2019 Best & Brightest: Jack Griffin, University of Michigan (Ross)

Jack Griffin

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Proud to call Atlanta home and even prouder to fight food insecurity across America.”

Fun fact about yourself: I was born in the University of Michigan hospital, so I’ve literally been a Wolverine since Day 1.

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

High School: Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia

Major: Business Administration

Minor: Community Action & Social Change

Favorite Business Course: Social Media Marketing

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College: My most significant extracurricular/community activity is FoodFinder, the registered nonprofit organization I founded in 2014. I’m also a member of the strategy committee for Maize and Blue Cupboard, the student-run food pantry on campus. While FoodFinder occupies most of the time that would otherwise be allocated towards more traditional student organizations, I’m thankful to have received the 2018 MLK Spirit Award and Rosalie Ginsberg Community Service Award through the University of Michigan in recognition of my work to fight hunger across America.

Where have you interned during your college career? After my freshman and sophomore years, I was a Summer Intern at Broadgreen Solutions and Jabian Consulting respectively – two great companies back home in Atlanta. After my junior year, I was a Research Associate doing market research for startups at the Michigan Economic Growth Institute.

Where will you be working after graduation? FoodFinder (as Founder/CEO)

What company do you admire most? I really admire the well-being app and startup, Calm. Calm has an extremely clear mission to promote mental health and uses its platform to do just that. Their app and social media communications are wonderfully positive and refreshing in a time when young entrants into the workforce expect to face long hours, day in and day out, often without a deeper meaning to their work.

Who is your favorite professor? Cheri Alexander of my Human Capital Management course is my favorite professor in Ross. Her humble but striking background of growing up in Detroit, infectious energy in the classroom, and sincere desire to go above and beyond in helping her students have made for one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in the classroom. I’m taking her class in my final semester of college, so I’m really glad to have the chance to learn from someone as accomplished and passionate as her before I graduate.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? My experiences with the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies (ZLI) are by far what I’m most thankful for throughout my time at Ross. Every Entrepreneur-in-Residence and faculty member of ZLI is an extraordinary person, not just because of their expertise but also for their treatment of me and other student founders. I wasn’t aware of the entrepreneurial resources at Ross when I first began taking classes, but the guidance I’ve received and interactions I’ve had with the ZLI team (in addition to other entrepreneurial students) have been truly enjoyable during my college career.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? My advice would be to 1) go for it and 2) absolutely focus on what matters to you rather than just following the supposed “default” path. Finance, consulting, and accounting are great fields for a lot of people, but they’re not for everyone. Meaningful reflection about what’s important to you will always lead you down the right path, and it sure beats going along with the pressure of only doing what your peers are doing.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? It has been a very pleasant surprise to see the extent to which my fellow business majors feel so strongly about using their skills to have a positive impact on their companies and in their communities. Dean DeRue and Ross, in general, have done a great job of establishing business as a force for good, and it’s up to us as the business leaders of tomorrow to ensure that we use the resources at our disposal to leave the world better than we found it.

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…Public health. The public health students I’ve met at Michigan are always, always working on fascinating projects. As opposed to becoming a medical practitioner, I believe that a public health background would be excellent for spotting broader trends in society that relate to health and well-being. Not only that, there’s also the major potential to positively influence communities all across the world with on-the-ground community work.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father first introduced me to the world of business, but neither of my parents ever forced me down this path. Thanks to my father sharing his experience going from a first-generation college student from rural North Carolina straight into the corporate world, he gave me a realistic but optimistic perspective on how influential business really is. Every job in existence stems from business, for-profit or not, so my dad showed me that a BBA could give me skills that will be useful wherever I end up in my career.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? My greatest achievement is the progress I’ve made with FoodFinder, the nonprofit I created as a junior in high school. FoodFinder uses its website and mobile app to deliver information to families in need to let them know exactly when and where they can receive free food assistance near them. Our platform displays a map of all nearby food pantries along with the information needed to know how to receive help from these programs. Even while getting a degree here at Michigan, I’m proud to have grown FoodFinder’s geographic service area from one county in Georgia to 80% of America with 40,000 food pantries in our database across all 50 states. With affordable, pre-paid smartphones in the hands of more and more low-income families, FoodFinder has been used by more than 62,000 people from 5,000 different towns and cities in the United States. I’m remarkably thankful to use my education to further FoodFinder’s mission and to reach our goal of serving 100,000 people in 2019 alone.

Which classmate do you most admire? Scarlett Ong, another BBA senior, is someone I definitely admire. She’s also going to pursue her venture full-time after graduation, even on top of navigating the challenges of being an international student. The work Scarlett puts into her platform to connect students with the knowledge of their classmates and teaching assistants is incredibly impressive, and I wish her nothing but success in her endeavors.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Mike Morris is a man who had a part in giving FoodFinder the first award it ever received. He was the first boss I had at my internship after freshman year, and the first believer I had outside of my parents to truly encourage me to give FoodFinder everything I had. He was an entrepreneur himself and decided to start his own consulting practice shortly after I met him in 2014. Mike showed me first-hand the devotion, joy, and thoughtful approach needed to create a business from nothing. We even had a bit of a rivalry going with me studying at Michigan and him being a Notre Dame alum, but he would never let that stop him from earnestly supporting me throughout almost the entirety of my growth both as a student and as an entrepreneur.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Visiting the Maui Invitational tournament would be super cool since I’m a huge college basketball fan. I’d undoubtedly have to save up for the trip, but cheering on Michigan or UNC with my dad would be an awesome experience. For something closer to my professional life, my second bucket list item would be to collaborate with the Freewishes Foundation. Founded by Atlanta rap artist Future and his family, Freewishes promotes causes supporting children and the elderly from disadvantaged populations. For someone like Future whose cultural influence is so strong yet whose presence in Atlanta is so positive, I’d love for FoodFinder to partner with his family’s foundation to help serve our city better than we ever have before.

What are your hobbies? I listen to music basically everywhere I go. My playlists are either all rap/hip-hop or easy listening music, so those cover a wide variety of occasions. Trying new places to eat, reading psychology books, and spending time outdoors (except during Michigan winters) are all fun to me as well.

What made Jack such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“We are very pleased to be able to share with a broader audience this student who has demonstrated the value of following a personal interest and creating a path to success while building on the Ross experience. Jack is a very intelligent and ambitious young man and is committed to social impact through business. He created an app and website (foodfinder.us) to help people in need easily locate free food resources in their area. He exemplifies a student who actively participates in his education and is poised to make the world a better place. Also, I am always excited to see our staff eager to meet with students as they do with Jack.”

Paul Kirsch
Managing Director of the Office of Undergraduate Education
Ross School of Business


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.