Student Spotlight: Emma Grife
Whether you’re moving a startup from a garage into an office or setting up your first E-Commerce platform, scaling an idea into a company is a vital process for every successful entrepreneur. It is the intersection between entrepreneurship and traditional business theory.
In her time at the University of Michigan, Emma Grife has deeply familiarized herself with this process from both an entrepreneurial and business lens. Through her participation in campus organizations like UpRound Venture Capital to her studies abroad in Australia, Emma’s extracurricular activities work to enhance her comprehensive understanding of start-ups and private equity through both lenses. In addition to pursuing her BBA from the Ross School of Business and a minor in entrepreneurship, Emma has fully immersed herself in Ann Arbor’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Emma’s first exposure to entrepreneurship was during her first semester at Michigan. Like many incoming students coming from a rural community, she had little familiarity with the process of founding a company before setting foot on campus.
“When I first came to U of M, I didn’t really know what entrepreneurship was,” she said. “My first experiences with entrepreneurship were with the CFE.”
Emma enrolled in the popular CFE course offering ENTR 407: Entrepreneurship Hour and ENTR 417, the corresponding discussion section. E-Hour’s TED-Talk style classes feature a different founder or CEO each week- allowing students to learn from a multitude of perspectives. After her initial experiences with the CFE and the ENTR course offerings, Emma deepend her involvement by becoming an Instructional Aide (IA).
“I’ve been an IA twice, the first class was organizational management in startups. I loved working with Ted Dacko,” she said. “For Fall 2020, I was an IA for his entrepreneurial marketing class.”
Professor Ted Dacko’s popular courses Organizational Management in Start-Ups and Entrepreneurship Marketing primarily focus on the management and marketing end of launching a company. As an IA, Emma was a valuable resource for advice and academic support.
“Both of the classes are essentially an introduction to entrepreneurship, and many of the students who take it are trying to learn the basics of starting a company,” she said. “I like being able to help them start their ideas.”
Helping other students realize their ideas was an important component of Emma’s college experience, and led her to seek further opportunities to expand her involvement. Her leadership migrated beyond the classroom with her acceptance to the CFE’s Entrepreneurship Leadership Program.
“I saw a poster for the Entrepreneurship Leadership Program, went to the info session and that’s how I started.”
The Entrepreneurship Leadership Program provides highly motivated students personalized mentorship, leadership courses, and an internship placement with a local start-up. The ELP was Emma’s gateway to entrepreneurship, and led to her earning an internship with Shoptelligence, a virtual visualization platform for furniture retailers.
“Shoptelligence has an AI machine learning algorithm that creates stylistically accurate room ensembles for furniture retailers,” she said. “For example, if a user on PierOne Imports is looking at a blue sofa, this technology allows them to create an entire room around the blue sofa.”
With it’s unique algorithm designed to curate recommended furniture, Shoptelligence helps retailers of all sizes mitigate the effects of decreased foot traffic due to the pandemic and increases the average order size. For customers, it eases the stressful process of designing a stylish, budget-conscious home. The Shoptelligence API has become an important E-Commerce tool for many major furniture retailers including Gardner-White, Value City Furniture, Burke Furniture, and more.
“It’s really helpful for shoppers and increases average order value for furniture retailers.”
Responsible for a wide variety of business development operations, Emma found her time with Shoptelligence to be extremely valuable experience. Even as an intern, she created programming for professional development and used her business experience to streamline their internal operations.
“I even got to interview some of their hires over the summer, and was responsible for building a training program for their faculty.”
With her success as a business development intern, Emma’s offer was extended to a part-time position as the Sales Operations Lead during the school year.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Emma. “They gave me a lot of independence and autonomy.”
Between her participation in ENTR courses, entrepreneurship treks, the ELP, and being an Instructional Aide, Emma Grife has worked to gain a thorough understanding of start-up culture and the experience as a whole. After her hands-on engagement with both young companies through the CFE’s programs and established corporations through Ross School of Business, Emma plans to apply her expertise to the private equity industry after her graduation. She recently accepted an offer from NYC-headquartered venture capital firm Insight Partners where she will be a member of the Investment Team.