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Kellogg alumni and students partner with local businesses to navigate pandemic

Northwestern, City of Evanston launch pro bono consulting initiative

Northwestern University and its Kellogg School of Management are partnering with the City of Evanston to provide strategic consulting support to local business owners.

This is the first partnership of the new Kellogg Small Business Advisory Initiative. Local Kellogg alumni and students will provide pro bono consulting to Evanston business owners in high-demand areas, including digital marketing and social media, public relations, financial planning and analysis, and human resources management. In addition, Northwestern’s student-run microfinance organization, LEND (Lending for Evanston and Northwestern Development), will work with the City of Evanston to provide short-term, no-interest loans to local businesses.

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

The initiative allows Evanston business owners to set up a profile on Startup Tree, a software provider that facilitates university entrepreneurship. Local business owners can browse the Kellogg network of volunteers across functions and industries and schedule meetings to discuss their business challenges. They also can work with student volunteers on short-term projects, such as cash flow analysis.

"Our businesses are the cornerstone of our community," said 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."

The idea was sparked during a conversation between Timothy Feddersen, professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Kellogg, 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 that COVID-19 is having on the economy, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, and the Kellogg community is looking for ways to help,” Feddersen said. “The goal is to leverage Kellogg expertise to help these businesses find ways to survive the current crisis and, hopefully, come out even stronger. Kellogg is a global community and hopefully we can start with Evanston and scale up from there.”

Evanston business owners can sign up for the program online.

Alumni and students interested in learning more about the Kellogg Small Business Advisory Initiative can contact Maggie Cong-Huyen at