Tyler Whitsett
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Class of 2013

Major: Supply Chain Management

Tyler Whitsett (far right) with SIFE faculty advisor Mike Callahan and three student award recipients at the E-Academy award ceremony in 2011.

As I enter into my senior year at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and take the time to reflect upon the last three years, one of the main factors that I believe has fueled my determination to become a successful entrepreneur is Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). 

This global student organization has a mission of utilizing the positive power of business to better the standard of living and increasing the quality of life in various communities through the implementation of projects that have an economic, social, and environmental impact.

I first became involved in SIFE as a mentor for Entrepreneurship Academy (E-Academy), a two-week summer program for high school students that provides team-building and leadership development as students learn how to create business ideas that capitalize on needs that exist within society. At the end of the program, students present their ventures to a panel of executives acting as judges in hopes of winning a scholarship. As a mentor, it was my responsibility to guide my group of students through the process of creating their business idea and plan. It was during this program that I discovered both my passion for entrepreneurship and developed a desire to make a positive impact on my community.

At the end of E-Academy, I dove headfirst into SIFE and haven’t looked back. Entering my second year as chapter president, I have established a mission to better the city of Detroit by empowering young people to lead lives of success through projects that focus on developing financial literacy, self-efficacy, and the mind of an entrepreneur (critical thinking, creativity, need-recognition). Our core projects include E-Academy as well as collaborative efforts with strategic partners such as The Children’s Center and The Michigan Women’s Foundation.

My ultimate career goal is to have my own consulting company that specializes in helping small businesses expand their market share through strategic operation and management decisions. Why small businesses? The Small Business Association states that small businesses generated over 65 percent of new jobs over the last 17 years, and pay 44 percent of private payroll. In short, the success of small businesses is a key performance indicator of the economy. 

In addition, I have been a witness to a number of local businesses that have shut down due to insufficient revenue as a result of inefficient operations, static product lines and untapped markets.

My time in SIFE has taught me that entrepreneurship with a purpose beyond the profit is a force to be reckoned with. E-Academy has awarded over $30,000 in collegiate scholarships to its participants. My greatest achievement isn’t the multiple scholarships or awards I have received. It came when one my E-Academy students told me that he was going to pursue a college degree rather than settle for a GED. He was then accepted to Boston College. That is what fuels me as an entrepreneur — to have the ability to blaze trails that have a positive impact on my community for generations to come.

Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE): sife.org
E-Academy blog: umdearborneacademyblogs.com

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