Taking control of his career through entrepreneurship through acquisition
By Andrew Galpin ’23 MBA
Two-Year MBA Program
I arrived at Kellogg with a very specific focus. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. Relatable?
I studied engineering at the University of Portsmouth. Then, I completed a part-time master’s in theology from the University of Chester, Regents Theological College, while working full-time in consulting at IBM. I promise I had at least one friend.
My road to Kellogg
I learned three things about myself in consulting: I loved solving problems. I loved learning every day. I loved doing both those things with people.
What I was missing was ownership. In consulting, you are always playing the role of a trusted advisor. You are empowered (at least most of the time) by the client to help them solve their most pressing problems. You are always a consultant — you’re not the client — and there is only so much you can do from the outside.
I entered my time at Kellogg seeking something new, something different. I also entered Kellogg with the false impression that doing that, as an international student, wasn’t possible. You’ll find countless articles about avoiding “too many pivots” when entering business school, and in some ways, they are helpful. But you aren’t the author of that article, and sometimes, we can artificially place barriers on our journey that don’t apply to our own circumstances. I thought my only option was consulting, and only after consulting could I pivot into what I really wanted to do. I was wrong.
You want to give me how much money to do what?
I clearly remember the day I discovered Entrepreneurship-Through-Acquisition (ETA) or Search Funds. I was speaking to the Private Equity Club at the Kellogg Careers Fair in September when Hereford Johnson, the co-founder of the ETA club at Kellogg, motioned me over. After looking around, confused and checking that he wasn’t looking at someone else, I wandered over, curious.
Having dabbled in entrepreneurship in my youth, I knew it was something I might return to one day. However, I know much more about myself now. My skills are best suited to growing a business rather than starting it from scratch. If I’m honest, I kind of ruled out entrepreneurship coming into Kellogg for that reason.
Hereford helped shift my paradigm on what entrepreneurship can mean. Up until that point, I was frustrated. The type of work I wanted to do after Kellogg didn’t feel possible without first working my way up the career ladder of some Fortune 500.
I didn’t want to wait 10 years for some real ownership. I also wasn’t keen on leaving behind everything I loved about my previous career path. Hereford opened my eyes to the concept of scaling down the size of the company I was considering rather than compromising on the role I wanted to do.
Acquiring a small business offered me everything I was after. Diverse problems, a focus on people, a constant learning environment, and ownership of the decision-making with a lightning-fast feedback loop. I didn’t have to wait 10 years to get there.
There were two things I needed to validate. First, can I, as an international, search in the United States? Second, is this really a good fit for me?
Search funds as an international business leader
As an international business leader, searching in the United States wouldn't have been feasible before the MBA programs at Kellogg became STEM-certified. The search process could take anything from two months to nearly four years when considering the five stages of the search fund.
With the STEM extension, you get three years to work in the United States before transitioning onto another visa (like the H1B) or returning home. That’s enough time to search for a business, and most traditional search funds raise capital for a two-year search.
Finding a fit with search funds
I completed Alex Schneider’s class in ETA and talked to many searchers and investors, but what was most helpful was some insight I gleaned from my roommate, Ashwin Bhaskar ’23 MBA, as part of my Personal Leadership Insights class. He told me, “Andy, you are pivoting your whole career in this new direction, and you haven’t even tested it out yet.” The last five years I had spent advocating for design thinking and asking clients to build out minimal viable products (or minimum-delightful-products as we liked to call them), but I wasn’t following my own advice.
I applied for the Levy Inspiration Grant and spent my final summer month interning at a search-acquired business called Pharmacy Data Solutions. I told the CEO Robbie Sutkay I had one goal, “to make sure I didn’t hate it.” I loved it. I turned down my return offer for consulting and embarked on the path to acquiring my own small business.
Twelve hours before I got married (oh, I also met my beautiful wife through some close friends at Kellogg), I closed fundraising. In attendance at our wedding were several close friends from Kellogg and one or two of the 16 investors who make up my capitalization table.
Now, the hard work begins. Tree and Leaf Partners wants to acquire a single software business serving healthcare, education, or non-profit clients. Why those industries? In each one, no matter where your organization sits in the value chain, you can trace the impact. In healthcare, it’s about driving better outcomes for patients. Education? Learning outcomes for students.
Why is that important? I’m not just looking for any business. I’m looking to build an organization where every employee knows the unique value they bring. Building that type of organization is so much easier in an industry where you can directly point to the value you create for society.
Andy invites anyone interested in Tree and Leaf Partners to contact him on LinkedIn.