New Speaker Casey Gerald: Redefining Entrepreneurship by Uniting Will with Skill
What happens when a freshly-minted Harvard MBA takes his skills on the road? Entrepreneur (and impassioned proponent of socially-conscious business) Casey Gerald did just that with MBAs Across America (MBAx), an organization founded with three friends to leverage their exclusive education, enabling diverse entrepreneurs on their own terms. The results outstripped their expectations.
“Our sense of entrepreneurship is incredibly narrow. What I try to do is really push our understanding of what entrepreneurship is, beyond the high-growth tech founder that we tend to imagine.”— Casey Gerald
Arriving with several brand new speeches, Gerald explains in practical terms exactly why taking business education down from the ivory tower is a necessary measure in this world, so often divided by uneven distribution of resources. With warmth and palpable pride, he tells of the people he met while roving the country with MBAx, including self-taught entrepreneurs who, when equipped Gerald’s know-how, took their businesses to new financial—and importantly—socially positive heights. “My feeling is that every business is a social enterprise,” says Gerald, a feeling reflected in the small business owners he speaks about, including:
Sebastian Jackson, who runs a barber shop in Detroit. “He was 26 when we met him, from Flint,” says Gerald. “Started cutting hair when he was young just to make money for his family. He got really good at it, decided to open a barber shop. He had to apply four times to a business plan competition before opening his shop on the campus of Wayne State. In the process of that, he hears about the Gulf oil spill. There was an organization in San Francisco that was using hair to clean up oil in the Gulf. Sebastian says, ‘Hey, I've got a lot of hair, instead of throwing it away, I'm going to send it to these people.’
As Gerald puts it, Sebastian had caught the bug of making useful what would otherwise be waste. “He went to some folks in Detroit, he found that hair was a powerful accelerant for compost. Detroit had lost half of its urban canopy in the past decade. He started recycling hair from his clients to accelerate compost, planting trees in some of Detroit's most blighted neighborhoods. Sebastian is an incredible human being, who that just needed a little wind at his back. He’s become one of the shining examples of entrepreneurship in Detroit.”
This is just one success story in MBAx’s history, which continues through MBAx Open Road, a free toolkit that has already been put to use by students around the world. Gerald also helped turn MBAx into a program at Harvard Business School—the HBS Neighborhood Business Partnership. What began between four idealistic friends and the question of using their education not just to make a buck, but to make a difference, is now a social movement. In his talks Gerald explains the multiple benefits that come not just from creating jobs, but also solving some of the biggest challenges that face our communities, promoting social growth, entrepreneurship, and prosperity on every level.