1871 Business Development Associate, Colleen Maxwell, sat down with Andres Mendoza-Pena from 1871 partner and 2015 Momentum Awards Corporate Champion, A.T. Kearney. She asked him more about A.T. Kearney’s commitment to the Chicago ecosystem and what the team has learned from 1871’s startups.
Colleen: Tell me about your role within A.T. Kearney.
Andres: I am a Partner in the Strategy and Topline Transformation (STLT) practice at A.T. Kearney. We are charged with helping companies grow their businesses. I work across many industries, but am currently focusing on the retail industry. I also manage A.T. Kearney’s partnership with 1871. A big part of our partnership is providing several startups with strategic advice through our pro bono consulting program. We have a dedicated team of A.T. Kearney consultants who commit to helping an 1871 startup address a specific challenge or opportunity during a period of 10-12 weeks. The consultants and the startup then work hand-in-hand to conduct research, analysis, and derive insights that help the startups scale their business. This program has proven to advance the thinking of the entrepreneurs.
Colleen: What was your ultimate goal for partnering with 1871?
Andres: At the beginning of the partnership we had two goals: 1) To get closer to the world of innovation and entrepreneurship. We really wanted to get firsthand exposure to the startup world and learn more about how entrepreneurs think and operate. Ultimately, we wanted this exposure so we could have more meaningful conversations with clients who struggle with the topic of innovation. 2) We also wanted to have a meaningful way to give back to the community. By conducting the pro bono consulting work, we were able to help Chicago’s economy while simultaneously providing our consultants with an exciting program to help them get experience in world of entrepreneurship. As a result of our work with 1871, a third, unintended goal also surfaced: The pro bono consulting program with 1871 has become a popular program for our recruiting purposes, especially for students graduating from top MBA programs. It’s really attractive for candidates to have the opportunity to work for a consulting firm that will also allow them to have a client in the startup world.
Colleen: How has your relationship with 1871 helped your business? What are some highlights you can share with me?
Andres: We are making meaningful connections between our large corporate clients and the startups at 1871. We have already brought some of our clients to 1871 and exposed them to a curated set of startup technologies in relevant areas to help them foster innovation within their own corporation. This has been a great way to position ourselves as a strategic advisor to clients — it’s helped us go above and beyond the traditional project relationship. In addition, we have learned a lot about how startups think about business model innovation and operations. This has been helpful in bringing a new dimension to thinking about how we advise our clients.
Colleen: What advice would you give to other corporations that are currently partnering or thinking about partnering with 1871?
Andres: You must be willing to give first in order to get something in return. When we first started our relationship with 1871, we didn’t have a very specific, short-term outcome in mind, but we knew we had something to give. We are always looking for meaningful ways to give back to the community — we decided to partner with 1871 to find the most impactful way to work with entrepreneurs in the Chicago ecosystem. The pro bono consulting program is what resulted from that partnership — the experience has provided us with invaluable knowledge and benefits over time.