It's been a few months since the MBA teams spent a week working with three entrepreneurs on their small businesses. In the finale of Growing America: A Journey to Success, MBAs Across America CEO Casey Geraldtravels to Detroit, Michigan; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Denver, Colorado, to see how the owners are progressing.
Gerald pays a visit to Sebastian Jackson in Detroit, who runs The Social Club Grooming Company, a barbershop he's hoping to expand with multiple locations. "I don't envy Sebastian's position," Gerald says. "He's going to have to hire people who are better than him. He's going to have to hire people who he is willing to go off and execute his vision without him actually knowing what they're doing."
Jackson acknowledges that the hiring process has been difficult. "It's been challenging finding talent. I've been approaching it wrong. I can't be a wolf and go out hunting talent. That's not how it works." Jackson says the MBAs taught him that he has to "genuinely be interested in these people versus just trying to get people to work here because we're cool." And it's worked, they've already hired a new barber since the MBAs left town.
Jackson is also maintaining the connections the MBAs set up for him, particularly Sport Clips founder Gordon Logan and city official Jill Ford, who works with entrepreneurs in Detroit to help them secure funding for their businesses.
Jackson tells Gerald that he's appreciative of all the support the MBAs Across team gave him. "They've helped me really believe that we're on to something."
Next, Gerald heads to Little Rock to check in on the Sundells and the Root Cafe. "The Root Cafe is such a warm and welcoming and human place, because Jack and Corri are warm and welcoming and human people," the MBAs Across America CEO says. He sits down with the couple and their 1-year-old twins to see if they've implemented any of the MBAs' recommendations. Corri Sundell tells Gerald that they've started a social media calendar, consistently posting to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They've seen some success, including more likes on their Facebook page. And the process is now easier for Corri. "I'm feeling a lot more comfortable using it," she says. And Jack has updated his inventory process like the team suggested. "They gave us some really specific and tangible projects to work on," that have improved their business practices, Jack tells Gerald.
But what about dinner service? Are they still open to it? "We definitely do want to open up for dinner," Corri explains. "That's our next project, and it's in the works. But we're realizing that we need more kitchen space."
After catching up with the Sundells, Gerald travels to Denver to check in with Eli Hayes and Spark Relief. When tackling the aftermath of natural disasters, Gerald applauds the entrepreneur. "Using technology is a no-brainer that I could never do, but it seems like Eli is exactly the right man to do it."
The MBAs Across America CEO recounts the tense start between Hayes and the team when discussing what they should try to accomplish in their week together. "Those conversations with Eli at the beginning of that week, I think, was a team coming in, seeing something in this idea that wasn't exactly what Eli saw," Gerald says. "But I think over time Eli started to see that there might be something more here. There might be something larger than his initial vision."
Hayes now appreciates that vision. "I think the MBA team really helped with looking at it from a 30,000-foot view and saying, 'OK, what do we have here? What can we work with? Who's interested in what you're doing here?' It was a good week because it was kind of a turning point for us."
But the big question remains: Who won your vote as the most inspirational business? Host Ty Penningtonand Gerald surprised the Root Cafe's Jack and Corri Sundell in person with a check for $25,000 to go toward their business. Holiday Inn's Maurice Cooper was on hand with the check and a plaque commemorating their success.
"I'm still in shock," says Corri. "We would never have believed that starting from opening this little restaurant in this tiny space three and a half years ago that we would be receiving a check for $25,000."
"A visit from the MBAs was an opportunity that most businesses would never get," Jack says. "And then to have it all topped off with this, it really is kind of a dream come true."