CFE Student Spotlight: Zach Simpson
His dad was a bread man, his brother was a bread man, and he’s been a bread man since high school. Every morning around 6 a.m., for the past 37 years, Zach Simpson’s dad has been on the road, driving his bread route. Speaking with store owners, he asks them, “Where do you get your bread and how much does it cost? I can beat that, I’ve got better bread.”
It’s this blue collar mentality of doing a job and doing it well, that Zach has learned and brought with him to his time at Michigan and to the startup he works at called LineLeap. As a senior in computer engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship, Zach’s passion for startups predates his time at the university.
“I had a surge in entrepreneurial interest my senior year of high school.” That’s when Marcus Lemonis visited his school to run a pilot program where students could come up with a business plan and then pitch it to community leaders, small business owners and potential investors.
“We actually won the competition, it was put on by CNBC and Universal, so we got to fly down to Universal Studios in Orlando.” Zach said he wanted to continue how much fun this experience was into his college career. “I hadn’t even learned how cool a startup could be at that point.”
The first of his family to attend college, Zach got into Michigan and signed up for ENTR 407: Entrepreneurship Hour.
“I was in engineering, so I was on North Campus and saw a huge banner at the ‘Dude’ that said ‘sign up for 407’, so I did.”
After that he got involved in ENTR 413, Entrepreneurial Marketing, and from there his interest in startups continued to rise. He joined MPowered, the student run entrepreneurship organization, and began seeing some of the same faces at different events, hearing some of the same names pop up. “I started asking my friends ‘who’s that guy?’ Oh, that’s David Silverman, or that’s Michael Kovalcik, Jonah Erlich…” He said meeting this group helped him build a fellowship and lead him to the student orgs he wanted to be involved in on campus.
Part of building these relationships on campus involved Zach finding time to become an RA at Couzens Hall for the past two years. The first year he was the 1st Gen Theme Community RA, mentoring freshmen First Gen students, helping connect them to programs geared toward supporting First Gen and to faculty who may, themselves, be First Gen.
“For the younger students it was cool to step back in their shoes and help them with opportunities that I didn’t know to seek out when I was a freshman,” Zach said.
As if being an RA wasn’t enough responsibility, Zach also decided to join the startup that one of his fellow classmates launched, becoming employee number one. LineLeap was the brainchild of Patrick Skelly, who Zach met during his time in ENTR 413.
“Being employee number one was awesome, being with the company for almost three years now, finishing our first round of seed funding, I’m only 20 so now’s the time to take a risk.”
This is not some half-baked idea Zach had. In fact, he spent this summer, not in an internship, but instead working full-time traveling the country to recruit bars to adopt LineLeap’s service.
“I’d travel to a city, spend the afternoon making calls and sending emails, and then when the bars open I’m there, trying to get in and meet with the owners, pitching the service, and it’s easier in a college town, but some of the big cities I’m trying to set up appointments with people who own several bars across the city and aren’t available because they were busy flying around the country.”
Zach says that his late night schedule mirrors that of his dad’s early mornings. Just like his dad, he’s out there pitching to owners, going door-to-door, and being a true entrepreneur.
“I think one thing that I’m really focusing on and that the University and ELP has helped me with is becoming more involved,” Zach said. “I want to work at a startup that’s socially based and makes an impact in people’s lives.” Seeing as how part of the College of Engineering’s mission statement is “…promoting an inclusive and innovative community of service for the common good,” it’s clear to see why Zach is such a role model.