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Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge awards 11 Prizes at State’s first Showcase for Impact Investors and Social Entrepreneurs

Michigan Corps, in partnership the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), numerous business and philanthropic sponsors, hosted the state's first Social Entrepreneurship Showcase today to conclude the 2014 Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. 
The first Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Showcase, held at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, featured presentations from the top six Social Entrepreneurship Challenge Finalists, alongside two panel discussions with 2013 competition winners and the state’s leading impact investors.  Eleven awards, including six cash prizes and five business support service packages, were presented to advance the efforts of social entrepreneurs with sustainable solutions to a variety of Michigan’s social challenges in areas such as chronic unemployment, health and education.

Six Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs Awarded Cash Prizes and Admission to Impact Investment Fellowship

The top six teams from the 2014 Social Entrepreneurship Challenge presented their ideas to an audience of 300 individuals and a panel of judges consisting of prize sponsors and the state’s social enterprise thought leaders. Finalists were awarded prize packages consisting of cash grants ranging from $2,500 - $5,000 and admission to Michigan Corps’ Impact Investment Fellowship, a summer training institute to ready social entrepreneurs for investment at and above the $50,000 level. The audience also voted to provide one of the six presenters with an additional $1,000 People’s Choice Award.

The winners of this year’s Social Entrepreneurship Challenge include a diverse group of organizations addressing various quality of life and workforce challenges in communities around Michigan. The awards were presented at today’s Showcase by our 2014 prize sponsors, a group of leading business and philanthropic institutions committed to advancing entrepreneurial solutions to the state’s toughest challenges.

The Michigan Social Entrepreneur of the Year Prize, sponsored by Mission Throttle, supports a sustainable business model to address one or more of our state's social or environmental challenges. Mission Throttle is one of Michigan’s leading impact investment firms. This prize was presented to Wheels for Workers.
Wheels for Workers brings together volunteer mechanics and youth ages 18 to 28, to teach valuable mechanic and auto body repair skills. The program seeks to empower workers with the tools to become marketable craftsman in the ever-changing auto industry. Participants learn marketable skills by fixing up donated vehicles and then selling half the vehicles to the community to bring money back into the organization. The other repaired vehicles are sold below market value to individuals coming out of workforce development programs, providing reliable means of transportation to new jobs.

The Community Transformation Prize was developed collaboratively by Consumers Energy & THAW to fund a social enterprise that demonstrates meaningful collaboration with one or more established business entities to transform their community, and the individuals in it, for the better. This is the second year Consumers Energy & THAW are sponsoring a prize through The Challenge to encourage collaboration between social impact organizations and the business community, such as that between Consumers Energy & THAW, and improve the lives of many families across our state. This prize was awarded to Welding Artisan Center.
Welding Artisan Center aims to provide career-ready training to returning veterans, job-shifting adults, former inmates, and at-risk teens. The Welding Artisan Center's mission is to train individuals in the art and science of welding in order to meet the growing demand for skilled trade professionals in Michigan. The center helps students work, become an entrepreneur, or continue education at a community college or university.

The PNC Social Innovation Prize, sponsored by PNC Bank, was created to support a social entrepreneur working to better the Detroit community. PNC bank believes in creating economic opportunity for those most in need, and the prize was developed to support a business model improving the lives of Detroit residents, particularly through job creation. The prize was captured by On the Rise Bakery.
On The Rise is a bakery sponsored by the Capuchin Soup Kitchen that employs men who have recently been released from prison or have completed a substance abuse treatment program and desire to truly change their lives. With each purchase of baked goods, customers make possible the provision of supportive housing, training, counseling services, educational opportunities, and self help programs. It is a program where each man is responsible to reach back and support the newest member in making positive life choices.
The ‘Women Rock’ Prize, sponsored by the Michigan Women’s Foundation, supports a woman-owned and led social enterprise with a business solution to an important social problem. The Michigan Women’s Foundation is committed to creating positive change for Michigan’s women and girls, and develops programs to advance the work of women entrepreneurs across the state. The first ‘Women Rock’ prize was awarded to City Girls Soap.
City Girls Soap manufactures hand-crafted body soap, lotion and laundry flakes from goats milk. Both Detroit and Pontiac have burgeoning agricultural communities, and City Girls Soap has established itself as a business that directly sources key ingredients for their products from the urban farms in the area. The company aims to provide employment opportunities for young people in Pontiac, to address the troubling lack of job opportunities for youth, beginning with summer employment.  

