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.
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 .
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.