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Brothers navigate nation for entrepreneurs

Anna Boarini | Monday, May 2, 2011

After 10 months and almost 40,000 miles, Notre Dame alumni and brothers Walter and Patrick Hessert have continued to promote small business and the American entrepreneurial spirit with their Million Dollar Road Trip, a journey across the country in their 23-foot Airstream trailer with the goal of covering it in advertisements of American brands.

“We are just continuing to build on this thing, discovering new stories and awesome inspiring entrepreneurs,” Walter Hessert said. “Our dedication is to cover our Airstream with this mosaic.”

Through their travels, the brother’s mission with Million Dollar Road Trip has continued to evolve. They recently decided to add six months to their nearly year-long trip in the hopes of traveling to parts of their country they have yet to see, like the Northwest, and to discover new entrepreneurs to showcase.

The brothers are continuing to nurture and develop this unique community of entrepreneurs on their Road Trip. They are currently in southern Louisiana. On this leg of the Trip, the brothers plan on going to visit the family-owned company that makes Tabasco sauce, Walter Hessert said.

This month, they plan on heading north from the south to catch the Kentucky Derby, as well as the Indy 500 race in Indianapolis, Ind. Later, the brothers will head west to Nevada for the Burning Man music festival.

While traveling across the country, the brothers have stayed close to their Notre Dame roots.

“There is an entrepreneurial community that comes out of Notre Dame that undergrads don’t always here about,” Walter Hessert said. “Some of the people [from Notre Dame] in the start up world have amazing stories.”

The Hesserts have combined their Notre Dame community with the community of entrepreneurs Million Dollar Road Trip has created.

For example, Jeff Stuffings, a 2003 alum, started his own brewery with his brother. Stuffings and his brother built the brewery by hand.

“I was tired of working for a paycheck,” Stuffings said on milliondollarroadtrip.com, dedicated to the Hesserts’ trip. “I wanted to wake up and be excited about work.”

The brewery, Jester King Brewery, was awarded the seventh Million Dollar Road Trip Inspiration Grant of $500. The Inspiration Grants are awarded to entrepreneurs that the Hessert brothers think embody the American entrepreneurial spirit they promote. Candidates are posted every other Sunday on the Trip’s website, and website visitors vote on who they think deserves the grant. The winners receive a cash prize and free advertising on the side of the Airstream.

“In some cases, there are some businesses where we just go and pull up in front of a company, walk inside and see if we can talk to someone,” Hessert said. “And then there are some that we hear about and decide we need to learn more.”

The Hesserts rely on their community of entrepreneurs, not just for connections to the business world, but also to keep them going.

“I don’t feel tired of it at all,” Walter Hessert said about living in a trailer for almost a year. “It’s reinvigorating.”