July 05, 2017
Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder

On June 27, University of Detroit Mercy’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration partnered with the Michigan Women’s Foundation and Ford Motor Company Fund to present the EmpowerHER summit on the University’s McNichols Campus. The event was established to support women (and a few good men) who want to start or grow their own social venture startups that will ultimately help to address and solve issues that exist in the community. 

“Advancing social entrepreneurship is what we are all about,” said Derrin J. Leppek, co-director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “Partnering with the Michigan Women's Foundation and the Ford Fund to put on this event is a great opportunity for each of us to scale our impact and collectively reach a broader audience.”

The summit kicked off the yearlong EmpowerHER competition that will provide participants with technical assistance, educational opportunities, financial resources and networking to support the cultivation of local social venture enterprises that serve the community. For more than 30 years, the Michigan Women’s Foundation has been an important resource for local women entrepreneurs by helping to eradicate social inequality and economic barriers that many women face. The Foundation does this through various programs and the microloan fund, the largest in Michigan. Carolyn Cassin, CEO of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, believes MWF’s partnership with the Ford Motor Company Fund for the EmpowerHER Summit and competition is another way for the organization to fulfill this mission.

At the summit, TED talk-like presentations and keynote addresses from successful social entrepreneurs, including Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder, gave attendees an inside look at what it takes to create social change while making a profit.

“Women are transforming the world we live in and are a force for economic change,” Snyder said.  "Women are certainly doing their part in taking advantage of Michigan’s growing economy. Currently, there are more than 33,000 establishments run by women in Michigan that employ over 230,000 people in our state. This may seem like a lot, but this only accounts for 7 percent of businesses in Michigan. Ladies, we can do better! I believe women can and should be at the forefront of creating an even better business environment here in Michigan. We have the ideas, the passion and the drive to make it happen, and thanks to programs like EmpowerHER, these dreams are becoming a reality. Each person in this room has a unique and innovative idea that is valuable to the economic diversity and strength of our state,” Snyder added.

The Detroit Mercy Center for Social Entrepreneurship was established to improve Detroit livelihoods by addressing the educational needs of social entrepreneurs. The primary offering is the Boost program, an advanced course offered twice a year to social entrepreneurs throughout the region that aims to strengthen and scale their enterprise. For more information, visit or call Derrin Leppek at 313-993-1189.