Mike Glauser jokes that he is both “excited and a little nervous” for the 4,000-mile bicycle trek he’s about to embark on, taking him to Main Streets all over the country, but he’s fully aware the purpose is to help educate his students.
Glauser, the director of the Clark Center for Entrepreneurship, hosted a kick-off event Wednesday at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business for the ride that will allow him to interview business owners from Florence, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia, as part of the documentary film series and book entitled "Living the Dream on Main Street America." Starting June 2, Glauser and his team will visit 100 cities and interview 100 entrepreneurs.
“We’re always looking for new stories and continue to use them as course content at USU,” Glauser said during an interview with The Herald Journal, next to an R.V. that will drive alongside him and his cycling team to shoot video and audio.
The center director explained that many of the cities his team plans to visit don’t have many start-up businesses, and the documentary and book project will be a way to highlight the risk-taking of business owners in those communities.
“This is a segment of American culture that nobody writes about — everyone talks about Facebook or Google, the billion-dollar companies — but hardly anyone talks about how you create a business for yourself because that’s what you want to do and that’s where you want to live,” he said. “We think they have a lot to teach us.”
Glauser noted the perception of an “employment crisis” in America today, as many studies from major institutions like Oxford and M.I.T. show that “jobs are going away in every industry” due to emerging technology.
Prime examples include self check-out machines at grocery stores, robots completing repetitive tasks at warehouses, and maybe even Amazon.com’s research into delivery drones.
“People say this is a real employment crisis in future, but this is an employment shift — people are going to look for other ways,” Glauser said. “Our mission is to teach people how to create jobs in their own communities and companies. This tour is finding people who have done that successfully. They’ve chosen to stay because of lifestyle and there are no jobs. Those are the people that can teach us how to do this in the future.”
Glauser explained that he’s done interviews like this before and posted them online for his Huntsman undergraduate and MBA students to see. The “Main Street” interviews will be posted online in real time, but the finished book and documentary won’t be released until 2015.
Funding for Glauser’s ride comes from mynewenterprise.com — a training program for small business owners — and other company sponsors. Huntsman School students have also started a campaign on kickstarter.com, a popular crowdfunding website that has raised $24,000 for the trip to date. He would like to see $3,000 more.
Glauser added that he’s been an avid cyclist for 10 years and has been riding about 250 miles a week to prepare for the trip. He and the team plan to ride 100 miles a day. The tour will end July 25.
“We thought, ‘Why not go slow to see the towns and cities we love?’” he said of the reason for a bike as opposed to a bus tour.
USU has had a hand in producing documentaries before. Earlier this year, Edwin Stafford, a professor at the Huntsman School, released “Scaling Wind,” a 30-minute short about how America may achieve 20 percent wind energy through energy policy and transmission development.
Many of the students that will view the "Living the Dream on Main Street America” interviews are minoring in entrepreneurship. The program gives any students who enroll — not just Huntsman School of Business students — the opportunity to develop a business as they complete courses.
The Center for Entrepreneurship, based in the Huntsman School, was established last year, thanks to an anchor donation by longtime USU supporters Jeffrey and Bonnie Clark.
The Clarks were a major contributor to funding the Huntsman School building addition — “Huntsman Hall” — which officials ceremoniously broke ground for at the start of the 2013-14 school year. The $42 million, 17,000-square-foot structure will wrap around the south and west sides of the George S. Eccles Business Building. It is expected to be finished in 2015.
Anyone interested in learning more about the bike tour or contributing funds can visit http://mynewenterprise.com.