Category Archives: education

When Flint Gives You Lemons…

Lemonade Day signups at New Jerusalem church in Flint.

Parents signing up for Lemonade Day at New Jerusalem church in Flint.

Kid businesses – that’s where many an entrepreneur got his or her start. Whether a paper route, or collecting used soft drink bottles, or mowing lawns, or selling lemonade, the seeds of entrepreneurship are often sown with that first neighborhood business a child engages in. On June 7, 2014, kids who participate in Lemonade Day will get the chance to experience the thrill of making and selling a product, a thrill that will propel some of them, no doubt, into a successful business career. Lemonade Day is a program that teaches kids the fundamentals of entrepreneurship by facilitating the creation of that most basic kid business: a lemonade stand. Continue reading

October 10 is Urban Entrepreneurship Day at U-M Ann Arbor

city Easternside_t700

What would happen if entrepreneurs focused their considerable intellectual and financial resources on creating solutions for urban citizens? What would happen if businesses focused on producing the two things urban citizens need most: products and services that solve the problems they face, and jobs? On October 10, 2014, at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, we will begin to discover the answers to these questions. Continue reading

Renaissance Queen!

L-R Parents Priscilla and Otis Reid, WDT, Lailah Reid, counselor George Duncan, teacher Charlene Highsaw.

L-R Parents Priscilla and Otis Reid, WDT, Lailah Reid, counselor George Duncan, teacher Charlene Highsaw.

On March 26, 2014, I spoke to nearly 200 Detroit high school students at the Detroit Public Library. I spoke about my own entrepreneurship journey, and I challenged the students to use entrepreneurship to solve problems in their community. Each of the students was asked to identify a problem that they experienced or witnessed in the community, and to describe the problem and the approach they might take to solve it. I indicated that the student who provided the clearest description of an important problem would receive an Apple Mac Mini computer, which my daughter, Nike executive Stacy Tarver, had been kind enough to donate. Continue reading

Andy Crawford Award – 2014 Winter Term

Presenting Andy Crawford award to IOE 422 student Mark Grum.

Presenting the Andy Crawford award to IOE 422 student Mark Grum, May 5, 2014.

One of the courses I’m teaching at University of Michigan, IOE (Industrial and Operations Engineering) 422, was originated by an extraordinary fellow named Andy Crawford. Andy was a fervent believer in entrepreneurship education, and he crusaded for years to establish an entrepreneurship course at U-M. He succeeded in doing so, and the result is the IOE 422 course that I have the honor and privilege of teaching today. Continue reading

Charles White, 2013-14 Fred and Louise Tarver Scholar

Charles White and me in November, 2013

Charles White and me in November, 2013

Charles White of West Bloomfield, Michigan is the 2013-2014 Fred and Louise Tarver Scholar. This fall, Charles will begin his junior year in the U-M College of Engineering, but first he will spend the summer on an internship at Intel Corporation in California. Charles is an outstanding student and a delightful young man. He’s going to make huge contributions to the profession.

Last nail in Michigan’s affirmative action coffin

Last Nail

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit Court’s ruling and reinstated the State of Michigan’s ban on racial preferences in college admissions. This ban was enacted by Michigan voters in 2006 as a part of the Proposal 2 public referendum. For me, it was an anticlimactic decision that was simply the last nail in the coffin for affirmative action policies and procedures at the University of Michigan and other public education institutions. Continue reading

If we’re so smart…

smart guy

You could start a lot of questions with that phrase, and over the years I have certainly done so. Lately though, the question bugging me has been: “If we’re so smart, then why do our cities have so many problems?” We have so much knowledge and expertise in this country, and yet if you drive through many of our urban centers you would think you were in a war zone. Crime, sub-standard education, lack of access to nutritious food, deteriorating infrastructure, high unemployment…all of these conditions could legitimately lead one to question our intelligence. Simple? Yes. Sophomoric? Yes. But you have to start somewhere, and I decided to start here. Continue reading

