build a company. We have very little business experience and MBC provided a tremendous scaffolding for us to think about how to go from a product to selling it to actual people. We went from not knowing what a value proposition was to being able to pitch our business in front of investors.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?

Talking to people is the best way to move forward and people are usually happy to chat and help if you just ask nicely. We have been able to develop a network of mentors and people to ask for advice that has helped fill in our knowledge gaps.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?

We plan to have a sellable product by the end of 2022 and the prize money would help us with finalizing our design. With this timeline and an additional launch investment, we are on track to have our first sales in 2023.

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?

Be very intentional about building relationships with people that have skills and experiences that you do not.

2022 Michigan Business Challenge Finals 

Learn more about these disruptive student startups by following the 2022 Michigan Business Challenge Finals on February 11 on ZLI social media. Cheer for your favorite team during the MBC final presentations and applaud the winners!