It’s our fourth week of MBAs Across America. We spend our weekends driving between cities, but that’s where the routine ends. Every day is a remarkable, and remarkably different, adventure. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to:
Week 1: Detroit, MI
Sebastian Jackson’s multicultural salon, Social Club Grooming Company, not only brings people together across racial lines, but also brings people together to revitalize Detroit. Instead of throwing away hair trimmings, Sebastian works with Green Garage, the green business incubator, to compost hair (its nitrogen richness makes it an ideal compost accelerator), plant trees, and restore Detroit’s urban canopy. We worked with Sebastian on his community and environmental engagement strategy, compensation model, and team culture.
We also held a community workshop on inclusive revitalization with Impactor and the co-working space, Ponyride, and took an incredible tour of the Brightmoor neighborhood with Kirk Mayes, Executive Director of The Brightmoor Neighborhood Alliance.
Week 2: Boulder, CO
We worked with Made Movement, a creative agency dedicated to supporting the resurgence of American Manufacturing, and their e-commerce business, Made Collection. We helped the Collection refine their target audience and customer acquisition strategy, and Mike and Hicham managed to fit in a jam session with some of their resident musicians, too!
We also explored Boulder’s dense entrepreneurial network by hosting a community workshop with Made, meeting with the Mayor and City Council, attending an event with Bill Aulet, MD of the Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and talking with local entrepreneurs and investors. We were also lucky to meet with VC investor Brad Feld. He talked about his Boulder Thesis, his recipe for creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and gave us advice on scaling MBAxAmerica into a movement with lasting impact. We were blown away by his openness, sense of humor, and willingness to “give before you get”.
Week 3: White Sulfur Springs, MT
We worked with, and were inspired by, Sarah Calhoun and her women’s workwear company, Red Ants Pants. Sarah, her team, and hundreds of volunteers were gearing up for the annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival. Proceeds go to the company’s non-profit foundation, supporting women’s leadership, family farms, and rural communities. In addition to volunteering, we interviewed festival goers and Red Ants Pants customers. This qualitative research, coupled with online analytics, guided our recommendations on Red Ants Pants’ brand, marketing allocation, and product expansion strategy.
Week 4: Las Vegas, NV
Our fourth stop is, unintentionally, about as different from rural Montana as you can get! We’re learning from the wonderful folks at The Downtown Project and had a fantastic meeting today with Laura Berk from The Vegas Tech Fund. Tony Hsieh is very generously putting us up in Zappos’ “crash pads” and we’ve enjoyed meeting some of the visiting entrepreneurs who are also crashing. It’s the Downtown Project’s vision of urban collisions at work!
Cheers from the road,
Amaris + the MBAxAmerica Team, MBA 2014