Six Social Entrepreneurs receive $60K in awards

By Amanda Lewan on June 23rd, 2014 / Comments

The State of Michigan’s first ever social entrepreneurship showcase concluded last week, honoring social entrepreneurs across the state and highlighting social investment in Michigan.

Hosted by Michigan Corps, the MEDC, and numerous partners, $60,000 in cash awards were given out along with business service packages. A total of eleven awards were given out all with the aim to advance businesses with sustainable solutions to Michigan’s social challenges, including unemployment, health and education.

“The winners of this year’s Social Entrepreneurship Challenge include a diverse group of organizations addressing various quality of life and workforce challenges in communities around Michigan,” said Michigan Corps in a press release distributed today.

Finalists were awarded prize packages of $2,500 – $5,000 and admission to Michigan Corps’ Impact Investment Fellowship, a summer training institute to ready social entrepreneurs for investment at and above the $50,000 level. The audience also voted to provide one of the six presenters with an additional $1,000 People’s Choice Award.

Meet the Six Social Entrepreneur Winners: 

  • Wheels on Workers received the Michigan Social Entrepreneur of the Year prize sponsored by Mission Throttle. Wheels on Workers brings together volunteer mechanics and youth ages 18-28 to teach auto repair skills. The program seeks to empower workers to become marketable craftsman in the auto industry. Repaired vehicles are sold to the community, bringing money back to the organization, and sold below market value to help individuals coming out of workforce development programs.
  • Welding Artisan Center received the Community Transformation Prize developed by Consumers Energy and Thaw to fund meaningful collaboration in the community. The center aims to train veterans, job-shifting adults, former inmates, and at-risk teens in the art and science of welding.
  • On The Rise Bakery received the PNC Bank award for supporting a social entrepreneur working in the Detroit community. On the Rise Bakery is a program of Capuchin Kitchen that trains men recently released from prison or substance abuse programs. Every purchase at the bakery goes back to providing supportive housing, training, educational opportunities and more.
  • City Girls Soap received the”Women Rock Prize” by the Michigan Women’s Community Foundation. City Girls Soap creates handmade soaps, lotion and laundry flakes out of goat’s milk. The company aims to employ young people in Pontiac, while also sourcing their ingredients locally.
  • Vehicle City Tacos received the Drive Flint Prize supporting a company committed to Flint’s revitalization. Vehicle City Tacos is a food truck company committed to supporting sustainable, local, urban agriculture efforts. The company is currently seeking to expand their offerings from local providers in Flint, Michigan.
  • The Detroit Food Academy received the first ever Healthy Communities Prize provided by St. John Providence Health System. The program teaches young Detroiters a triple-bottom-line approach to food business. Read our earlier story on the Detroit Food Academy Teaching Young Food Entrepreneurs. The Detroit Food Academy also received the $1,000 people’s choice award based on audience votes at last Friday’s showcase.

This list covers a variety of companies across Michigan from food to welding to auto workers. Others who received service based awards include: Owen & Abbey a producer of high quality furniture using reclaimed wood, Girls with Guts a program empowering women facing Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Seva Corps restaurant in Midtown, Smart Girls Guide to Self Defense a mobile app protecting women, and Enliven a mobile app addressing mental health concerns.

How is a social entrepreneur defined? Below is a quick checklist from Elizabeth Garlow of Michigan Corp’s showing how they define Social Entrepreneurship.


check list

What social entrepreneurs do you see in your hometown? Share with us as we continue to profile and support Michigan social entrepreneurs.

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.