Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge Awards $93K to 10 Startups

On Monday, the winners of the Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge were announced at the Entrepreneur Connect event in Lansing, MI. The statewide contest was hosted by Michigan Corps, the Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and represents the nation’s first coordinated, public-private effort to advance social entrepreneurship.

According to Elizabeth Garlow, Michigan Corps’ executive director, more than 500 people from around the state attended the awards ceremony, social impact workshop, and pitch event for finalists.

Garlow says her big takeaway from the competition is that the state is hungry for entrepreneurs who have a positive social impact. “I saw strong, emerging social entrepreneurs who want to change the world for the better,” she adds. “And I heard a lot of these entrepreneurs looking for a pathway to connect with one another.” For instance, Garlow points out that although there were only six companies making the final pitch, 160 of their peers showed up at the event to cheer them on.

Garlow says the next step is a social enterprise fellowship program funded by Mission Throttle that will only be open to competition finalists to begin with, but will be rolled out to the public later. Another unexpected result of the competition is that Michigan is now being viewed nationally as a leader in cultivating social entrepreneurship, Garlow says. The Stanford Social Review recently published an article written by Garlow and Rich Tafel that outlines their vision to clearly and simply define the social entrepreneurship movement.

As for those Michiganders who want to get involved, Garlow says the first step is to go to the Michigan Corps website and join. “Michigan Corps is really hoping to catalyze the community,” she says. “Anyone who wants to join the community is welcome to do so.”

At the awards event, the top six teams competing for prizes pitched their ideas to a panel of judges that included what organizers called Michigan’s “thought leaders” in social entrepreneurship.Finalists were awarded first, second, and third place cash prizes in their respective categories based on a combined assessment of their written submissions and oral pitch. The winners are:

Emerging Organization Awards

Fresh Corner Cafe, $20,000: Available at more than 35 locations in southeast Michigan, Fresh Corner Cafe is a food distributor working to ensure that all Detroiters can easily access affordable, healthy meals.

Digital Inclusion, $15,000: Digital Inclusion is a computer refurbishment, technical support, and technical training program operated by Eastern Michigan University that is dedicated to incubating the ideas of young people to foster entrepreneurship.

DIIME, $5,000: Design Innovations for Infants and Mothers Everywhere (DIIME) is on a mission to combat maternal and infant health disparities through the design and commercialization of appropriate, affordable, innovative devices.

New Enterprise Idea Awards

Java Hope Project, $5,000: The Java Hope Project helps women break the cycle of poverty through business development.

Michigan Garment District, $3,000: Michigan Garment District brings local goods to market by training and giving jobs to underemployed populations.

RNS Packaging, $2,000: RNS Packaging is a veteran-owned, Michigan-based company that provides 100 percent biodegradable customized packaging for consumers and retailers.

Fostering Energy Affordability Awards

EcoIntelligent Homes, $10,000: EcoIntelligent Homes conducts audits that help small businesses and homeowners improve energy efficiency.

ReSource Fund, $5,000: The ReSource Fund serves low-income communities in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area with equitable financial services.

Millennial Social Innovation Prize

This $3,000 prize sponsored by the Magic Johnson Foundation was awarded to Patronicity, a localized crowdfunding platform that connects small businesses, organizations, and events with patrons and sponsors.

Community Ventures Award

Sponsored by the MEDC, the $25,000 Community Ventures Award went to a social entrepreneur impacting structural unemployment in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, or Saginaw. The winner, Vanguard Property Preservation Enterprise, provides job opportunities for unemployed Detroiters—particularly citizens returning from prison—through the cleaning and  maintenance of private-owner eviction and foreclosed properties.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the Custom Content Editor for Xconomy Insight. You can reach her at sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @Xconomy

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