2024 Sesi Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference & Skandalaris Business Plan Competition

This academic year's Sesi Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference will be held on March 8, 2024. High school students, college students, and teachers from the Midwest region will join notable business leaders/entrepreneurs to celebrate entrepreneurship. Students, instructors, and community members from our region are invited to attend this free, flagship, half-day agenda presented by the EMU's Center for Entrepreneurship.  This year, the conference is held in-person at the EMU McKenny Ballroom. Please register to attend this conference by clicking here. The conference attendance is free, but registration is mandatory.

View 2023 Sesi Program Here


March 8, 2024 Schedule 

  • 9:00 – 9:25 a.m. Welcome and Introductions with Breakfast
  • 9:30 – 10:10 a.m. Breakfast Keynote - Sean Gray
  • 10:15 - 11:10 a.m. Panel Discussion - Achsha Jones, Marc Alexander, Chris Powers, and Vanessa Lane
  • 11:30 – 12:10 p.m. Lunch Keynote - Bhushan Kulkarni
  • 12:15 1:30 p.m. Skandalaris Business Plan Presentations and Awards

2024 Speakers


Sean Gray | 9:30–10:00 a.m.

Sean Gray is the Vice President – Small Business Services at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. Sean is also a proud alumnus of Eastern Michigan University.


Entrepreneurship Panel Discussion | 10:15 am - 11:10 am

The Panel Discussion on Entrepreneurship is scheduled for an hour.  Entrepreneurs from our region will discussed important entrepreneurial issues.  The panel discussion will be moderated by Achsha Jones.

 


 

Achsha Jones | 10:15 am - 11:10am

Achsha Jones is a Detroit based Entrepreneur of nearly 15 years with experience across several industries including food, transportation, logistics and hospitality. Achsha founded several companies, Lunch Brake, Brake Time Tours, and Trip Slip, a transportation start up in the Ed-Tech space. A graduate of ProsperUs Detroit and pitch competition winner, Achsha is a two time Motor City Match awardee, a 5x NE Ideas finalist, a gBeta Alumni, a multi-year participant in The University of Michigan’s Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneur Project, four time TEDxDetroit labs presenter, alumni of several TechTown Detroit programs and most recently, the $25,000 winner of the Executive Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Venture Competition from Eastern Michigan University.


Marc Alexander | 10:15 am - 11:10am

Marc is a dynamic and visionary leader, with a proven track record as a successful serial entrepreneur in corporate America. He has spent over a decade developing his business acumen and leadership skills to achieve remarkable success for multiple multi-million- dollar companies. Marc’s personal philosophy is grounded in Frank Sinatra’s classic “I Did it My Way,” but he is far from being self-centered, rather he inspires others to follow their dreams as he has. A former School Board Trustee and GenNext Nominee for Fortune 100 companies, Marc has made a positive impact as a community leader as well as an entrepreneur. Beyond his successful career, he is also an accomplished author, social entrepreneur, and motivational speaker. His personal mission statement to help others achieve success and happiness is not just words, it is a deeply held belief that permeates all aspects of his life. Marc has a passion for using technology to drive global change through innovation and impact, constantly pushing boundaries to develop transformative solutions that shape the future. His unwavering commitment to happiness and joy fuels his entrepreneurial journey and inspires him to lead by example in both his personal and professional endeavors. With his remarkable ability to engage and connect with people from all walks of life, Marc’s drive and determination are truly contagious.


Chris Powers | 10:15 am - 11:10am

Chris Powers is the co-founder of Reciprocity, a software company on a mission to improve public serving institutions using technology. The founding team came together to meet the needs of their community during the COVID-19 pandemic by launching a website that quickly scaled to engage thousands of volunteers to provide food assistance and other nonprofit resources to over 8000+ households across Oakland County. Reciprocity has since launched community-focused software applications that provide easy access to public assistance programs for thousands of Michigan residents. Chris spends most of his time building Reciprocity. He started his career by participating in an executive leadership rotational program at Henkel where he was rapidly promoted in the General Industry Sales Division. Chris has volunteered for preeminent environmental organizations including Plant Chicago and MyClimateJourney, and Carbon Neutral Indiana. Lately he enjoys game nights with friends, listening to electronic music, community building, gardening, and paddleboarding.

