0 comments on “GVSU Students Win in the Top 10 Startups @ European Innovation Academy (EIA)”

GVSU Students Win in the Top 10 Startups @ European Innovation Academy (EIA)

EIAGabby Hulst, Marissa Hoffman, Shorouq Almallah, Qi’Shaun Coyle, Jenna Grannan

In July 2018, I along with four Seidman College of Business students ventured for a three-week journey to Turin (Torino) Italy to participate in the European Innovation Academy (EIA) accelerator program.  We were joined by more than 350 students from 65 different countries to immerse themselves in entrepreneurship, and to build their entrepreneurial skills, concepts and ideas.  EIA is an “extreme” accelerator that is serving as a catalyst for global entrepreneurship education to help build a bridge and a global network for the next generation of entrepreneurs.  The program took place in Turin which is home to automobile manufacturers FIAT, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, and hosts some of Italy’s best universities, including Polytechnic University of Turin which served as the academic host for the EIA program.  The city has a very beautiful location in the northern part of Italy, nestled at the feet of the Italian Alps.  Its 16th and 18th centuries Baroque, Rococo, and Neo-classical architecture, coupled with its “posh” neighborhoods, stunning Palazzi, wide boulevards and elegant white buildings, have earned the city the title of “Little Paris.”  Turin has also been called the “Detroit of Italy” due to the auto manufacturing presence in the city.  The EIA program took place at the refurbished Lingotto factory, which once used to be one of the most advanced factories in Europe that housed the production and manufacturing for FIAT until the 1980s.  The Lingotto factory was built in the 1920s and was inspired by a visit to the Ford factory in Detroit.  This was very fitting for the Michigander crowd, and it was nice to have a little bit of a Michigan spirit and influence in the heart of Italy.


Our Experience at the European Innovation Academy:

The great thing about the EIA is that it really pushes your comfort zone and propels you to challenge yourself to learn, try, do, fail and eventually succeed. The program offers high quality, rigorous curriculum that was developed by faculty at Berkeley University, and industry experts from Silicon Valley.  The curriculum was structured over the course of 3 weeks, 5 days a week, with daily class meetings from 9 am to 8 pm.  The lessons and the exercises follow the EIA playbook, which starts from the ideation process, the value proposition, customer validation, prototyping, and then culminates with funding and the investor pitch.  The program was intense and required a lot of hard work and dedication.  Every day was organized as follows: lessons and lectures by industry experts, founders and entrepreneurs in the morning; lunch which occasionally was accompanied by a couple of scopes of Gelato; team work and exercises relative to the morning lesson; mentor meetings late in the afternoon, followed by additional team work for the remainder of the day.  At the end of the day, the teams had specific deliverables and tasks to turn in that ranged from customer interviews, financial sheets, marketing plans, to functional prototypes and MVPs.  This was a necessary and required part of the program to help the students stay focused and accountable, as well as help the mentors and faculty assess the progress of the teams.

One of the unique aspects of EIA is the cultural diversity and the opportunity to work and learn from people from all over the world, and not just students, but mentors, coaches, speakers, and faculty.  There were moments of challenges, misunderstandings, and the occasional language barrier.  However, these experiences helped the students grow individually and professionally, as well as learn how to manage conflicts and build effective teams.  Overall, the cultural diversity and the opportunity to tap into a global network of new friends, mentors, and resources was the highlight for all of us.  It was very enriching and eye opening for everyone, and pushed us to be more open minded, to learn from each other, as well as leverage different skills, expertise, backgrounds and networks!  Having a well rounded team is a requirement of the program.  Every team had organizational hierarchy such as a CEO, a CMO, etc., who all work together to create their startup.  For students with a startup idea, they had to pitch their idea on the first day and create a heterogeneous team made of five people that includes software developers, business and marketing people, UX designers, and scientist.  The program not only celebrates cultural diversity, but also promotes and fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration to create well rounded teams and startups that resemble the real world.

