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Kellogg Helps Local Businesses

From Our Neighborhood News, Fall 2020

In the midst of a pandemic that has hit small businesses especially hard, Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management is stepping in to help with strategic consulting support for local business owners. 

In the first partnership of the new Kellogg Small Business Advisory Initiative, local Kellogg alumni and students are providing pro bono consulting to Evanston businesses in the areas of digital marketing and social media, public relations, financial planning and analysis, and human resource management. 

"I am thrilled to see Kellogg community coming together to support small businesses that are currently facing significant challenges," says Kellogg dean Francesca Cornelli. "We are a community defined by empathy, creativity, and innovation, and this effort is an inspiring example of our values in action." 

The idea was sparked during a conversation between Timothy Feddersen, professor of managerial economics and decision sciences, and Linda Darragh, executive director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, who had already been working to connect Kellogg alumni with startups and small businesses. 

"I've spoken with multiple Kellogg students, faculty, and alumni regarding the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on the economy, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses," Feddersen says. "The Kellogg community is looking for ways to help." 

The goal is to leverage Kellogg expertise to assist businesses in finding ways to survive the current crisis and, Feddersen hopes, come out stronger. "Kellogg is a global community, and hopefully we can start with Evanston and scale up from there." 

The initiative allows business owners to browse an online network of Kellogg volunteers across various functions and industries, then schedule meetings to discuss business challenges. Owners can also work with student volunteers on short-term projects, such as cash flow analysis.

"Conversations with local businesses have certainly touched on issues of financial uncertainty and reopening challenges, but they have also focused on how the core of their businesses is shifting," Darragh says. "They are facing strategic and marketing issues that benefit from the expertise of the Northwestern community."

According to Darragh, much of the assistance is focused on marketing, especially for businesses that need to rethink how to identify and attract new customers in uncertain times.

Northwestern's student-run microfinance organization Lending for Evanston and Northwestern Development will also work with the city to provide short-term, no-interest loans to local businesses. 

"Our businesses are the cornerstone of our community," say Evanston mayor Stephen Hagerty, "They create an experience and sense of place that makes Evanston special. Leveraging Kellogg's network of volunteers, expertise, and know-how will help our businesses more quickly recover from this unprecedented global pandemic."

TO LEARN MORE and to sign up for the program, Evanston business owners can visit evanstonnu.startuptree.co.