FLINT, Michigan—What do you want to do? It is a simple question filled with possibility—exactly what Michael Witt challenges students in the Entrepreneurs Society at the University of Michigan-Flint to consider every week.
This week is no different, except that some of their members have just come back from another Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organizations (CEO) Conference, yet again landing a national award for the team. The latest—second place for cross-campus involvement—was awarded to them because this Entrepreneurs Society actively includes students from a variety of academic areas of study.
This award adds to the list of past recognitions—including Outstanding Student Entrepreneur of the Year and Outstanding CEO Chapter Leader awarded last year. Yep, this enthusiastic group has over the last few years racked up a unique collection of the highest achievements.
And, land experiences to build their careers.
Todd Fridline, a General Business Student, joined the group just to get more involved on campus. “Getting involved on an individual basis, because we are a group of individuals, we are a team, but we are a group of individual entrepreneurs, so from an individual standpoint, being able to go into the community and get jobs, I think we all have our own ideas and unique skill sets that will help advance the community,” Fridline says of the Entrepreneurs Society impact.
And, attending the CEO conference was another step toward answering that looming question from Witt. “It was honestly one of the best weekends of my life,” Fridline said. “It was cool to get to see someone like that speak and hear their stories of how they got from where I’m at now to that position,” Fridline said. “That’s always been my biggest question. I see the success that these people have and I want to get there.
“And it’s kinda like, ok, what’s the first step to take? How do I get there?”
The Entrepreneurs Society’s goal for students is to “help transform their creative ideas into creative ventures,” according to its mission statement. They do that through projects that have included the Work/Live Project, which builds local homes and businesses in partnership with Genesee County Habitat for Humanity and sponsored by MasterCard International, as well as research opportunities that have led to publication in leading academic journals. Many students also have gone on to graduate school and gained real, hands on experience.
“(We) give students a leg up in achieving their own success,” Witt says.
Nine UM-Flint students attended the CEO Conference in Tampa and bringing home the national award. While there, they heard from industry experts in panel discussions and met alumni living in the Tampa area to make even more business connections.
Mallory Noyce, a junior studying business administration, said her dream of owning a dance studio seems even closer now. At the conference, she was able to exchange contact information with a woman who owns and operates her own dance company. “CEO is really important because it takes students like us who don’t really have a lot of opportunities to mingle with CEO’s COO’s and CFO’s and it gives us the opportunity to get in the same room as them and walk up to them and make a connection.”
Sophomore Finance major Jacob Berg’s greatest takeaway was a piece of practical advice. While attending a session, he recalls the woman speaking saying, “You can’t give to others from an empty cup. You have to fully be there before you can reach out to others and help them as well.”
Since leaving sunny Tampa, it’s back to school for these students. Back to school also means back to work for many. “There are three students in ES who are working for Article One and there are around 3 or 4 students working in the Ferris Wheel,” Noyce said. They join Entrepreneur Society alumni, who also have stayed to work in Flint.
“We are retaining students here in Flint now getting productive jobs,” Witt said. “Students come back and are proud of their accomplishments here.”