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University of Connecticut alum Mitch Jackson is a Manager at Deloitte Consulting and Co-Owner of two Playa Bowls, one in West Hartford and a second, which recently opened, in Glastonbury. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Mitch about how he’s built his career in Connecticut.

NAN PRICE: Why Connecticut?

MITCH JACKSON: I was born and raised here, went to school in the region, got a job with an office here, and now I’m expanding a business within the Greater Hartford area. So, I guess you could say I’m pro Hartford—and the surrounding towns—all the way.

My overall experience has been great. This region has embraced me, my family, my friends. I’ve found my own community here, which has always encouraged me. All along, I’ve been told: I believe in you! You can do this! I think the mantra around here is: Just go for it and see what happens!

The important thing is, Connecticut isn’t trying to be another Boston or New York City. It’s not supposed to be. Instead, Connecticut is being what it should be—and supporting people to become what they’re supposed to be. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

NAN: How have you utilized resources here in Connecticut to help shape you professionally?

MITCH: With any Connecticut resource or organization I’ve been involved with, one recurring theme I’ve seen is that everyone wants businesses here—not only that, but they want them to succeed. They’ll do whatever they can to rally around those businesses, spread their messages, and let everybody know they’re here and they exist.

It’s powerful. I’ve seen and experienced that support from the beginning of a business being launched and I’ve found it everywhere in the Greater Hartford community. Because, this community may be small, but it’s big in terms of influence. Here, you can make a lot more impact and you don’t get lost amongst other businesses, whether you’re working at UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, or Travelers or if you own a shop on Capitol Avenue.

In terms of my involvement, I’ve been a part of HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs) for more than a decade and served as Chair from 2016 to 2017, which was an incredible experience. I went to almost every event and met fantastic people.

I also served on the board of reSET from 2018 to 2019. Unfortunately, I had to step away due to some work constraints, but my time there was tremendous. I got an opportunity to meet and support new businesses I’d never heard of and be a part of something special. Before I joined the board, I even invested in one of the startups.

I love the fact that reSET gets local businesses involved that all have a social enterprise aspect. So, they’re not just pushing startups to do well and succeed, but really looking at how they can make an impact. I’m all for their continued success and whatever we can do to continue to support them.

NAN: You’ve also been very involved at the community level.

MITCH: All along, I’ve wanted to support my community, whether it’s the local restaurants or the high schools, by making donations here and there. My business partner and I want to be a part of our region’s economic growth and make a community impact with Playa Bowls.

What’s amazing is we’ve seen it all throughout the community. For example, we had a financial advisor who bought $1,000 worth of Playa Bowls gift cards to donate to the West Hartford food pantry. Things like that just don’t happen unless you create a culture where you set the tone.

Playa Bowls also gives back without asking for anything in return. It’s part of our operating agreement to make sure that we give back on a monthly basis, whether it’s giveaways for people, making donations, or doing what we call “dine to donate,” where an organization receives proceeds for a set time, as long as somebody mentions their organization when they make a purchase. And then it works the other way around and the organizations want our business. So, hopefully we can continue to keep that ecosystem rolling and do even bigger and better things.

NAN: What would you tell other people about why it’s beneficial to build a career here in Connecticut?

MITCH: I would say you can really do anything here if you put your mind to it. The community in Connecticut is made so that if you fail, you fail quickly in the sense that you recognize what does and doesn’t work. And once you get the right tools behind you, you can succeed at pretty much whatever you want to do.

In Connecticut, the community will support you. All you have to do is ask. The hardest answer to hear is no. Once you get past that initial no, you’re just asking for a little help here and there, but understanding that you’re not asking for a handout, you’re asking for a hand up. There’s a very big difference. And then you’ll realize how much the community—your friends, family, people, you don’t even know, complete strangers—are willing to help you and your business succeed.

Playa Bowls Co-Owners Mitch Jackson (left) and Mike Bogdan (right) with West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor (center) at the Playa Bowls Soft Opening on Memorial Road in West Hartford.