The air is cool, the leaves are changing color, and the buzz is back in Ann Arbor. It’s that time again – time for the Fall 2022 edition of the Urban Entrepreneurship Practicum course at University of Michigan Ann Arbor. I’ve been teaching in the U-M College of Engineering/Center for Entrepreneurship since 2012, and I must say I’ve never been more excited about teaching than I am right now. Unbelievably talented students…timely and highly relevant subject matter…committed and motivated colleagues… and we’re finally able to be together in the classroom without masks this year. Almost feels like normal!
I developed the Urban Entrepreneurship course and started teaching it 2015. The idea of the course is simple: explore with students and professional entrepreneurs how we can use the power of entrepreneurial innovation to improve the quality of life for people who live in urban communities. There are roles for charitable organizations and government to elevate communities, but real opportunities for lasting impact arise when entrepreneurial innovators and business leaders get involved.
Urban Entrepreneurship Practicum pairs teams of 4-6 talented students with an actual, practicing Urban Entrepreneur Partner. The students spend the semester building their entrepreneurial skills, gaining an in-depth knowledge of the entrepreneur’s business and community, and developing potential improvements to the entrepreneur’s ”business model,” – the basic design of the business. The students come away with a unique appreciation of entrepreneurship as a force for improving community vitality, and the entrepreneur partners often gain a fresh outlook and new ideas about their business venture.
The Fall 2022 edition of Urban Entrepreneurship Practicum includes seven Urban Entrepreneur Partner businesses. Most of this semester’s businesses are in the Detroit, Michigan area, and one is headquartered in California. The businesses range from startups to a NASDAQ listed public company. Our partner businesses are essential for the success of the course, as are our entrepreneur guest speakers.
|“Urban Entrepreneur Partner” Business||URL||location||Description|
|Blue Conduit||blueconduit.com||Ann Arbor||infrastructure analytics for locating lead service lines|
|Boaz Bikes||boazbikes.com||Texas||urban micro-mobility|
|D.Cipher||dcipher.org||Detroit||advancing Detroit music economy|
|Emcura Medical||emcura.com||Bloomfield Hills, MI||urgent care, integrative primary care|
|Good Cakes and Bakes||goodcakesandbakes.com||Detroit||quality baked goods|
|Shotspotter||shotspotter.com||California||urban gunshot detection|
|Vibe Ride Detroit||theviberide.com||Detroit||fitness/wellness community|
A perennial favorite feature of the course is the Urban Experience Tour. Each semester, students spend a Saturday engaging with the neighborhoods and entrepreneurs in an urban community. Given its proximity to Ann Arbor, that community is usually Detroit. The students gain a firsthand appreciation and knowledge of community issues and challenges that makes their coursework come to life. This semester, sites visited included Good Cakes and Bakes, the Durfee Innovation Society, Ford’s new innovation campus in Corktown, the Hamtramck community, and more.
Students are already deep into the process of understanding, documenting, and analyzing their assigned Urban Entrepreneur Partner business. At the end of the semester, the students will lead an urban entrepreneurship seminar for a panel of invited guests. During the seminar, each team will share what they learned about their Partner business and propose business model and technology improvements that could lead to even greater success.
We are constantly seeking additional Urban Entrepreneur Partners for the course. If you have or know of a business enterprise that produces products or services aimed at improving the quality of life in an urban community, simply reply below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can help students experience entrepreneurial innovation that is a force for good in urban communities.
If you’d like to see some video from this year’s tour, including in-depth pre-tour videos shot some of the sites, see the following link:
For more information about the Urban Entrepreneurship Practicum Course, see the links below: