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Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge Offers $60,000 in Prizes, Support Services

Michigan Corps and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. have joined together to launch the second annual Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, which will award entrepreneurs seeking to address pressing social challenges with more than $60,000 in prizes and a place in Michigan Corps' Impact Investment Fellowship.
Michigan Corps and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. today announced its second annual Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, in which community members compete for more than $60,000 in prizes, including cash grants, admission to Michigan Corps' Social Impact Investment Fellowship, and entrepreneur support services like workspace and training. Every cash prize winner will be admitted to the Social Impact Investment Fellowship program, which offers investor assessment, two months of consultation services and a chance to pitch their ideas to a group of investors. 

The challenge invites individuals and teams to submit plans for ideas for sustainable solutions to a social problem connected to things like chronic unemployment, health, urban revitalization and education. 

Prize sponsors include Consumers Energy Co.PNC Bank, the Michigan Women’s Foundationand St. John Providence Health SystemJaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss PCTechTown Detroit, Non-profit Enterprise at Work and D:hive will provide consultation services, training programs and collaborative work space. Lead supporters include MEDC and New Economy Initiative

Last year’s challenge brought in nearly 300 submissions and more than $1 million in new financial commitments to challenge winners’ ventures. 

Noam Kimelman, last year’s first prize winner, said his fresh food delivery service, Fresh Corner Café, in Midtown, benefited not only from the $20,000 prize, but the general awareness brought to his vision and passion: to provide access to fresh and healthy food in Detroit. 

Kimelman said his business venture has brought in $300,000 in revenue so far. After relying on grants and subsidized loans the first few years, he said Fresh Corner Café likely soon will be self-sustaining.

This year’s winners will be announced in June at the statewide Social Entrepreneurship Showcase & Summit Event, where winners will have the chance to present their sustainable solution pitches to potential investors. 

Kimelman said presenting his plan was the biggest challenge he faced. But he encourages new participants, saying, “Let your personality shine. Don’t be afraid of the pitch. Put all the passion and energy you already have into your pitch.”

Michigan Corps supports and encourages social innovation, like Kimelman’s, across the state. Elizabeth Garlow, executive director at Michigan Corps and leader of the program, said community advisory councils have been meeting since November to establish on which neighborhoods the challenge would focus. Unlike last year, when the focus was statewide, this year's competition will focus on social change within Detroit and Flint.

Garlow said there was tremendous diversity in terms of the applications last year, with 41 percent being women-owned businesses. But part of the councils’ goals is to recruit for the competition and promote diversity among registrants. This year’s challenge has resources for 10 prize winners, but Garlow said that number could increase if more resources become available.

Looking back on the challenge, Kimelman said social enterprise work is tough and grueling, but the competition’s benefit was bigger than the cash prizes. “More than the money, it’s about the atmosphere of support,” he said.
Garlow said: “The Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge offers a unique model to unleash one of our state’s most powerful assets – entrepreneurial citizens – with credible solutions to address critical needs in our communities.”

Michigan Corps’ Social Entrepreneurship Challenge has already made an impact nationally, according to Garlow. She said it is the nation's first statewide competition in social entrepreneurship, and “Orange County (Calif.) just launched a competition based on Michigan’s last year … calling it the ‘Michigan Model.’ ”

Garlow said she has started conversations with people about potentially taking the challenge to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio. 

Registration begins today. Those interested have until May 30 to complete submissions at

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