2024 Sesi Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference & Skandalaris Business Plan Competition

This academic year's Sesi Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference will be held March 1st, 2024. High school and college students 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 Student Center 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 1, 2024 Schedule TBA


March 17, 2023 Schedule

  • 9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Welcome and Introductions
  • 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast Keynote - Joe Thompson, Group President - Roush Products.
  • 10:05 - 10:35 a.m. Speaker 1 - Achsha Jones
  • 10:45 - 11:15 a.m.  Speaker 2- Kathleen Craig
  • 11:30 – 12:10 p.m. Lunch Keynote - Zach Wigal, Founder - Gamers Outreach & Detroit Pizza Depot
  • 12:15 1:30 p.m. Business Plan Presentations and Awards

2024 Speakers TBD


2023 Speakers

Joe Thompson | 9:30–10:00 a.m.

Joe Thompson is the Group President of Roush Products. He is a motivational leader, strategic planner and tactical executor in both the alternative fuel and automotive performance aftermarket. As a nationally recognized expert in the commercial truck and alternative fuel industries he served as president of Roush CleanTech, vice president and general manager of Roush Performance Products, and, group president for Roush Products. While at Roush Performance, he oversaw an aggressive product and growth strategy, more than quadrupling revenue levels. 

He is an active industry blogger and has appeared on National media such as CNBC - squawk on the street with Rick Santelli. He is also as a subject of a Harvard Business School case study.  He is an avid baseball fan.

Achsha Jones | 10:05–10:35 a.m.

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.

Achsha is a lifelong Intentional Detroiter who lives on the Far West Side of the city with her two daughters Shey and Heather. Achsha serves on several boards and is a 2021 New Leaders Council Detroit Fellow. You can reach out to Achsha on LinkedIn or Instagram at @Achshaa.

Kathleen Craig | 10:45 – 11:15 a.m.

Kathleen Craig is the Founder and CEO of Plinqit. Prior to launching Plinqit, Craig served as the Vice President of eServices at a Michigan based bank. In that role she was the purchaser and product manager for all client facing technologies.

Craig’s experience in banking, technology and financial management led her to the development of Plinqit, a platform designed with the purpose of changing people's financial future by connecting them to the right content and information from their financial institution. Craig has successfully raised over $10 million in venture funding for Plinqit and has partnered with several of the largest financial technology companies in the world. Plinqit now serves over 50 community institutions in 20+ states ranging from $30 million in assets to over $20 billion in assets.

Zach Wigal | 11:30 – 12:10 p.m.

Zach Wigal is the founder of Gamers Outreach, a charity that provides activities to children in hospitals through the power of video games and the gaming community. To date, Gamers Outreach programs enable more than 4.5 million moments of play for hospitalized families across 400 healthcare facilities each year. In addition to video games, Wigal is the founder of Detroit Pizza Depot, a new food company in Los Angeles dedicated to sharing Detroit-Style Pizza with the world. Wigal has been recognized as a 2019 CNN Hero and was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list (2017) for his work in the games-for-health space. In 2021 he was honored with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Eastern Michigan University. And most recently, Wigal and his team won 4 CLIO Awards, including 1 GRAND CLIO, in celebration of a longstanding philanthropic partnership with Xbox.

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 for cash prizes. Apply here


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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