Before Saniya Shahid set foot on campus, she knew entrepreneurship would become a core component of her educational experience at the University of Michigan. During her high school experience in New York, Saniya volunteered with Be Social Change, an organization devoted to teaching small business owners how to make their greatest impact. Be Social Change provides resources to any interested individual on how to create social impact within their business sector. Saniya assisted with event support, and was able to attend each conference designed to connect budding entrepreneurs with area resources. 

“We planned events for people with small businesses, and taught them how to improve their business,” she said. “My colleagues were shocked that someone my age was an active member of the entrepreneurial space.”

With this experience to guide her, it was only natural that she continued to seek more entrepreneurial opportunities at U-M. In addition to pursuing her undergraduate degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering, Saniya works toward a minor in entrepreneurship. 

The Entrepreneurship Minor offers students a 15 credit course of study designed to equip students with the necessary skills to transform ideas into impact. Saniya, thus far, has taken courses ranging from Patent Law to Entrepreneurship Hour – some of the CFE’s most popular offerings. 

“Entrepreneurship courses are entirely different from engineering courses. They’re so personal, and focus on the characteristics of the individual,” she said. 

Her passion for both entrepreneurship and social impact led her to the position of Instructional Assistant (IA) for the Urban Entrepreneurship Practicum, where she connects students with ventures originating in Detroit. She worked to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between her bright students and these urban entrepreneurs who seek innovative solutions to their problems.

“These businesses turned to the students to improve their business, it’s a great experience for both parties,” she said.

Saniya has served as an IA for Urban Entrepreneurship for two semesters, with enthusiastic plans to continue. As proven inside the classroom, her leadership abilities perfectly translate into the ability to effectively consult for local Ann Arbor ventures. When Saniya meets with start-ups in need of assistance, she lets her keen eye for development opportunities and passion for social impact shine. The course Reimagining Companies through Innovation offered her this opportunity.

Offered jointly through the University of Michigan Economic Growth Institute, the course provides a unique opportunity for students to deploy market intelligence to strategically advise small to medium sized companies. When Saniya took the course in Winter 2020, the pandemic made her insight all the more valuable to the organizations she worked with. 

“We researched Ann Arbor companies, and strategized ways for them to pivot during the pandemic.”

Without major venture capital backing, small and locally owned businesses were the most vulnerable to the pandemic-related economic crisis of March 2020. To help these companies adjust during the pandemic, Saniya recommended these companies shift their focus towards digital goods and services instead of material. This would enable the businesses to maximize their reach, and maintain their revenue streams even under duress. 

In the future, Saniya plans to continue leading in the classroom as an Instructional Aide, exploring more entrepreneurship opportunities, and brainstorming ideas that might one day become a venture of her own. 

“What I’m learning now is so impactful, and these skills are crucial in the real world.”

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