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 (REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED). The conference attendance is free, but registration is mandatory.

View 2024 Sesi Program Here

March 8, 2024 Schedule 

  • 9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Welcome and Introductions with Breakfast
  • 9:35 – 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 | 9:35–10:10 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 a.m.–11:10 a.m.

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 a.m.–11:10 a.m.

Achsha (pronounced Ah-sha) Jones has been an entrepreneur since 2007 in businesses across several industries, including food, transportation, logistics, and hospitality. Achsha, a master networker and communicator, has sold more than $8M in products and services for Fortune 500 companies, museums, and startups. With a Commercial Drivers’ License, more than 2 million commercial miles logged, and thousands of hours spent driving school buses, Achsha founded TripSlip, a tour and transportation company that puts field trips at your fingertips. Since winning Eastern Michigan University’s $25K Venture Pitch Competition in November 2022,. Achsha is now a Techstars Detroit Fall ‘23 alumni and is one of five companies chosen for the inaugural cohort of the Newlab Founder Fellowship. Achsha serves as Entrepreneur in Residence for the Ross School of Business’ DNEP Program at the University of Michigan and is an Intentional Detroiter who resides on the far west side of the city in the Warrendale neighborhood with her two daughters. You can reach out to Achsha on LinkedIn or Instagram @AchshaSoAndSo. 

Marc Alexander | 10:15 a.m.–11:10 a.m.

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 a.m.–11:10 a.m.

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 a.m.–11:10 a.m.

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.


2024 Winners

College Category

First Place: Aman Thamminana - Odin Classroom [Michigan State University]

It is an online educational coding platform designed for computer science courses.

Second Place: Cielo Rosas-Ocampo - CyberBuddy [Eastern Michigan University]

It is a revolutionary online safety platform that addresses the pressing concern of
ensuring a secure digital environment for children and teens.

Third Place: Joshua Sum - 0xKnowledge [University of Michigan]

It specializes in building a next-generation documentation platform that empowers
blockchain companies with a platform that incorporates Web3-native components like
smart contracts/ABI documentation, public treasury data, and on-chain data from public

High School Category

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

It is an AI technology company that specializes in developing speech-to-speech AI
tools aimed at revolutionizing the calling experience for both callers and recipients.

Second Place: Besianna Shaska and Katherine Mahoney - Farmers Friend [Troy High School]

It is a dynamic digital platform that redefines how consumers connect with local
farmer's markets and vendors.

Third Place: Halle Hunter - Wandercation Global co-op [Adlai E Stevenson High School]

It is a community that promotes sustainable products.


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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