Blog Post by ELP Student Branden Garbin (Political Science | Class of 2020)

This summer has been anything but normal, and I am not just saying that because there is a global pandemic. No, my summer has taken a different path than most at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program (ELP), I was tasked with challenging myself as a leader and an entrepreneur. 

Amusingly enough this was not as simple as it sounds. The faculty for ELP expects excellence, and I have never been the type to disappoint. This summer has been a perfect time to push myself to accomplish my goals. I decided that I wanted to accomplish four items on my agenda this summer, and I was not going to sacrifice a single one of them. All of them are fairly cumbersome, but I am a committed student and wanted to take my challenge by the horns to exceed expectations. As the old proverb goes, Michigan students are the “leaders and the best” and I attend to show what wolverines are capable of.

My Work at EGI
This summer I obtained a summer research associate position at the Michigan Economic Growth Institute (EGI). This has been an amazing opportunity that has challenged my understanding of entrepreneurship. During my time at EGI, I have been able to experience several roles such as: providing consulting and feedback to many entrepreneurs, conducting research to get local companies back to work without risking safety, and building knowledge for local businesses to help them group and stabilize.

This internship has been unique and truly amazing. For my internship, I have been able to work firsthand with Co-Founders and CEOs to help these entrepreneurs find a market fit or help with finding investors. All of the work that I have done this summer for EGI is rooted in research and has helped me grow and develop myself as a competent entrepreneur. EGI has been a wonderful environment that has provided me with experiential learning with real-world applications that cannot be replicated. 

While I have been building out my entrepreneurial skills at work, I am also expanding my formal logic skills at home. As part of my journey to become a mindful leader, I am wishing to continue my education through law school. Because of this, I have spent every morning this summer studying and preparing myself to take the LSAT while also preparing myself to be an effective leader once I am in Law School. This has been a very challenging goal that I have set for myself and has made me reconsider how I organize my time. Regardless, getting into Law School has been a lifelong goal of mine and my studies for the LSAT this summer are of great importance.

My Work at NFCC
Being an entrepreneur can be difficult, and I would argue there is no better way to challenge yourself as a leader than being an entrepreneur. I am the Co-founder of Northern Florida Coatings and Construction (NFCC). My role includes being actively involved in all the operations, management, legal, and financial aspects of the company. My responsibilities at NFCC have always been challenging and this summer has been no different. This summer, my primary task has been attempting to keep all team members safe and to lay out new guidelines to resume operations with the renovation of a 180 unit apartment complex. Much of this entails managing many different local contractors to complete the work in a timely manner while also being mindful of social distancing guidelines. As a result, I created a model to keep track of every contractor’s time, work, and degree of interactions between groups to minimize the transmission of COVID-19.  

Startup Experience
My final task this summer has been to test the waters with a new startup idea that I have been curious about. As a part of ELP we have been taught all the principles we need to start up a successful company. This summer I wanted to put my course materials to the test by applying them to a concept that I am passionate about. It revolves around the construction industry. More specifically, it revolves around helping contractors find work.

This concept is near and dear to my heart as this is something that I struggled with for NFCC. As a result, I set out to test my hypothesis for a system that can help construction contractors find and maintain constant work in a way that is both ethical and fair to all actors. Thus far, I have outlined a problem statement, value proposition, market analysis, and am currently creating a minimum viable product to test it with the market. 

Lessons Learned
Of all the lessons I have learned at ELP, the most important one for me is to create a positive impact for others. This notion strikes at the heart of being a mindful leader. I am very proud of all that I have accomplished this summer and am beyond appreciative of all the lessons I have learned. Everything that I have accomplished and learned this summer could not have been possible without the help and support of all the wonderful people at EGI, ELP, and NFCC who guided me on my journey. I still have much to learn and have high aspirations to make a positive impact on this world by empowering others. So, to all those who helped empower me this summer,