Casey Gerald is going places – quite literally. He’s already logged 8,000 miles since starting business school in 2012 and will undoubtedly travel a few thousand more before the year’s end. Gerald, who graduated from Harvard Business School in May, is CEO of MBAs Across America (MBAxAmerica), a nonprofit that sends teams of MBAs across the country to provide free business advice to business owners and entrepreneurs.
Gerald co-founded the organization in his first year with fellow Harvard MBAs Amaris Singer, Michael Baker, and Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui. The four traveled across America meeting with small business owners in Detroit, New Orleans, and Las Vegas, among others. The trip confirmed a hunch that everyone from barber shop owners to restaurateurs could benefit from sound business feedback. This summer, MBAxAmerica sent its first cohort of 32 MBAs across the country.
In the midst of it all, Gerald delivered a much-lauded commencement speech at HBS’ graduation where he challenged his classmates to test their own limits: “In your hands as well as mine lies the hope for a new generation of business leaders in which each of us becomes a pioneer, in which each of us commits our time and talent not just to the treasures of today, but to the frontier of tomorrow where new dreams and new hopes and new possibilities are waiting.”
Poets&Quants caught up with Gerald for an update on MBAxAmerica. In a wide-ranging interview, the budding businessman covers everything from the inspiration for his graduation speech to why he broke a promise to himself to never work for a nonprofit or startup again.
Tell us about MBAs Across America.
Right now we’re in the midst of launching our inaugural class – 32 MBAs from six business schools will dedicate six weeks of their summer to immersing themselves in the heart of America to work with 48 entrepreneurs in 26 cities.
What are the criteria for selecting entrepreneurs?
We have three criteria: The first is that they’re from a place with a story to tell; the story might be one of coming back from a tough time, like New Orleans or Detroit; it might be the story of a heartland hub like Omaha; or it’s the story of a rural community trying to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem like Wichita, Kansas.
The second is a business poised for growth. We work with entrepreneurs at the helm of startups and small businesses, everything from barber shops to technology companies to retail firms. We have to broaden the lens of entrepreneurship from just two guys in a garage coding to the broad swath of small business owners who create most of the jobs in America.
The third criteria is that the entrepreneur must be making a positive social impact in their community. We want to support entrepreneurs who believe that purpose matters just as much as profit, and so all of our entrepreneurs have intentionality about the impact they’re making, even if they’re not explicitly social entrepreneurs.