The students had ample opportunities to experience and observe the Italian culture, values, and norms.  Food, family, and friends are a central part of Italian culture, and all meals and activities revolved around that.  I, along with the students, learned to like and appreciate the occasional 2-3 hour dinners where you hid away your cell phone, did not rush food or conversations, and learned to savor the food and appreciate being in the moment with friends and colleagues. And speaking of food, we also quickly realized the value of learning a few Italian words to ensure we got what we wanted.  After ordering a “Latte”, not knowing it means milk in Italian, and instead ended up getting a big glass of hot milk, we all quickly brushed up on our Italian to make sure we got our much needed fix of coffee and caffeine the next time!

Days blurred together as lectures merged into mentoring sessions and then into teamwork time, which included many pivots, pitch sessions, building MVPs, and everything in between.  Before we knew it, it was the last day and the top 10 teams were on stage getting ready to pitch in front of venture capitalists and investors from both Europe and Silicon Valley.  Getting to the top 10 was no easy feat.  There was a very intense and competitive process to get to this point.  Teams were required to have 450 points based on their participation, reading, completing course works, tasks and assignments.  These points were required to enter the Product Sprint, a hackathon, that was held during the second week of the program.  The hackathon, in turn, was a requirement to get to the Pitching Carousel round.  Inside the Pitching Carousels, investors picked the top 10 teams (out of 80 teams representing over 350 students) to move to the final round.  All the hard work paid off, and I was thrilled and proud to have two teams, represented by 3 GVSU students, pitch in the final round. The two winning teams that have GVSU students were:

While winning at the final competition is an exciting outcome, I don’t want it to diminish the value of the entire learning experience.  Gabby Hulst, an Entrepreneurship major at Seidman, was the only GVSU student who had her own startup idea, and hit the ground running on day one to build her team and concept. Before joining the program, Gabby’s idea was to connect women online through their closets to exchange gently used clothes.   The idea never took off, and she was fearful of failure, and did not know where to begin.  After three weeks at EIA, Gabby learned an important lesson of not falling in love with the solution, but the problem she was trying to solve.  At the end of the three weeks, and after many challenges and pivots, Gabby walked away with a fully developed business model, a marketing plan, a network of innovators, and a viable product that she can start back home.  Gabby’s clothes exchange idea turned into Get the Fit, an online platform for the resale fashion and clothing industry.  Gabby captured this sentiment of growth mentality by saying: “I loved EIA because I was able to get away from the normalcy of the world for 3 weeks, and come to meet people from around the world, who will all change the world. The ideas inspired me, and challenged me to think bigger, and to not be afraid to take risks.” The EIA offers the tools, structure, the creative collaborative space, and the global network to help students grow not only as entrepreneurs but also as global citizens!  International study abroad is a life changing experience, and programs like EIA provide this kind of experience that will define you for years to come.

Until next time, Ciao!

Shorouq Almallah, Director
Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Seidman College of Business-Grand Valley State University

0 comments on “TESA ’18 Recap”

TESA ’18 Recap

_DSC4660.jpgThe GVSU Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) is a week-long summer program for high school students that focuses on cultivating interest in entrepreneurship and provides students with the knowledge and tools for starting their own businesses. TESA is an exceptional opportunity for high school students to interact and learn on a college campus. During the five day program, students work with college faculty and current GVSU students to solve real-world problems through entrepreneurship. The program provides students with fundamental business concepts and essential entrepreneurship skills through hands-on, creative workshops. On the last day, the teams present a five-minute business idea pitch to a panel of judges from the local community for cash prizes.

