Programs & Funds

Michigan Business Challenge

The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition where student teams have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling over $85,000, gain feedback from leaders in the business community, and expand their business network.

MBC takes participants through the entire cycle of new venture creation from creating a strong pitch to conducting a marketing and financial assessment and writing a comprehensive business plan. The competition kicks-off in December with more than 100 teams competing in Round 1 and concluding in February with four competing teams at the finals.

During each round, teams will pitch to a panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs and investors.

Teams that advance to Round 2 will also be eligible for consideration to participate in intercollegiate business plan competitions and receive coaching and financial support from the Zell Lurie Institute to prep for and cover competition travel expenses.

In addition to hosting the competition, the Zell Lurie Institute facilitates startup workshops to help prepare student teams for the deliverables due for each round of the competition. Workshop presentations and handouts are posted on Ctools in "Zell Lurie Institute" in the “Michigan Business Challenge” folder.

Round 1 (December 2) kicks off the competition where more than 100 teams from across campus are expected to compete. Any student that submits an application will be invited to compete in Round 1.
Teams will give a three-minute pitch to a panel of judges followed by four minutes to answer questions. Sixteen to twenty teams will be chosen to advance to Round 2. Each team will receive $200. 

Round 2 (January 20), about 16-22 teams will advance from Round 1 to compete in this round. Competing teams give a seven-minute presentation that describes their company's solution to a pressing market need or pain, an estimation of the market size, and their financial assumptions. This is followed by ten minutes of questions from the judges. Eight-ten teams will be chosen to advance to the semi-finals and will each receive $300. Four teams will be chosen to compete in the Social Impact Finals.

Semi-Finals and Finals (February 17) teams will have the opportunity to write a marketing and financial overview for their company and complete a business plan. Semi-finalists present their business plans for 15 minutes and will have 15 minutes to respond to questions from the judges. Four teams will be chosen by the judges to advance to the afternoon Finals. Finalists will discuss their businesses with the judges during a 25-minute interactive session. 

Michigan business challenge eligibility and application process

Social Impact Track

This $15,000 award recognizes the business plan that best pursues a mission driven goal through its product/service offerings and underlying operations. Eligible teams will be selected during the first round of MBC to compete in the Social Impact Track starting during the second round. This award is co-sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Social Impact, and the Erb Institute.

Eligibility & Exclusions


  • The Michigan Business Challenge is open to all current UM undergraduate and graduate students. Teams may add or remove members throughout the competition.

  • At least one member of the student team must be the author of the business plan.

  • The proposed business may be for a consumer or industrial product or service. The business may be for-profit or non-profit, though most competitive businesses demonstrate high growth and/or large market potential.

  • Teams of students from different colleges within the University may submit a business plan. Only current UM Ann Arbor students may present the business before the judges, even if the team includes students from other campuses, different universities or non-students


  • Buy-outs/turn-arounds, expansions of existing companies, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, and spin-outs from existing companies.

  • Ventures with revenue prior to the current academic year. Ventures that have raised equity capital from sources other than the members of the student team before the current academic year.

A business venture that reaches the Finals may not compete in future Michigan Business Challenges.

Prizes & Past Winners

Prizes & Past Winners

Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business: $25,000

This grand prize is awarded to the team that the judges feel is most likely to succeed, most likely to have the largest success, and has the most viable business. A runner-up business team will also be identified and will receive $10,000.

Judges decide these awards by using a variety of factors. They consider the market opportunity that is presented and whether the team has a clear path to take advantage of that market, along with the competitive advantage for that business. The judges also evaluate the teams' management capability to see if the team has the skill to advance the company and handle the risks of the venture. Finally, the judges analyze the financial strategy of the business to determine if this would be a worthwhile venture for a firm to invest in. 

Social Impact Track Winner: $15,000
Social Impact Track Runner-up: $7,500

This new track is presented in partnership with the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute and the Center for Social Impact. The goal of this award is to stimulate the creation of new businesses, products or services that prioritize social and/or environmental considerations. The award recognizes the business plan that best pursues a mission-driven goal through its product/service offerings and underlying operations of the firm; the firm may be either for- or not-for-profit.

The winning team’s plan will:

  • Clearly identify the social/environmental issue
  • Articulate the target population served
  • Identify the social impact outcomes and key metrics
  • Build a financially sustainable business model

Teams must enter the multistage Michigan Business Challenge in the fall and also submit a one-page Statement of Social Impact. 

