Classmates help U-M student expand business helping older adults with tech during pandemic

Older adult using computer.
Older adult using computer. (Pexels)

ANN ARBOR – When Brett Wolff launched his business Grandson on Call, he was still in high school.

“When I was 14 or so, I would help my grandparents out a lot with their, computers, phones, iPad technology etc.,” said Wolff. “It was my grandfather’s idea to offer services to other people.”

What began as free classes offered at assisted living communities transformed into private lessons with Wolff working 10-15 hours a week outside of school.

“I really, really enjoy doing it,” said Wolff. “I had one private client who was older and had trouble traveling -- this was way pre-COVID -- but her first great-grandchild was born and we were able to FaceTime with her granddaughter with the baby and she started crying. She was just so happy to be able to see her great-grandchild.”

Fast forward to his freshman year at the University of Michigan, and the Boca Raton, Florida native’s startup would soon become the focus of a group project in Dr. Eric Fretz’s Entrepreneurial Creativity class.

University of Michigan undergraduate student Brett Wolff. (Brett Wolff)

“There were four of us total (in the group),” said Wolff. “It was a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior -- kind of a perfect storm combination of skills.”

Those skills included UX design, community outreach, human resources and marketing.

He said he was pessimistic at first, considering the rep group projects tend to have.

“I came from the mindset from high school that group projects are not efficient especially if you’re dealing with people you’ve never met before,” said Wolff. “But Dr. Fretz has a system for pairing up groups and it’s really amazing to me that this group of people were able to work so efficiently and launch a company to do business virtually. The synergy of our team was crucial to the success of our project.”

Read: U-M students work to bring Michigan’s first Waffle House to Ann Arbor

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grandson on Call had to pivot to a virtual format. However, having been an in-person service that thrives on personal relationships, Wolff said he wasn’t totally sold on the virtual idea in the beginning.

“I can say with almost absolute certainty that without their help, I would have gone down the rabbit hole of doing in-person too long,” said Wolff.

After a search, they hired independent technicians who had a deep knowledge for and ability to teach technology at all hours.

Wolff has since taken the company back over and still has an employee working for him in Florida.

When asked if Grandson on Call is something he wants to continue after graduation, he said, “I’ll continue doing it as long as it’s productive and fulfilling to do so.”

To learn more, read testimonials or schedule an appointment, visit www.grandsononcall.tech.

This story is part of a “Be Epic” series on Dr. Fretz’s Entrepreneurial Creativity class.

About the class

Dr. Fretz’s Entrepreneurial Creativity class (P223/ALA223) is one of the more unusual classes on campus. As the core course for everyone taking the #1 ranked Entrepreneurship minor, almost 2,000 students have gone through its unique structure since Dr. Fretz created it in 2014. This class gets students out of their comfort zone by assessing their personal characteristics that contribute to creative and entrepreneurial success, like: EQ, IQ, Grit, Personality, and Divergent Thinking. Almost 300 students per term form small teams that are sorted into sections and encouraged to develop a list of creative ideas that will improve the community, create something novel, or make money as well as “be epic”!

Each team reviews their ideas with Dr. Fretz and they agree on the best choice as well as a rough plan for the term. Four GSI’s assist with supervising and mentoring each team throughout the term as they grapple with planning, teamwork, and leadership issues, while applying class concepts to those same issues. With periodic check-ins and energetic mentoring Dr. Fretz ensures each team has the best chance to reach their full potential. The very best teams are provided a chance to compete for funding with a Venture firm in NYC and participate in the “Big Show” after classes end. While never conceived as an incubator class, over two dozen companies of varying size have begun from class projects.


About the Author: