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John Gordon Jr. on Boys Grow: Harvesting entrepreneurship | KC Roundtable

John Gordon Jr.; Boys Grow

After last session’s heart-racing story about Vin­So­lu­tions and Matt Watson’s cut-throat jour­ney to a 9-figure buy­out, KC Round­table switched gears to an uplift­ing, inspi­ra­tional story of the small-by-design Kansas City non­profit, Boys Grow .

The idea for Boys Grow stemmed from founder John Gor­don Jr’s expe­ri­ence men­tor­ing a trou­bled teenager from the inner-city. The boy was sent to a place­ment home out in the coun­try, where he was put to work for a stern-faced farmer. It was this expe­ri­ence — some com­bi­na­tion of rural life’s sol­i­dar­ity, con­cen­trat­ing energy into phys­i­cal labor, the hum­bling pride of accom­plish­ment, and a no-nonsense leader — that finally allowed the boy to grow into a con­fi­dent, dri­ven man.

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Boys tend­ing to the farm at Boys Grow. The orga­ni­za­tion is cur­rently seek­ing fund­ing to pur­chase their own land near Kansas City. (Image source: Boys Grow Face­book page)

Gor­don rec­og­nized the value of how agri­cul­ture can teach kids dis­ci­pline, belong­ing, and pride. But wit­ness­ing his mentee have a life-changing expe­ri­ence on a farm wasn’t the only inspi­ra­tion for Boys Grow. Gor­don also worked at his mother’s Mex­i­can Import store, learn­ing the in’s and out’s of dis­tri­b­u­tion and retail. Gor­don knew that if the boys could see the fruits of their labor from seed to sale, their eyes would open to a world of pos­si­bil­ity through entrepreneurship.

So, not only do the boys work through the heat of the sum­mer on the farm, they also have a heavy hand in mar­ket­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing their crops. In fact, each class that goes through the pro­gram must develop the recipe for a new product. So far, Boys Grow sells Salsa Orgulla (which is Span­ish for “pride,”) and ketchup (which uses agave nec­tar rather than high fruc­tose corn syrup). Both prod­ucts can be found at Cosentino’s , McGonigle’s , and even Whole Foods .

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John Gor­don Jr., left, expresses to the KC Round­table group how impor­tant it is for boys aged 12 to 15 to have pos­i­tive male role mod­els in their lives.

But even with prod­uct on the shelf of an inter­na­tional mar­ket like Whole Foods, Gor­don intends to keep Boys Grow small. After all, the organization’s pur­pose isn’t to cre­ate a gigan­tic dis­tri­b­u­tion line; it’s to help boys get their lives on track at a vul­ner­a­ble age by build­ing close rela­tion­ships with pos­i­tive male role models.

To Gor­don, suc­cess will never be mea­sured by the amount of prod­uct being pushed through the gro­cery store. Suc­cess is achieved when boys exit the pro­gram as men.

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