The 2018 TESA program saw 46 students from different high schools across the state of Michigan. Sponsors included Start Garden, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office, the Seidman College of Business, and the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Together they provided cash and prizes for the student entrepreneurs that totaled over $5,000. Each year, TESA features a theme for the students to focus their ideas toward. This year’s theme was smart cities. To assist students in understanding the challenges and opportunities associated with developing a smart city, we kicked off the week by having students listen to a dynamic panel of Grand Rapids area professionals as they discussed issues and opportunities surrounding the concept of forming Grand Rapids into a smart city.  We followed this panel with taking a field trip to Consumers Energy to learn about the energy-efficient technological advances happening around and near downtown Grand Rapids. During the middle of the week, the students took a trip Spectrum Health Innovations and then to Start Garden to present their group business ideas to a panel of local entrepreneurs. Later in the week, the students split off into their teams and explored downtown Grand Rapids to search for potential locations to establish their projects and gain more knowledge of the area.  Throughout the week, students were under the instruction of Dr. Tim Syfert, Matt Larson, and Jon Moroney. These instructors guided them through ideation, prototyping, planning and market research, and management and operations.

At the end of the week, the student teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges made up of Matt Gira, Co-Founder at Fathom; Lori Henry, Project Manager at Spectrum Health Innovations; Attah Obande, Director of Dream Fulfillment at SpringGR; Tyler Petersen, Small Business Lender for Opportunity Resource Fund, and Rachel Scott, Director of Development Services at Rockford Construction.  McKinley Lowery III, Kiara Peterman, Davis Ross, Nanda Murali, and Zacchaeus Palmer-Richardson took home first prize and $2,500 for SmartView, an interactive, augmented reality phone application that would show the greater Grand Rapids area, in the past, present, and future.  Andre Davis Jr., Jada Pettis, Tanvi Ravi, Paul Gross, Shaunyla Hill, and Damon Arnold received second place and $1,500 for the Smart Teen Bonding Center, a smart technology center located downtown Grand Rapids to help connect teens through the implementation of technology.  Jorden Smiley, Stasha McDaniel, Catherine Lindgren, Aaron Ross, and Owen Atkins received third place and $1,000 for The Smart Panels – sound absorbing panels with LED displays on the outside used for billboards, signs, and logos, to help reduce sound pollution in the greater Grand Rapids area.

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2018 Students’ Testimonials:

“I had a great time learning new things, meeting new people, and expanding my knowledge of entrepreneurship.”

“TESA is really overall a great experience and a really great opportunity to learn from your peers and all of the great speakers.  I really liked the activities we did and learned a numerous amount of new things.”

“The program was great.  It’s fun to be around creative, bright people.  Our ideas have the potential to change our world forever.”

“TESA is a fun place to share your ideas with others, and have some fun while doing it.  You meet some new friends and have lots of fun.”

“TESA is a very interesting and informative experience that I believe is good for teenagers that aspire to produce their own business as an entrepreneur.”


0 comments on “Malamiah Juice Bar”

Malamiah Juice Bar

For Malamiah Juice Bar owner Jermale Eddie, his ability to impact the greater Grand Rapids community as an entrepreneur is more important than the bottom line.

“Our mission essentially is to elevate community health through healthy products, community partnerships and youth employment,” Eddie said.

Three years ago, Eddie opened Malamiah Juice Bar at the Downtown Market with his wife after a transformative experience with juicing. This October, he won 5×5 Night and took home $5,00 in cash along with $5,000 in legal services from Varnum LLP.  

Although Eddie had no formal business experience, he and his wife spent a couple of years in Texas starting a church from the ground up– an experience that he said was instrumental later on in managing the learning curve of starting a business.

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GVSU Students Sweep Business Competitions

GVSU students Jordan Vanderham and Zoe Bruyn have been sweeping the business competition circuit as of late. Both took home top prizes on Nov. 3 at Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, a statewide competition held at the Cobo Center in Detroit. One week later, Bruyn won a total of $11,000 at the Michigan Women’s Foundation Dolphin Tank Competition, while Vanderham took home $25,000 at Wake Forest University’s Retail and Health Innovation Competition. They have won a total of $84,000 between the two of them this year alone for their respective ventures. Neu checked in with the two seniors to talk about their experiences, and how they are applying their winnings.

0 comments on “TESA Impact”

TESA Impact

“…it makes you not be afraid of resources and your community.”


Name: Jessie Singh

Age: 18

High School: Forest Hills Northern 

Participated in TESA:  2014, 2015 & 2016

Neu: How did you become interested in TESA? Were you already interested in entrepreneurship?

