In celebration of Black History Month, the Alumni Association co-sponsored an event Feb. 5 with U-M alumnus, Mike Muse, who led a panel of alumni entrepreneurs from varied backgrounds. Muse, who has created a career that crosses entrepreneurship, entertainment, and politics, discussed the importance of networking, connecting, and mentoring with his fellow alumni. The panel included a former member of the U-M ice hockey team, the director of youth services for the City of Detroit, and the founder and CEO of a startup called The Urban Playbook.
Muse opened the panel by discussing his own career, which has followed a very un-traditional track. Below are edited excerpts from the five entrepreneurs who participated. Following the panel, the Alumni Association held its first “Wolverine Tank,” a pitch session for U-M students where the panelists served as judges.
Lee Moffie, ’13, co-founder of State & Liberty Clothing Company and former U-M ice hockey player, on what it is like to move from athletics to fashion:
“The first time I was introduced as a fashion designer, I was a little taken aback. You just have to play the role. It is similar to athletics. Whatever role you are given, along with your coach and your teammates, you have to play to your best ability.”
Nydia Cardenas, MBA’15, founder and CEO of The Urban Playbook, on deciding to encourage wealthy athletes to invest in minority communities:
“I started to think about who in our communities have money and also about how small businesses create jobs. I wondered how you marry those two things and decided I am going to find businesses that are investment worthy and design an educational experience to get players to think about investing in their local communities.”
Glenn Eden, ’94, senior vice president at public relations firm Weber Shandwick, on when you are ready to sell your idea to investors:
“If you cannot communicate the value you bring, what you believe in, and how what you do is impactful, you definitely are not ready to get in front of an investor. Take a step back and really look collectively at how you are going to make a difference. When you can show you are unique and are challenging a major business or societal problem, then you are ready.”
Edmund Lewis, ‘09, executive director of Minority Males for Higher Education and founder of Style Guy’d, on what he learned working for the Max Fisher Foundation:
“If this organization can give away seven or eight million a year in Detroit, what can I do just with the money in my pocket? How do I create exposure for my kids in Detroit? I wanted to give them an opportunity to get out of their hood. So I just started packing them up. Many of them had never seen a black man in a suit downtown on a weekday.”
Shawn Blanchard, ’05, director of youth services for the City of Detroit and co-founder of The Networkingout Foundation, on the entrepreneur scene in Detroit:
“People are training people to become entrepreneurs and giving them opportunities to actually put up those ideas and help make them work. There are so many different entry points now, so it is a bit more natural. You go to the coffee shops and young people are working on their ideas, and the mayor is open to those ideas and people.”