The Drive Flint Prize was funded by numerous individuals and organizations to advance a social entrepreneur with plans to contribute to Flint's revitalization. This first ever entrepreneurial prize for the Flint community was supported by The Community Foundation of Greater Flint, the Flint & Genessee County Chamber of Commerce, The E-Team, State Bank, LISC, WOW Outreach, Bobby Mukkamala, Edward Marshall, Eric Silverman, Parks Strobridge and Beth Lindborg. This prize was awarded to Vehicle City Tacos.
Vehicle City Tacos a Flint-based food truck focused on supporting sustainable, local, urban agriculture efforts. The company seeks to expand access to locally grown fresh food by selling menu items primarily sourced and produced in Flint, Michigan. Founders believe independent, local farm operations have the capacity to reshape shrinking city landscapes and create new economic opportunities for all. 

The Healthy Communities Prize, sponsored by St. John Providence Health System, is designed to support a social entrepreneur in Detroit with an innovative solution to a community health challenge. This first ‘Healthy Communities’ prize was captured by the Detroit Food Academy.
Detroit Food Academy is an experiential leadership program dedicated to transforming the lives of young Detroiters through food and social entrepreneurship. The organization 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 businesses. By developing food-based solutions in their communities, students grow as holistic leaders who are healthy, connected, and powerful to affect change within and beyond the local food system.

The first ever $1,000 People’s Choice Award, sponsored by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, offered the Showcase audience to vote and select an outstanding social entrepreneur with promise to do great things for our region. This year’s $1,000 People’s Choice Award was presented to Detroit Food Academy.

Five Support Service Prizes Awarded to Entrepreneurs in Southeast Michigan
The following support service prizes were offered for the first time through this year’s Challenge to connect emerging social entrepreneurs with important resources to launch and grow their companies in Southeast Michigan.

The Jaffe Right Start Prize, sponsored by Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss, includes a review by Jaffe attorneys in addition to the provision of legal services tailored to the winner’s specific business needs to a value of $5,000.   The prize was presented to Owen & Abbey, a producer of handcrafted furniture and home furnishings using reclaimed materials from abandoned homes with the goal of providing employment for homeless or at-risk women seeking stabilization and self-sufficiency.
The NEW Building Strong Non-Profits Prize, sponsored by NEW provides a nonprofit social entrepreneur access to an online board assessment tool, a one year subscription to The BoardRoom®, organizational development consulting and IT assessments. This year’s prize was presented to Girls with Guts, an organization that empowers girls and women with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease & ulcerative colitis) and ostomies to share their stories of confidence and to promote self-esteem and awareness.

The TechTown Detroit Prize, sponsored by TechTown, offers a one-year membership to Junction440, TechTown’s new co-working space, alongside a customized consultation package from a group of expert business start-up mentors. The prize was captured by Seva Corps, which works to address neonatal deaths in low- and middle-income countries through a disposable infant warming blanket.

The Grand Circus Prize, sponsored by Grand Circus, provides a three month membership with Grand Circus’ new co-working space, a startup suite of services provided through Grand Circus’ Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub, and admission to a day-long seminar on building a website. This year’s prize was presented to Smart Girls Guide to Self-Defense, an app-based self-defense program for college-age women.

The D:hive BUILD Social Prize, sponsored by D:hive offers a Detroit-based social entrepreneur admission to D:hive’s new BUILD Social training program, alongside a suite of graphic design and brand-building services. The prize was presented to Enliven, an interactive mobile phone application that aims to address mental health concerns, and promote health and wellness for individuals struggling with anxiety or depression.

The Community Ventures Honor Roll List was also announced at today’s Showcase by Linnette Phillips, Regional Manager of the MEDC’s Community Ventures Program. This group of top ten companies show promise to impact structural unemployment in Detroit or Flint, and will be considered for financial support through Community Ventures. The honorees include: 3R's, City Girls Soap, Intelligent Transportation Services, Lazlo, Lineage Studios International, Owen & Abbey, Pettigrew Industries, Revolutionary Bread, S.E.T. Products, Tracy's Tank to Table.

To learn more about this program visit

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