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Uncovering small business success stories, one city at a time

Thursday - 6/6/2013, 8:33am  ET

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Joe Epstein and Nate Hindman are hitting the road to relay the stories of small businesses from coast to coast. (Courtesy Free Enterprise Tour)

Rachel Nania, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Longtime friends Joe Epstein and Nate Hindman have had their share of great travel experiences together. The 27-year-olds have journeyed to South America, Montreal, the Dominican Republic and the West Coast, just to name a few.

And now, the New York-based journalists are hitting the road once again. But this time, it's to reveal the stories behind some of the country's most fascinating small businesses.

A few months ago, Epstein, a senior editor at Thrillist, and Hindman, a small business editor at The Huffington Post, entered a competition sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to travel cross- country and write about small businesses and start-ups.

"This is a time for us to finally step out from behind the computer and really meet with the people we've been covering for the past three or four years," Hindman says.

On June 6, the two will make their first stop along the summer-long journey in Charlotte, N.C., where they will hit the city's biggest small business incubator, Packard Place.

"We've identified a story there. Basically a kid went to college in Charlotte, and during his time in Charlotte -- I think a couple of his friends were engineers -- they figured out a way to turn their smart phones into breathalyzers," Epstein says. "They have an iPhone you can blow into and it tells you your alcohol levels."

After Charlotte, Epstein and Hindman will head south, then out west where they plan to be in San Diego around the Fourth of July.

In Palo Alto, the two journalists will interview a guy who is building space ships that mine asteroids for precious metals.

"So he's creating these spaceships that land on actual asteroids in space, extract and then bring some of these resources back to the States," Epstein says.

Epstein and Hindman will head up the West Coast, back down through the Midwest region and finish the tour in D.C. on Aug. 4. In total, Epstein and Hindman will hit 25 cities, covering approximately five small businesses each week.

To enter the competition, the duo submitted a video -- which they describe as risque -- and completed a writing test and interview.

The more than 1,000 applicants were narrowed down to two, and the contest was opened to a public vote. Epstein and Hindman's submission video ended up getting more than 13,000 views, and the team eventually won the contest.

Despite the long journey, the two high school friends are not worried about getting on each other's nerves this summer.

"We found that we compliment each other very well and everything is perfect -- except that Nate snores extremely loudly, so we're trying to work on that," Epstein jokes.

The coverage of their trip will include everything from short films, to tweets, Instagram photos and articles.

"We want to make this fun. We want to get young people who don't necessarily hear ‘small business' and think, ‘Wow that's the coolest thing in the world.' We want to get them interested in hearing about this. That's a big part of this," Epstein says.

Follow Epstein and Hindman throughout their travels on the Free Enterprise Tour webpage, on Twitter @FreeEnterprise and on Instagram @AmericanFreeEnterprise.

Joe and Nate check out one local small business, Hard Times Cafe

Joe and Nate's Free Enterprise Tour submission video

Nate and Joe do America

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