Ross Students Are Road Tripping Across America to Work With Entrepreneurs

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Starting in Detroit earlier this summer, a group of four Ross MBA students and alums kicked off a 3,300 mile journey across the U.S. to join small business owners in making a positive difference.

Sponsored by Michigan Ross' Center for Social Impact, the Ross group is participating in the second year of MBAs Across America, a program sending teams of top MBA students on the road to work with and learn from entrepreneurs who are building their businesses and trying to build a better world.

The team, made up of Jourdan Sutton, MBA/MA '15; Lily Hamburger, MBA '16; Joe Price, MBA '16; and Brianna Brazell, MBA/MS '17, started their journey close to home in Detroit working with the Empowerment Plan, an organization employing formerly homeless women to offer second chances and humanitarian products for those in need.

"The competitive strength of [Empowerment Plan's] potential retail product, we think, lies in the stories of those who made it," the team said in a blog post debriefing their time with the company. "Those stories have the power to impact others and inspire hope. But we were also confronted with the risk of exploiting rather than empowering."

It's a balancing act the team has seen and struggled with in other aspects of their journey as well.

"We've really been able to see the balance small businesses across America are making in driving social good in communities while also having a for-profit model," said Hamburger.

"For a long time I thought those had to be separate things," Sutton said. "But throughout this trip we've been able to work with businesses who are very clearly doing both, and their commitments to their communities is really inspiring."

WEEK CITY COmpany
Week One Detroit, MI Empowerment Plan
Week Two Madison, WI Sector 67
Week Three Kansas City, KS Connecting For Good
Week Four Denver, CO Mile High Workshop
Week Five Pikeville, KY Bitsource

The next several weeks will take the group to Kansas, Colorado, and Kentucky (see chart) to work with more organizations - each week like a mini-MAP project, the team said - something Ross has prepared them well for.

"This type of work on real-life projects with a group is just a part of everyday life at Ross," Hamburger said. "So it does feel like we've had a bit of a leg up."

It's an untraditional summer experience for MBA students, who generally spend their summers interning for potential future employers or getting to know an unknown industry. But the team said they wouldn't trade it in for anything.

"What makes Ross unique," Sutton said, "is that they are more than happy to fund students who want to do something a little different with their time. We're really grateful for the support of the Center for Social Impact in allowing us to have this journey."

You can follow the remainder of the journey via Instagram; just click here or search the #MBAx2 tag.

Learn more about the Center for Social Impact

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