Williamson Award for Cross-Functional Teams: $5,000
This award is for the most successful team with at least one currently enrolled Ross School of Business student and one currently enrolled College of Engineering student. To be considered for this award, teams need to write a one-page Management Team Overview that details the roles and skills of the team members and submit it when the Market and Financial Overview is due in early January. Teams apply for the award in Round Two and the most successful cross-functional team within the competition will receive the award. There are no additional presentation or documentation requirements for this award.

Marketing Award sponsored by Marketing Associates (2 awards): $2,500 
The Marketing Award, sponsored by Marketing Associates, will be awarded to up to two teams that compete in Round 2 of the Michigan Business Challenge. The award will recognize the teams that most effectively identify their markets, understand the market needs, and present how the company will address those needs and deliver a product or service offering.  Awardees will convince judges that they can reach their market and deliver value to the customers in an effective manner. A full marketing strategy is not required, but a full understanding of the dynamics of the market is.

Most Successful Undergraduate Team: $2,500
This award is for the most successful team made up exclusively of undergraduate students. To be considered for this award, teams need to indicate they are eligible for this award in an email message when the Market and Financial Overview is submitted in early January. There are no additional presentation or documentation requirements for this award.

Best Written Plan: $2,000
A well-written business plan often serves as a persuasive case for potential business partners and funders to support the business. In recognition of this important function, this award focuses on the research and presentation of the business plan document and de-emphasizes the viability of the business. 

The Institute will evaluate the business plans submitted for the Semi-finals and choose the winner of this award. The evaluation of the submitted business plans is based on the presentation and communication of the relevant aspects of the business, including: product description, competitive strategy, financial selection, management, discussion of the risks and the contingency plan, etc.

Outstanding Presentation (2 awards): $2,000
These awards recognize that the skills needed to sway a skeptical audience of potential business partners are invaluable when an entrepreneur moves the business forward. One team from each semi-final track will receive this award. Judges will evaluate the presentations based on the presenters' style and the content of the presentation. Specifically, the judges will be looking to see if the team can maintain the judges' interest while relating the need for the company. The team's ability to respond enthusiastically to difficult questions is also considered. While critiquing these facets of the presentation, the judges should be able to understand what market is being addressed, the problem being solved, what the fund raising strategy is, what the valuation is, the teams upcoming milestones, etc.

Participation Awards
To reward competing team efforts throughout the competition, the following participation awards are also distributed:

  • Teams that advance from Round One and compete in Round Two receive $200
  • Teams that advance from Round Two and compete in the Semi-finals receive an additional $300
  • Teams that compete in the Semi-finals, but do not advance, receive a total of $500, as mentioned above, plus any additional larger award (e.g. Outstanding Presentation)
  • Teams that compete in the finals, but do not receive a larger award, receive $1,000 in addition to the $500 mentioned above.

2016 Winners Include: 

PreDxion Bio, Pryor-Hale award for best business for $25,000, and the Williamson Award for $5,000 for the most outstanding business and engineering team. Represented by Caroline Landau (MBA '16) and Walker McHugh (MSE '17).

Gaudium, Pryor-Hale Runner-up award for Best Business for $10,000, the Best Written Plan award for $2,000, and one of two Marketing Awards, sponsored by the Marketing Associates, for $2,500. The Gaudium team, is comprised of David Cai (BS '16), Amanda Li (MAcc '16), and Kevin Jeon (BA '16).
Kulisha, Social Impact Track Grand Prize. Represented by CoFounder Eric Katz (BBA '17). 
StepFor, Social Impact Track Runner Up. Team members include Jordan Golshan (BBA ’17), Andy Jinseok Lee (MS ’17), and Josh Hyorim Kim (BS ’17). 
AOE Medical, Most Successful Undergraduate team award for $2,500 and one of two Outstanding Presentation awards for $2,000. Represented by Arianna Carley (BSE '17), Eli Fox, (BA '17), Christina Tang (BS '18), and Brandon Boot (BSE '17).
Sage & Grace, Outstanding Presentation award for $2,000. Founder Holly Price (MBA '17).
CARt, Marketing Award, sponsored by Marketing Associates, for $2,500. Represented by Ali Jensen (MPH '16), Stacey Matlen (MPH '16), Christine Priori (MBA/MPH '17), Mikaela Rodkin (MBA/MS '17).
For previous winners click here.




Intent to Compete form Deadline
Monday, November 16 by 8 a.m.  
Eligible teams who submit a complete Intent to Compete form as a single .pdf to will be invited to compete in Round 1.

Michigan business challenge - schedule