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News & Events

From left to right: Kellogg students Robin Tang ’13, Amber Barkley ’13 and Mike Tobias ’13, members of the team that took first place at the Neighborhood Business Initiative’s annual case competition.

Kellogg students Robin Tang ’12, Amber Barkley ’13 and Mike Tobias ’13

Socially minded

Through the Neighborhood Business Initiative, Kellogg students solve critical business problems — and gain hands-on consulting experience

By Sara Langen

1/25/2012 - For many small organizations, consultants who can assist with business problems are a desperate, yet unaffordable need.

But thanks to Kellogg’s Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI), 26 Chicago-based organizations received high-level strategic assistance last fall from 110 Kellogg student volunteers. The projects culminated last week in the NBI Case Competition, when five finalist teams competed to win $1,000 for their clients.

NBI is a student-run organization that matches Kellogg students with Chicago nonprofits and socially-minded entrepreneurs. The program allows students to apply their industry expertise and experience in a way that impacts the community.

“Each team works with their organization to answer critical business questions that will shape the businesses over the next few years,” NBI Business Development partner Jonathan Davis ’12 said.

This year’s winning team worked with Heritage Link Brands, a wine company that supports underrepresented black-owned producers of South African wines. Judges from Bain & Company, Deloitte Consulting and the Civic Consulting Alliance chose the first- and second-place teams.

“The judges were very impressed with the scope of the Heritage Link Brands project,” NBI executive partner Ryan Letcher ’12 said. “They undertook blind taste testing, bottle label analysis and interviews with grocers and distributors, culminating in a very robust, comprehensive set of recommendations.”

Captain Robin Tang ’13 led the team in helping the company launch a new wine brand in the U.S. by conducting primary consumer research and devising a marketing strategy for the product’s introduction.

“The team is extremely happy that our work on the project paid off and more importantly, translated into $1,000 cash for the client,” Tang said. “It will be neat if the clients use the prize money to implement some of the recommendations in our final presentation.”

As the NBI program continues to grow, more students are getting experience working on rewarding projects that help organizations in a difficult economy, Letcher said.

“The competition this year was an especially exciting one. In addition to providing our largest prize to date, NBI projects reached beyond traditional nonprofits,” he said. “Interesting, innovative projects served both for-profit social enterprises and nonprofits interested in funding their charitable operations with income from paying customers, a tactic that nonprofits are increasingly using in today’s unsure economic conditions.”

Teams participating in the NBI Case Competition

FIRST PLACE: Heritage Link Brands
Robin Tang ’13
Theresa Khuu ’13
Amber Barkley ’13
Mike Tobias ’13
Tarra Thomas ’13

SECOND PLACE: Street-Level Youth Media
Hydie Kim ’13
Sam Sung ’13
Nina Vishwanath ’13
Soyeon Kim ’13

Chicago Hearing Society
Bob Frantz ’13
Yury Pensky ’13
Wendy Yip

Spark
Rebecca Johnson ’13
Elizabeth Cease ’13
Sebastine Ujereh ’13
Alyssa Spitulnik ’13

Spark Ventures
Steve Strine ’13
Anree Esguerra ’13
Stephanie Vietry ’13
Whit Bernard ’13