We Just Had A Perfect Experience During Our Entrepreneurial Road Trip Across America

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Open Road - Week One
By Team SASA

Two teams of Ross students are traveling across the country this summer, visiting entrepreneurs and helping them solve business challenges. They’ll be blogging about their experience throughout the summer. Read more about Open Road.


After a semester of coordination and planning, it’s finally time for us to hit the road. Earlier this month we landed on-site with our first group of entrepreneurs who founded and run the company Mitten Crate.

Mitten Crate is a Detroit-based company that supports local communities by acting as an experiential marketing company. They allow consumers across the nation to taste and appreciate delicious products from food producers in Michigan.

Andrew and Cory, the Mitten Crate team

Customers can subscribe for a monthly crate of hand-picked products that Cory and Andrew, the founders of Mitten Crate.

Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, and with the increase in demand for locally sourced food, many food startups have started to flourish in Michigan. As native Michiganders, Cory and Andrew want to give back to the communities they grew up in — for every box they sell, they donate three meals to Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Since they started Mitten Crate, Cory and Andrew have already donated an impressive 100,000 meals. Read on for highlights from each day!

Monday and Tuesday - Let’s Get To Work

We met our entrepreneurs at Cory’s home. After some discussion, we determined that our project’s main focus would be to develop a go-to-market plan for a new product launch.

We built out a framework and included three dimensions of development, including marketing, operations, and finance. We started with marketing — we conducted an ideation session using design thinking principles to develop product concept ideas.

Wednesday - Chicken and Waffles

We had the chance to visit Team IBAM and their Week 1 entrepreneur, Sweet Potato Sensations, for lunch. The owners, Cassandra and Jeffery, are great and arguably make the best fried chicken and sweet potato waffles.

Both the Zell Lurie Institute and the Center for Social Impact at Ross have been an invaluable source of support. Both organizations conducted an interview with Cory and our team. We learned so much from hearing Cory’s startup experiences and how he has not let past failures deter his ambition to start other ventures.

Thursday - Crunch Time and Good Morning America!

We worked for 15 hours in the hotel to round out our final deliverables. We focused and prioritized our deliverables to be tangible tools that would be most useful to Mitten Crate. Though a long and challenging day, we were able to successfully tackle our work as a cohesive team. Fortunately, our team has great chemistry and we were able to finish our work despite the time pressure.

We had the opportunity to watch Andrew on Good Morning America. He was on the show as owner of Dave’s Sweet Tooth Toffee, another company he founded and manages. We were inspired as we watched Andrew on TV — It was a great way to kick off our Open Road adventures!

At the end of the week, we reviewed how to improve our workflow for our next three weeks on the road.

Friday - Presentation Day

Team SASA

We shared all of our final deliverables: a presentation deck, a master implementation checklist with a project management Gantt chart, a financial working capital model, and a stock reorder point Excel model for Mitten Crate.

Andrew and Cory were very pleased with the results and gave us constructive feedback. It was a great experience for our team and we are very thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Mitten Crate.

Thank you again to Cory and Andrew at Mitten Crate for everything! Throughout our experience, we saw how a strong entrepreneurial spirit and work-life integration can help people get through challenging times.

During this trip, we were privileged to meet others in the food community in Detroit.  We were impressed by their drive, resilience, and genuine desire to see each other succeed.  

Mitten Crate was a perfect Week One experience for us. Cory and Andrew were both down-to-earth and treated us like fellow friends. We learned so much from them and the broader entrepreneurial community in Detroit . We were inspired as we saw for ourselves the intensity of the peaks and valleys that entrepreneurs can face. As we interacted with them, we were amazed by their willingness to step out their comfort zones, face challenges, and learn from failures.

We are now on the road again, heading toward Minneapolis, Minn., in the Chevy Colorado that General Motors generously provided us.

We are ready to start working with our second startup, Garden Fresh Farms, which is a sustainable agribusiness that uses hydroponic and aquaponic technology to grow herbs indoors. We look forward to seeing what challenges await us upon our arrival.


Team SASA consists of Anita Lin, Sarah Haroon, Sanmeet Jasuja, and Alexander Ho, members of the Ross MBA Class of 2017.

They just wrapped up their second week with Garden Fresh Farms in Minneapolis, MN and are headed to work with Emerging Prairie in Fargo, ND. Follow #RossOpenRoad for more.

Open Road is sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Social Impact, and General Motors.

Read More From The Open Road

TEAM IBAM:

WEEK ONE: We’re Driving Across America, Learning About Hard Decisions and Sweet Potato Pies
We launched into our Open Road journey with the delicious smells of fresh sweet potato pie at Detroit’s Sweet Potato Sensations — which is celebrating 28 years of business. Read Blog

WEEK TWO: In a Small Town, We Learned Some Big Lessons About Partnerships
There is no economic or regulatory incentive to recycle in the surrounding area, so Kevin relies on community members’ sense of environmental stewardship. Read Blog

WEEK THREE: Here in New Orleans, We Discovered What Really Matters
Our week with Tippy, Tonto, and Goods That Matter taught us the power of passion. Tippy is successfully integrating product design and social impact in a meaningful way. Read Blog

WEEK FOUR: This Is Business in the Real World. Textbook Solutions Will Only Get Us So Far
AMP faces real business challenges with the futures of real people on the line. THIS is business in the real world. Read Blog


WEEK FIVE: In Kansas City, We Witnessed How Human Connections Are Closing the Digital Divide
When you consider how critical the internet is to leading a productive life as an engaged citizen -- allowing us to access job opportunities, education, or any kind of information -- the idea of the digital divide begins to take shape. Read Blog


TEAM SASA:

WEEK ONE: We Just Had A Perfect Experience During Our Entrepreneurial Road Trip Across America
Earlier this month we landed on-site with our first group of entrepreneurs who founded and run the company Mitten Crate. Read Blog

 

WEEK TWO: We Dove Into the Twin Cities to Learn About Hydroponics and Aquaponics
While with the Garden Fresh Farms team, we were asked to address how the farm can raise capital within two months to support the business in its next phase of growth. Read Blog​

WEEK THREE: The Entrepreneurial Pulse of Fargo Lives in the Prairie Den
Greg Tehven, co-founder of Emerging Prairie, presented us with this question on Monday: “How can we get people to want to stay in Fargo-Moorhead for one more day?” Read Blog

WEEK FOUR: We Experienced the Thriving Midwestern Tech Hub in Downtown Minneapolis
Our team arrived in Minneapolis on May 21 for the last leg of our amazing Ross Open Road experience. As we entered the 25-member premise of Flipgrid, a tech startup, we felt a strong connection to the office culture that promotes creativity. Read Blog