Jessie Singh: My brother did TESA, and my mom pushed me to do it my sophomore year.

Neu: You guys placed this year…

JS: We got second.

Neu: Did you place in 2014 or 2015?

JS: In 2015 we also got second.

Neu: What has been your favorite part about TESA?

JS: I think the activities that they put you through are really fun because you have to interact with the people around you, but they are all there to have fun, too. You realize that that is important to entrepreneurship and creativity, but also is what makes it so cool. It is a ton of fun to work with these people and make your own ideas.

Neu: What has been the most valuable thing that you have learned at TESA, and can take into the workforce with you?

JS: It opens you up to doing more– which is kind of cliche, but the reason why that is true is that I am coming in here (University of Michigan), and I am not afraid to get involved in entrepreneurship because I have that background. That background really set me up to do more. I felt like I knew something when I came out of TESA, because you get a lot. Every activity that you do, you learn more. Through all of that I was able to find awesome people in GR Current and in the (entrepreneurial ecosystem), and was able to transition to the University of Michigan really well. I think it makes you not be afraid of resources and your community.

Neu: What is your major?

JS: I am a business major right now, and a lot of stuff is in the air. I want to learn more about the field that I am doing before deciding exactly what I am going to do.

Neu: Business is a good place to start. Are there any of your TESA ideas that, if you could, you would want to circle back around to and develop into an actual business?

JS: Probably the 2015 pitch. We pitched an art bus…that was really fun. I felt like that was the year that I really led the team. That was the year where we had a lot of loud people and a few really quiet people. We were all able to come around to the fact that we all really wanted to win. They all started listening to me because I was the only one that had already experienced TESA. Our project was an art bus, and that was my favorite because I felt like we came up with the most innovative solution and one that I would really want to see at a school, and one that would still solve a problem that is going on now.

Neu: What would you tell someone that is interested in doing TESA, but is kind of hesitant, and doesn’t really know what to expect?

JS: One thing I could say is that you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. TESA can give you great exposure and push you towards things…economically it makes sense to do TESA. The other thing I would say is that, people forget about how important ideas are. That is exactly what TESA will do–going beyond ideation and actually making something out of an idea. It’s about as applicable as creativity can get. And that makes it really useful, if you think about it from that perspective.

Neu: Can you sum up TESA in one sentence?

JS: If you can think of any problem you might have thought of in the world, you can come to TESA and make a company that provides a solution to that.

Neu: Is there anything else that you want to say about TESA?

JS:I really enjoyed the environment and being around a lot of people who really wanted to do this, not only because there is a monetary reward, but because they are really energized to listen and participate and build a company with you, and that is super exciting.

0 comments on “On Purpose: The Science Behind Purpose–A Guest Post by Steve Johandes”

On Purpose: The Science Behind Purpose–A Guest Post by Steve Johandes

If you are new to my posts, you will see that I learn a lot from my children. This time the learning process started with a conversation centered around my oldest daughters college selection process. Her research took her to various universities YouTube channels. When she showed me the rich learning content contained within, I started browsing them as well.

As I browsed, I ran across a Ted Talk section in one of the university’s channel. I have to admit the title caught my eye as I was exploring other videos on Purpose after recently reading Daniel Pink’s book Drive where he describes the three keys to motivation being Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy.

A great summary of the book Drive is contained in this video by RSA Animates:

In addition a shorter summary is below:

So now back to PURPOSE. What Vic Strecher describes in his Ted Talk is not only the scientific research that is described in Drive but also the actual health benefits of having a Purpose. He describes these items through the lens of a father who lost his daughter at an early age and his journey around that.

Whether I speak with aging parents, cancer survivors or those battling difficult diseases and trauma, Vic’s descriptions of the health benefits of Purpose is right on target. In fact as I write this I realize that one one of my first blog entries was on the same platform I am writing today. Although, I am not suffering a traumatic health or life situation, I have seen the positive benefits of Purpose. In my website “Why?” statement, I am reminded of the bigger purpose of my second half and the desire to help others grow exponentially as well. Whether it is in your business, church, community, family or friends.

