July 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm

GM to provide 12 Chevrolet Volts to Across America program

Chevrolet announced Friday it will support 32 MBAs Across America students trekking the country to help 50 businesses in 25 cities — including Detroit — by providing a fleet of 4G LTE Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicles for their use. (Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)

General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet brand is providing 12 plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volts to the nonprofit MBAs Across America program, which is traveling the country to help small businesses.

The automaker held a celebratory event Friday at its Renaissance Center headquarters. GM CEO Mary Barra and Detroit Deputy Mayor Ike McKinnon welcomed the students who spent the week in Detroit working with seven local businesses.

Barra, who holds a MBA from Stanford, received an email from the chief operating officer of the program in February asking for some assistance. Barra, who gets plenty of emails, said she found it “intriguing.”

She spent some of Friday morning meeting with entrepreneurs that the four-person teams have been helping this week in Detroit including the Detroit Empowerment Plan, Ellis Island Tea, EliTea, Oakland Living, Social Club Grooming Company, Social Sushi, and Sweet Potato Sensations. Barra said she was impressed that the business owners are working to create jobs and are looking to give back to the community and environment and people less fortunate while building up their companies.

“I’m truly in awe and I just think it represents so much of what is the foundation of Chevrolet,” Barra said. “For Chevrolet, it’s about ingenuity, it’s about creating value. And that spirit is certainly alive and well with everyone here, the MBAs Across America teams, the entrepreneurs and Chevy, which is just completely proud to be a part of it.”

Eight teams of MBA students from Babson, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, University of California Berkeley and University of Michigan are traveling to 25 cities this summer to help nearly 50 small businesses. Six teams of 24 students are in Detroit this week. The tour started in mid-June and some teams will head to Nashville and Chicago next week.

The program, which launched last summer with four Harvard MBA students who drove across the country offering free business counseling to local businesses, visited Detroit in 2013 a week before the city filed for bankruptcy. The Social Club Grooming Co., a Detroit barber shop which was helped last year, has since tripled revenue and received a $100,000 investment.

This past week, a team of Columbia MBA students helped Eli Tea owner Elias Majid with his Detroit business identity and to cold call more than 100 businesses trying to land his all-natural tea in their establishments. Majid is looking to open a shop in Birmingham this fall; currently his teas are available in local stores.

Michael Baker, the nonprofit’s COO who just graduated with an MBA from Harvard, decided to email GM and Barra for help earlier this year. He wasn’t expecting a response, but about a week later heard back from someone on her executive communications team. He and MBAs Across America CEO and co-founder Casey Gerald said thought it would be great to get

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without these cars,” Baker said. “And the cool thing about these cars that we’re getting is that they have 4G LTE hotspots, so the teams can work remotely.”

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