Ross Open Road

2016 Open Road

2016 Open Road Experience #RossOpenRoad

In its first year, the student-created Ross Open Road was modeled after the MBAs Across America (MBAx) program, which sent teams of students across the country for several weeks in order to work with and learn from small businesses.  The Ross Open Road model ratcheted it up a notch by focusing teams on social entrepreneurship. The two teams visited nine orgs in seven different states for a week at a time. At the end of every week they resolved a key strategic issue. Co-sponsored by the Center for Social Impact, Zell Lurie Insitute, Chevrolet, and the Sanger Leadership Center, the Open Road experience was designed to allow MBAs the opportunity to apply lessons they learned in college to the issues of real entrepreneurs in a mutually-beneficial way.

About the Teams

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Team IBAM, made up of (left to right) Aaron Steiner, MBA ‘17, Iris Nguyen, MBA/M.Ed ’17, Blake Van Fleteren, MBA/MSW ’17, and Mikaela Rodkin, MBA/MS ‘17 , visited five enterprises during May 2016. The journey began in Detroit with a bakery and ended in Kansas City with an internet provider, as it focused on five companies with deep community roots:

  • Sweet Potato Sensations, a bakery in Detroit looking for help cost accounting to better understand their margins and position their company in the marketplace, as well as to identify bottlenecks during pie preparation to help keep up withThanksgiving demand
  • Discovery Recycling, a recycling company in Daleville, Ala., that needed help launching an electronic waste recycling business
  • Goods That Matter, a one-woman product design shop in New Orleans that wanted to increase revenues and decrease overall expenses
  • AMP360, an organization dedicated to empowering the underserved to prevent incarceration and recidivism in Austin, Texas, that sought help creating a volunteer management program
  • Connecting for Good, a nonprofit closing the digital divide in Kansas City, Kan., that needed to grow its efforts sustainably

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Team SASA, comprised of (left to right) Anita Lin, MBA/MS ’18 , Sarah Haroon, MBA ’17, Sanmeet Jasuja, MBA ’17, and Alexander Ho, MBA/MS ’18, also began their journey in Detroit, and their work focused on food and IT entrepreneurs around the Midwest. The experience took them to the following companies:

  • Mitten Crate, an experiential marketing company working with food producers in Detroit that needed a product launch plan
  • Garden Fresh Farms, a hydroponics company in Maplewood, Minn., looking to raise enough capital over two months to support the business
  • Emerging Prairie, an organization that connects the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fargo, N.D., looking to design a Community Activities Office to serve the Fargo community and retain lasting quality talent
  • Flipgrid, an edtech company in Minneapolis with a platform that allows teachers to pose questions that students can answer with short video responses

Discoveries and Experiences

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It’s no accident that the Motor City was the first stop on both their month-long journeys. All of the students involved believe social impact must begin in your own backyard. As Aaron Steiner put it, “(Detroit) is one of the great stories of a city re-inventing itself, and entrepreneurs are at the forefront, so why would we not? We’re starting a five-week trip to support what it means to be a local, socially-minded entrepreneur, and this is a hub of all that.”

Detroit isn’t the only place where low overhead and great opportunity are rewriting the map for social entrepreneurship.  Out in the prairie, Fargo, ND is fast becoming start-up city.  Emerging Prairie is designed to bring together entrepreneurs to do good.  All the team members commented on what a revelation it was to see entrepreneurs at all stages and in all industries help each other– that they don’t have to work in a vacuum.

Many of the students, studying particular areas of business, gained richer knowledge working with entrepreneurs, “who truly have to do it all.”  Sanmeet Jasuja said that the trip allowed him to work “outside of my comfort zone, and put all aspects of my knowledge to use in the real world.”

“Open Road is the ultimate representation of what Ross stands for: entrepreneurial, student-run, social impact minded, action-based. The experience hit its mark and gave me the perfect opportunity to put into play everything I’ve learned thus far.” — Mikaela Rodkin, 2016 Ross Open Road

Re-live the Open Road in these weekly Student-Written blogs:

Team IBAM

Blogpost

Team SASA

 

Press and Resources