Purpose is an integral part of who we all are. Check out my Why / Purpose statement at http://www.100xLLC.com/why

Steve Johandes is an Innovation Designer, Relentless Optimist, Strategic Thinker and Passionate Advisor. Connect with Steve on LinkedIn here.

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October 5×5

Jermale Eddie of Malamiah Juice Bar took home the $5,000 cash prize along with $5,000 in legal services from Varnum Law at this month’s 5×5 Night, held on Tuesday in the Loosemore Forum at the Siedman College of Business at GVSU. Malamiah Juice Bar is located in the Downtown Market, and the $5,000 will go towards purchasing a truck to add a mobile competent to their business. Neu will be following up with Eddie next month to check on the impact of the $5,000.

Among those pitching were Jordan Vanderham, an engineering student and founder of Orindi Ventures; members of the Michigan Literacy Project from the College of Education; Carolyn Scharf of the Kirkhof College of Nursing for a program that provides curated i-pods for dementia patients; and Filiciano Paredes for Campesino SOS, an app that connects migrant farm workers and farmers.

Congratulations to Jermale Eddie and all of the presenters!

Voting is now open for next month’s 5×5 Night, which will take place in Grand Rapids at The ROC at Rockford Construction.  The event will be held entirely in Spanish. Headsets will be available to translate for English speakers.

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Grand Valley teams make the semi-finals of Student Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition

Three student teams from Grand Valley State University have been selected out of 65 applicants as semi-finalists for the 7th Annual Student Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. On Nov. 3,  Grand Valley teams EZIV LLC, Stir it Up LLC, and Orindi Ventures will compete with 27 other semi-finalists from colleges and universities from around the state of Michigan for up to $20,000 in cash prizes. Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is one of the largest business competitions in the country and brings together the top student-led businesses in the region.

Grand Valley senior Zoe Bruyn is a first time semi-finalist. Her bakery, Stir it Up, employs individuals with specials needs while providing them with a safe environment where they can grow their skills.

“I am very happy about it,” Bruyn said. “I think it is a really great opportunity. Even if I don’t come away with a prize, the opportunity to present your idea and get feedback is exciting.”

She said that if she does win, the money will go towards purchasing commercial equipment and marketing materials as she expands her operation.

Director at the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI) Shorouq Almallah and Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Larson will be coaching Bruyn, along with Jordan Vanderham of Orindi Ventures and Nelson Schrader of EZIV, as they refine their pitches and prepare for the final competition.

The final competition will take place from 11:20am-4:00pm on November 3rd at the Cobo Center in Detroit. Winners will be announced at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition dinner reception at 5:30pm.

Congratulations to the Grand Valley semi-finalists!

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TESA Impact

“TESA is so worth it.”




Name: Chloe white

Age: 15

High School: City High School 

Participated in TESA:  2015

Neu: What was your favorite part about TESA?

Chloe White: I think it was meeting new people, because once you get to working on the project, you really get to connect with these people, because you are working together, and you are building a project together, and it is really fun.

Neu: What is the most important thing that you learned in TESA?

CW: The most important thing I learned at TESA was that it is all teamwork. It’s not that you have to rely on others, but you sure do have to work with others.

Neu: What would you tell someone else that is interested in TESA, but that may not know anything about it?

CW: It’s definitely fun. To begin with, it seems a little scary. They will throw a lot of things at you, but you will get the hang of it. It will be a great experience for you, and it will help you… TESA is so worth it.


0 comments on “GVSU Idea Pitch 2016”

GVSU Idea Pitch 2016

Congratulations to the Oct. 4 Idea Pitch winners and participants! Tom Peurach of Tiny Home Community took 1st place and $1,000, Brittany Taylor of Pressure Ulcer Prevention won 2nd place and took home $750, and Aaron B. Schaasfma of 934 Bagworks was awarded $500 for 3rd place. Thank you to all of the judges and participants that made the event a success!