In 2016, faculty and staff from the University of Michigan launched the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project (DNEP), a collaboration that links faculty, staff, and students from across the University – including the Law School, the Ross School of Business, the Stamps School of Art & Design, the Ford School of Public Policy and the College of Engineering – with small businesses owners in Detroit to find solutions to business problems and address barriers to growth.
Students, under faculty supervision, work in interdisciplinary teams with entrepreneurs to provide professional services ranging from legal representation, to branding and marketing plans, to financial modeling and analysis. The work performed by student-professionals can best be characterized as strategic consulting services. For example, student-attorneys work with clients to identify and then resolve legal issues ranging from obtaining trademark protections to contract drafting; student-designers work on issues ranging from helping articulate a brand identity or functional layout, and then designing websites, signage, or interior space to align with that identity; business students analyze revenue streams, create comparative market analyses, research point of sale systems, and analyze business operations to look for opportunities to streamline and reduce costs; accounting students calculate start-up costs, provide break-even analysis, and offer advice on how to characterize certain expenses.
DNEP entrepreneurs and students teach each other. DNEP businesses receive professional services ranging from $1350-$10,000 at no cost to them. Students receive valuable work experience and a better appreciation for what it takes to manage daily operations while simultaneously undertaking strategic planning.
In our first year of the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project, we noticed that there was an unmet demand for accounting help for small businesses and non-profits. Under the leadership Jerry Davis, the Associate Dean of Business + Impact, and Ross School of Business Associate Professor Cathy Shakespeare, we launched Free Accounting Fridays. Each Friday accounting students from the Ross School of Business hold office hours at the U-M Detroit Center to be available to help small businesses problem-- and provide entrepreneurs with peace of mind.
The Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project and Ross Accounting Outreach is made possible by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and MCubed.