The Michigan Venture Capital Association is proud to offer the Venture Fellows Program to Michigan’s venture capital community. The program, launched in 2023, is designed to increase the number of venture professionals in Michigan in order to accelerate the fundraising and deployment of capital into early-stage companies.
Caroline Wolanin is joining Plymouth Growth as a recent graduate who studied finance. Prior to graduation, she played an active role in several student organizations across campus, including chairing Wayne Women In Business. She held back-to-back internships at a Fortune 500 company focusing on automotive finance. Caroline also received a scholarship to participate in the VC University program, recently completing and receiving a certification from the program by Berkeley Law and Venture Forward. Caroline is MVCA’s first Venture Fellow recipient in 2023.
Caroline Wolanin’s journey into the world of finance began amidst the vibrant backdrop of the hospitality industry. While diligently pursuing her finance degree at Wayne State University, she embarked on a parallel creative path as a pastry chef at a renowned Detroit restaurant. Immersed in this dynamic environment, Caroline drew inspiration from the unwavering determination of restaurateurs, the tight-knit sense of community, and the enduring spirit required to succeed. It was within the culinary industry that Caroline discovered the profound parallels between the hospitality and investment worlds, uncovering shared themes that would ultimately shape her career and lead her to be the inaugural analyst at Plymouth Growth – a mid-stage growth equity firm located in Ann Arbor, MI. At Plymouth, her primary focus is supporting the investment team through deal sourcing, executing on new investment opportunities, and promoting the Plymouth brand!
What are you most looking forward to about being a Venture Fellow?
Community has always been an unwavering cornerstone of my life, both personally and professionally. Therefore, joining MVCA, an organization that places a profound emphasis on community, is super exciting to me. I am equally enthusiastic about becoming a part of a fellowship that champions and spearheads the movement to empower junior-level investors in Michigan and a chance to extend more opportunities and resources to those interested in investing/building early on in their career.
What attracts you to Michigan’s venture capital industry?
Michigan and the Midwest embody a unique blend of humility and ambition, a distinctive balance uncommon in the venture capital world. I am particularly energized by the notion that we may be perceived as underdogs in the realm of venture. Our diverse economy, thriving innovation ecosystem, abundance of talent, and collaborative ethos are, in my view, only in their nascent stages. Being a part of this evolving industry promises to be an extraordinary journey, as we collectively contribute to its growth and transformation.
What ideas do you have to support and advance DEI in our entrepreneurial and investment community?
Supporting and advancing DEI in Michigan in my eyes, hinges on a strategic trifecta: equitable resource allocation, investor accountability, and education. Michigan continues to position individuals with the expertise and passion in key roles, but it is now our collective responsibility to harness their capabilities. This entails not merely advocating for, but actively facilitating, access to capital, grants, and opportunities for minority founders. It involves empowering non-target universities with the resources necessary to enable their students to join our vibrant entrepreneurial community. Above all, it calls for a resolute commitment from our investors to back diverse founders, nurturing an ecosystem that truly values diversity and inclusion. In my junior level position, I hope to actively educate, engage, and listen to university students, young founders, and other young individuals interested and pursuing in the space with a specific focus on my alma mater Wayne State University!
What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
Probably a difficult question as I am just getting started in my career but fun to answer regardless! I’d love to continue navigating the intersection of innovation in hospitality/culinary, entertainment, and technology – TBD on if there’s a job title that encompasses this! While these industries are advancing individually, I firmly believe in the potential for deliberate and purposeful synergy between them. My aspiration is to contribute to this convergence, acting as a bridge that connects the pioneering efforts in technology with the richness of the hospitality world. Additionally, I’d love to be able to empower female founders who are shaping the future of the Midwest. To be at the epicenter of these transformative endeavors would be a dream realized.
What’s your dream deal — the company you wish YOU had spotted first?
There are two deals I really love and of course speak to my interest in tech and culinary. The first is Poppi Soda: female founded, backed by CAVU Consumer Partners – a major player in the CPG space, and just a really tasty, good-for-you soda alternative. The second is Canva: A major female founded unicorn also backed by some huge funds, and a tool I could absolutely not live without for all of my online design and editing needs.