E-Academy tests students' entrepreneurial prowess
When Mike Callahan needed an idea for a problem for high school students to solve, he knew just where to turn: his teenage granddaughter.
“She had this binder, about twice the original size, papers bulging out of sides, cover tearing off and ripped,” he said. “She needed a better binder.”
So participants in the annual E-Academy set off in search of a solution.
The weeklong E-Academy encouraged area high school students to test their entrepreneurial skills and promoted continuing education in pursuit of entrepreneurial goals. The day camp, which is a partnership of the College of Business and SIFE - Dearborn, awarded scholarship prizes to all students who completed the program. Additional scholarships were awarded based on the competition results.
Students from seven area high schools participated in the fifth annual free event: Allen Park, Catholic Central, Detroit Cristo Rey, Livonia Stevenson, Novi, Southfield Lathrop and Winston Churchill-Livonia.
This is the first year in which students worked on solutions to the same problem, a common format for business plan competitions.
“In years past students came up with their own business plans for any product or idea they could think of,” said Callahan, COB internship director and SIFE adviser. “But creating a common problem for the teams means they can focus on strong solutions.”
During the week, students attended classes taught by COB faculty volunteers and worked with their SIFE mentors to brainstorm ideas and put together their plans.
“Our SIFE students do a great job running the program and mentoring students,” Callahan said. “For the high school students, it’s a good way to make a connection to the university. In fact, several of our SIFE volunteers began as E-Academy participants.”
On Thursday evening the binder solution storyboards were displayed at a COB alumni wine tasting event, and the participants vote for their favorite idea. On Saturday, the teams pitched their ideas to a panel of business executives, who initially narrowed the field to four. After the second presentation by the finalists, the judges declared the first, second and third place winners, who were announced at the E-Academy Banquet and earn additional scholarship money.
Ernst and Young, First Catholic Credit Union and the Joe Lozowski family provided additional scholarships based on innovation, vision and social entrepreneurship, respectively. Lozowski is an alumnus of UM–Dearborn (CASL) and was the key-note speaker for E Academy last year.