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Entrepreneurs Share Passion with Aspiring Business Owners

Published March 27, 2013

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Michigan-based innovators who have broken through barriers shared the secrets of their success with 200 students, faculty and staff at the EMU Sesi Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference presented by the EMU Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) in the Student Center Feb. 8.

Photo of Debi Scroggins, CEO of Bearclaw Coffee

Debi Scroggins, CEO of Bearclaw Coffee

Debi Scroggins (BA01), kicked off the event with a breakfast keynote speech that encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to persevere in achieving their goals. "Starting a successful business means being passionately persistent with your goals, regardless of obstacles," says Scroggins, echoing the conference's theme: "Breaking the Chains."

Scroggins, who was recently featured in a Detroit TV news video, owns 16 sit down, drive-through, and portable coffee houses throughout Michigan.

"When I first told acquaintances about my plans, many told me, 'You'll never make it in that location!'" recalls Scroggins, a retired airline passenger service representative who used her savings to start the venture in Washtenaw County. "But research showed me I could make it, and my educational experiences at Eastern taught me the importance of following through on projects."Debi Scroggins, CEO of Bearclaw Coffee

EMU provost Kim Schatzel, a former entrepreneur in the auto industry, was the luncheon keynote speaker.  Break-out sessions featured several EMU alumni, including Shawn Neal, co-owner of Groovebox Studios, Detroit; Kelly Koester of Koester's Sealcoating, a Monroe-based, family-run asphalt sealing company; Ben Wilcox of Exconresources.com, an organization designed to foster success for ex-convicts; and Angela Barbash, founder and CEO of Reconsider financial services, Ypsilanti.

"Each speaker and session was designed to offer a different take on being an entrepreneur at different stages," says CEO Chapter President Jessica Smith. "This event is something club members-and all of EMU-can be proud of," she adds.  The CEO, which gives students opportunities to run a chapter business, was recently recognized as a "Best Chapter for Teaching Entrepreneurship" at a national CEO conference held in Chicago this past December.

Leonard Sholtis, CEO faculty advisor, says the Sesi Conference was "the best" of the 14 conducted so far. "Everyone that I've talked with raved about the speakers and their presentations," Sholtis says, adding that the club did an outstanding job of organizing the event.

The Sesi Conference was endowed by a grant from the family of the late Catherine Sesi. Catherine and husband Joseph Sesi, an alumnus, were loyal EMU supporters for nearly three decades.

Also at the Sesi conference, winners were announced for the 2013 EMU Skandalaris Business Plan Competition, named after philanthropist and EMU alumnus Robert Skandalaris.  High school, community college and university students competed for cash prizes totaling more than $5,000.

On the collegiate level, EMU student Bill Gleespen took second for his plan, "Giving Root," and the EMU team of Callie Gavorek and Filiberto Colon placed third for their plan "Swoop Recreation Center."

Eastern's CEO Chapter  is part of EMU's Center for Entrepreneurship, a co-curricular program of the EMU College of Business. The program, established in 1986, strives to encourage and sustain innovative business creation in southeast Michigan and a strong culture of entrepreneurial thinking in the EMU community.

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473 Gary Owen Building
300 W. Michigan Ave.
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197

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