U-M’s entrepreneurial spirit creates mini business for Detroit nonprofit

Daniel Williams leans over, putting his face within inches of a sheet of quarter-inch-thick glass and squeezes the glass cutter. A soft plunk sounds in his corner of Cass Community Social Services’ Green Industries building in Detroit as a small four-inch square of glass lands on a mat. The 28-year-old former homeless man has been cutting the recycled glass used to make coasters for two months.

The coaster mini-business grew from a U-M course that brings together students of business, engineering, and art and design. Called Integrated Product Development (IPD), the class worked closely with Cass earlier this year to brainstorm and set up the business.

IPD, in its 18th year, historically has been a product development course. But in the past two years, the course went a step further and challenged students to start mini-businesses. “That is in league with the entrepreneurial spirit sweeping the country and Michigan right now,” says Bill Lovejoy, technology and operations professor in the U-M Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Lovejoy is also co-director of U-M’s Master of Entrepreneurship program.

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