 


Vanessa Lane | 10:15 am - 11:10am

Vanessa Lane is a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at BetterPlay Studios. BetterPlay works with leading psychologists to create video games and a gaming platform that are good for your mental health without sacrificing any of the fun. Our KOZEE platform MVP will be released in a few weeks, and we've recently announced a co-development partnership for our premium game with Dreams Uncorporated based in Colombia. Vanessa found her way into the world of entrepreneurship after starting her career as a middle school teacher. She's experienced in gaming, digital marketing, and computer information systems. When she's not working on BetterPlay, she can be found playing with her kids, leading Girl Scouts, preparing for an upcoming trail run, or watching the NBA with her husband.


 Bhushan Kulkarni | 11:30 – 12:10 p.m.

Bhushan Kulkarni is a highly accomplished tech entrepreneur, renowned for his role as the founder of several thriving technology companies. In 1993, he established GDI Infotech, a premier Digital Transformation solutions and consulting firm that has consistently served Fortune 1000 clients. Under his leadership, GDI earned the prestigious title of Inc.'s "fastest-growing company" for multiple consecutive years. In 2010, Bhushan embarked on another successful venture by founding InfoReady Corporation, aimed at providing a scalable InfoReady platform for the selection and approval processes within higher education. This innovative platform has become a staple for over 60% of universities, as well as research and medical institutions globally, earning InfoReady the distinction of being named Inc.'s "fastest-growing company" multiple times.

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2024 Skandalaris Business Plan Competition

Three finalists from the High school category and three from the College category will each offer a four minute presentation of their business plans. Community business leaders will judge these presentations to select the best presentation. First, Second, third place and best presentation awards for each category (High School and Collete) will be announced at the Sesi Conference.

 

2023 Winners

College Category

First Place: Zoe Sponseller - Red Thread Unraveled [Eastern Michigan University]

Red Thread Unraveled is a subscription box for Chinese adoptees to help them learn about their country of birth in a hands-on and engaging way.

Second Place: Trevor Arcieri - Refreshed [Kettering University]

Refreshed combines advanced EEG hardware and revolutionary mobile software to help tired and burnt out young professionals achieve quality sleep in order to become consistently energized and perform at their best.

Third Place: Bradley Jakupco - Zeus [Eastern Michigan University]

The Zeus drone helps the hikers in case they need assistance or are in any type of distress. The drones can locate the hiker when they call or message through the app using simple technology tracking. The Zeus drone can also be sent into the forest by itself to find missing persons.

 

High School Category

First Place: Irene Sebin Oh - Neighborhood Bus [Troy High School]

Neighborhood Bus is an innovative app that efficiently connects parents who are picking up/dropping off their own children from school with students needing a ride to/from the same school. The app combines the features popular rideshare services and traditional carpooling systems to create the most efficient and convenient school transportation.

Second Place: Varshini Kashyap, Peter Schwendeman, and Jerry Yang - Prince's Produce [Huron High School]

Prince’s Produce fights food waste concerns by selling subscription produce packages and meal kits, each filled with ugly produce—crops that are still healthy but deemed too ugly for consumers.

Third Place: Archit Sonaje - Czar Art [Huron High School]

Czar Art is an online platform that supports the creation of art by high school students. Young high schoolers can not only work on their passion for art, but will get the opportunity to monetize their efforts with Czar Art. This is a website where artists will be able to post their art and our team will be able to sell it to customers.

 
 

A Very Special Thanks to Our Donors


 Joseph M. Sesi & Catherine R. Sesi

 In 2009, EMU received a generous gift from the estate of Catherine Sesi, family owners of the Sesi Lincoln Mercury Mazda Volvo dealership and longtime friends of Ypsilanti and EMU, to endow the annual entrepreneurship conference. Her family, including son Joseph (EMU alumnus) and nephew Naz maintain the auto dealership in the area while keeping strong ties to the Eastern Michigan University.


 Robert J. Skandalaris

Mr. Skandalaris began his career as a Certified Public Accountant after graduating with a masters in accounting from Eastern Michigan University. In 2001, Mr. Skandalaris co-founded Quantum Ventures of Michigan, LLC, a privately held company specializing in the acquisition and development of middle market firms. Mr. Skandalaris is the author of Rebuilding the American Dream. In 2009 EMU received a generous gift from him to start the Business Plan Competition. His contributions were recognized at the 49th EMU Annual Alumni Awards Dinner in 2010. He lives in Bloomfield Hills with his wife Julie.


Please Click here to see this years additional Sponsors: Ann Arbor SPARK

 

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