Sunday afternoon in the DEN

2014-04-06 DEN group

Hanging with the Detroit Entrepreneurship Network team and program participants

Spent this afternoon with the Detroit Entrepreneurship Network (DEN) team at Bizdom Detroit. This group of talented, entrepreneurship-focused U-M students volunteer their time to inspire and inform Detroit area high school students who wish to be entrepreneurs. It was my pleasure to hang out at DEN this afternoon to talk entrepreneurship, eat pizza, and make new friends. Our session culminated with the Urban Entrepreneurship challenge: define an important problem that might lend itself to an entrepreneurial solution. The winner received a fresh hardcover copy of “Proving Ground: A Memoir.”

Thanks to the DEN team for an engaging session, good pizza, and the free t-shirt. Thanks also for the work you do on behalf of Detroit area high school students.

About Detroit Entrepreneurship Network:
DEN produces a series of entrepreneurship and social justice focused workshops for high school students in the City of Detroit and the Detroit Metro area. Students learn business principles and build a business plan using their own interests and creativity. Each workshop focuses on a different core business concept and allocates time to intergroup dialogue. DEN is premised on the belief that the best way to create a brighter future for Detroit is by instilling a sense of community and personal responsibility in today’s students. By empowering students to take a creative idea and turn it into a reality, that they can truly do something with themselves in the future that benefits both their own welfare and their communities. This year, Detroit Entrepreneurship Network has 52 participants from 21 high schools from areas including Ann Arbor, Farmington Hills, Sourthwest Detroit, Grosse Pointe, Southfield, and Livonia.

“Proving Ground” Day at Detroit Public Library

With outstanding DPS students on "Proving Ground" day at the Detroit Public Library.

With outstanding DPS students on “Proving Ground” day at the Detroit Public Library.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014 was “Proving Ground” day at the Detroit Public Library. On that day, I spoke to 200 (middle school and high school) students from the Detroit Public Schools about my journey through technology, race, and business as told in “Proving Ground: A Memoir.” Each of the students had received a copy of the book prior to the event, and it was clear from their questions that many of them had read at least a good portion of it. Some of the questions I got: “Why would you leave such a great job to start a business in your basement?” “Did you feel like you had to succeed or you would be letting your parents down?” This was my personal favorite: “If you loved what you were doing so much, why did you sell the business?” The Q&A session lasted much longer than I had anticipated — more than 40 minutes. This was an intelligent, engaged group of young people.

The “Proving Ground” event wasn’t just about storytelling though. We had a discussion about who entrepreneurs are and what they do, and I gave the students a challenge: clearly define a problem that you experience or witness in your community, and indicate how you might create a business solution to solve the problem. I offered to present a Mac Mini computer to the student who delivered the clearest, most compelling problem description. I didn’t know how many responses to expect, but it appears that nearly all of the students either turned in a written response after the event or posted one on later. When we announce the winner, I’ll post the information here.

I came away impressed with the quality of both the students and their teachers. The visit confirmed for me that these students do indeed have a hunger to change their world for the better, and that many of them want to do so through entrepreneurship. I’m committed to supporting their aspirations.

Thanks to Mr. Atiim Funchess and the staff at Detroit Public Library for organizing such an outstanding event. I’m ready to come back anytime.

Signing copies of "Proving Ground: A Memoir" for DPS students.

Signing copies of “Proving Ground: A Memoir” for DPS students.

“Investor” Presentations at U-M


Congratulations to my University of Michigan IOE 422 class on completing their investor presentations this week. The business ideas the students proposed were pretty novel, but most important, they gained valuable insight into the process of developing a business model and pitching that business to potential investors.

That’s me standing with some of the representatives from SCORE Detroit. The SCORE folks formed the investor panel, as they have done for years for this class. They always give the students a firm grounding in reality. We appreciate their time and expertise.

The students really took their presentations seriously, and they came fully suited and booted — a really professional-looking bunch.