Cosmetics Company Wins Michigan Business Challenge Best Deal

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Cosmetics company focused on Arab, Latino and Indian consumers named winner Michigan Business Challenge Friday February 17, after a pitch competition with several rounds.

Sponsored by the University of Michigan (UM) Zell Lurie Institute (ZLI), the Michigan Business Challenge offers UM student teams the chance to win over $ 85,000 in cash prizes and get feedback from business leaders. Challenge winner Sahi Cosmetics won a prize of $ 25,000 for the best company, plus an additional $ 2,000 for an outstanding presentation.

Shelly Sahi reflected on her business idea in December 2015 after consulting with a ZLI mentor. She determined that there was no direct competitor for the market she was targeting – primarily Arab, Latin and Indian women with average skin tones.

“I’ve been a makeup artist my whole life and I know it’s hard to find makeup for women with undertones of yellow and olive on the skin,” says Sahi.

She says she thinks her pitch stood out with the judges because of her enthusiasm and attention to market research, which showed there was a void to be filled.

“If it’s something that you really believe in, something that you really want to see come to fruition, that’s what comes out of your pitch,” Sahi says.

Sahi received his MBA from Ross School of Business at UM and is currently running his business from UM’s Desai accelerator. She worked at Ford before starting her MBA studies and initially thought she would return there after graduating.

“I didn’t think I was an entrepreneur,” she says. “It started out as a side thing but has turned into a lot more.”

After funding a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, she now works in her cosmetics business 70 hours a week, with three interns working part-time under her.

Sahi says the prize money will help him develop an “aggressive” marketing strategy. Short-term plans include hosting pop-up markets in the Detroit metro area this year, with a five-year plan that includes opening a flagship store in Detroit.

In addition to the best business plan route, the Michigan Business Challenge also offers an “Impact Track” which supports teams with a social or environmental mission. The Impact Track winner was AIMTech, a startup that developed an affordable, high-quality, low-tech pressure ventilator that requires no power supply. The company’s goal is to prevent deaths from respiratory diseases among infants living in low-income countries.


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