The (entrepreneurial) spirit of Detroit: COB students learn the ins and outs of starting their own businesses

October 3, 2014

Detroit skyline Four UM-Dearborn students participated this past summer in the Ford Entrepreneurial Internship Program, which places students in small businesses and organizations across Detroit to learn about entrepreneurship.

Plenty of students struggle early on in their college careers with one particular question.

“What do you plan to do after graduation?”

Majd Mohsin is not one of those students.

“My ultimate goal has always been to start my own business,” said Mohsin, a junior studying accounting and finance at University of Michigan-Dearborn. “Entrepreneurship is the reason why I enrolled in the College of Business.”

Mohsin is one of four UM-Dearborn students who participated this past summer in the Ford Entrepreneurial Internship Program. The idea is to place students in small businesses and organizations across Detroit that have less than 100 employees so they can learn about entrepreneurship firsthand.

Mohsin recently wrapped up his summer internship with Centric Design Studio, LLC, where he upgraded the company’s accounting systems, while providing financial modeling for previous years and financial projections for the next three years.

“It was great because I know classmates who interned for big companies, but were only able to work on specific tasks, which were very tedious,” he said. “What I liked about this internship is that I got to do so many different things.”

When Mohsin arrived at Centric, the company’s financial information was lumped into Excel spreadsheets. Mohsin was tasked with transitioning the financial information into QuickBooks, which saved the company time and money.

“I was able to apply the things I learned in the classroom through this internship,” Mohsin said.

Meanwhile, Rachel Ruta spent her summer at the Detroit Food Academy, an experiential leadership program dedicated to transforming the lives of young Detroiters through food and social entrepreneurship. The nonprofit partners with local high schools, educators and food entrepreneurs to facilitate a year-round practicum culminating in the design and launch of students’ own triple-bottom-line (people, planet, profit) food business.

There, Ruta focused on enhancing the nonprofit’s alumni and mentor networking efforts. That required plenty of data management, such as updating contact information for the alumni and understanding how to engage mentors in the program so they can share their experiences.

“It was great because I was able to learn so much along the way,” said Ruta, a senior majoring in information technology management and digital marketing.

Ford Motor Co. funded the internships, so small businesses were not expected to foot the bill. The goal is to supply small businesses in Detroit with student interns who excel in software engineering, computer science, digital marketing, information technology and business.

“The program gives students an opportunity to experience what it is like to work in an entrepreneurial firm,” said Tim Davis, director of iLabs, UM-Dearborn’s Center for Innovation Research. “At the same time, they get to see and be part of the exciting things happening in the entrepreneurial environment in the City of Detroit.”

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