Prologue to the Open Road @ Ross Tales
Open Road @ Ross — Week 1 by Guatam of Team MPower
When April with its sweet-smelling showers
Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid
By the power of which the flower is created;
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,
To distant shrines in distant lands.
Eight centuries ago Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English Literature, wrote about an assemblage of pilgrims headed to Canterbury. We are just like Chaucer’s pilgrims. Invigorated by our experiences in the first year of the MBA, we feel empowered (pardon the pun) to make a pilgrimage. The destination? Communities across America. The shrines? Businesses driving growth and revitalizing those communities.
What better time than Spring to start on the Open Road @ Ross journey? The April showers were indeed bringing in sweet flowers, as we saw many beautiful trees blooming along the boulevards of Detroit. The vernal display was priming us for our first project with Ashley Logan, owner of Klassic Mobile Gardens.
Klassic Mobile Gardens
Ashley was involved with a non-profit called Cheryl’s garden that focuses on community revitalization. Her work setting up community gardens opened up many conversations with community members who wanted to bring back a piece of the garden to their backyards. Inspired by this interest, she saw the opportunity to serve the needs of the community, and created Klassic Mobile Gardens. Klassic Mobile Gardens installs vegetable, flower, and rain gardens for homeowners across the Detroit metro. Their mission is to make healthy, naturally grown food accessible to people, and she uses natural materials to nourish her plants.
Instrumental to Klassic is Ashley’s aunt, Deborah, who is the master gardener. Deborah was delightful. She has a wealth of knowledge to share about gardening: from how to grow vegetables free of pesticides, to how to keep deer from eating away the buds from flower gardens. We learned so much from Ashley and Deborah, who showed us around Belle Isle, the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, and the Morningside Neighborhood on the first day. Visiting these neighborhoods helped us see how deeply Ashley and Deborah were connected with the community. It also opened our eyes to vast tracts of land within the Detroit city limits, and understand how Klassic Mobile Gardens, along with several other urban farming businesses, were seeing this land as an opportunity to make a lasting impact on fresh food access in Detroit.
But what does someone passionate about gardening do in Michigan winters, when snow blankets the ground? Having established relationships with her community members, Ashley began offering snow removal services to serve her customers in Michigan’s four seasons. She also offers classes to community members, where they can learn gardening basics. By experimenting with new services and ideas regularly, Ashley finds new ideas to grow Klassic Mobile Gardens.
We got some great advice from ZLI’s Entrepreneur in Residence Rashmi Menon, as we embarked on our work: every entrepreneur has a ton of competing priorities. Rather than pursue a breadth of projects and deliverables, we focus our efforts on a couple of key areas where we could have the greatest impact. As Rashmi recommended, it is important we focus our efforts on delivering quality work products that our entrepreneur could implement right away.
Ashley is passionate about bringing healthy food to communities and was interested in our perspective on reaching new audiences. After our conversations with her, we found a couple of different ways in which we could assist Ashley:
- Developing marketing materials which could help her communicate Klassic’s vision and offering more effectively, including more effective use of social media tools.
- Developing a strategy to target commercial customers, and delivering communication templates that she could use right away to reach prospective customers
We set to work on Tuesday, each taking a small portion of the work. When we regrouped after researching the target markets Ashley had identified and developing a very early draft of the marketing materials, we realized just how much we had learned over the course of two days. Thinking deeply about Klassic’s business, the vision, and the customers helped us see the variety of thoughts and questions Ashley must have to contend with every day as she interacts with her team, her customers, and other stakeholders. Feedback from Ashley helped us further tailor our work towards her vision for the business. We dedicated our efforts on Thursday to further in-depth research and finalized our materials for Ashley. On Friday, we met Ashley for brunch at a restaurant delivering a farm-to-table experience for Detroit’s denizens, and got to experience just how Klassic’s fruits and vegetables gardens might deliver a truly enjoyable gustatory experience. After delivering our final products, the time came to say goodbye. There were hugs all around, and we expressed to Ashley our best wishes for Klassic’s continued success.
Thus ends the prologue to The Open Road Tales. In this educational week, we saw how an entrepreneur had combined the needs of the Detroit community (fresh food) and the strengths of those around her (Aunt Deborah’s green thumb) into developing a business that is improving the lives of the citizens of Detroit. We were inspired by how Ashley saw a variety of opportunities in front of her and did not hesitate to experiment with one if it helped further the business. As we embarked on the journey, we couldn’t help but envision possibilities with businesses like Klassic Mobile Gardens. We are excited and hope to visit Ashley and KMG in the near future!