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Kellogg students Patrick Gaddie ’12 (left) and Viviane Sales ’12 presented the winning plan at the Neighborhood Business Initiative case competition.

Kellogg students Patrick Gaddie ’12 (left) and Viviane Sales ’12 presented the winning plan at the Neighborhood Business Initiative case competition.

Supporting a sustainable mission

Kellogg students working with Chicago nonprofit Stage 773 take first place in the Neighborhood Business Initiative’s case competition

By Sara Langen

1/25/2011 - For MBA students trained to think in terms of making money, working with a nonprofit can be tricky business.

But for a group of Kellogg students working with Stage 773, a Chicago nonprofit that supports the performing arts, helping their client understand the importance of solvency was its own reward.

The team — which won first place in a recent Kellogg case competition — was challenged to put together a plan that helped the organization fulfill its mission in a sustainable way, said team member Viviane Sales ’12. “We’ve always looked at the profit side, but nonprofits don’t work like that,” Sales said. “They have a mission that’s more important for them.”

For Stage 773, that mission is to support performing artists and the community by providing affordable rehearsal and performance space. Sales and her teammate Patrick Gaddie ’12 presented their case at Kellogg’s Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI) case competition Jan. 19, beating out four other Kellogg teams to win $750 for their client.

The NBI is a Kellogg student organization that matches teams of students with Chicago nonprofits and socially minded entrepreneurs to assist with business problems.

Stage 773 asked the team to develop a strategic business plan that would also fulfill its mission of supporting artists. Through their research, the Kellogg students determined that although the organization was fully booked, the performances were often low-capacity events and the quality of the productions was inconsistent. The team recommended that the organization be more selective when booking, while still supporting developing artists by scheduling them during non-prime hours.

Initially, some of Stage 773’s clients were resistant to the idea of changing the traditional first-come, first-served format. But the Kellogg students were able to demonstrate that if Stage 773 isn’t sustainable, it won’t be able to help any artists.

“One of the key stakeholders was the quintessential nonprofit client — very focused on art above anything else,” Gaddie said. “It was really important to translate how the financial side was relevant to them. When he did come around, he got really excited about it. They’re very serious about implementing the plan. They even asked a couple of us to join their board.”

The Stage 773 team also included Nicole deLambert ’12, Meghan Kelly ’12 and Benjamin Neuwirth ’12.

More than 100 students participated in the competition. The four other finalist teams included:

  • Samaritan Interfaith Counseling. Chi Lam Mak ’12, Brooke Houston ’12, Stephanie Maresh ’11, Nipapan Thumaprudti ’12, Mauricio Teramoto ’12 

  • WomanCraft. Sabrin Chowdhury ’12, Francisco Ruiz Esquide ’12, Kana Osugi ’12, Tony Shan ’12, Adrienne Day ’12 

  • The Ounce of Prevention Fund. Bryan Lee ’12, Jehann Biggs ’12, Karen Wu ’12, Ann Chen ’12, Marissa Heller ’12, Mahidhar Rayasam ’12 

  • The Rotary Foundation. Endre Kovács-Sebestény ’11, Simon Cohen Lazarov ’12, Sara Lo ’12, Deepak Ponnavolu ’12, Michiko Komatsu ’12