Want to hear more from Andrew? Join fellow Metro Detroit Spartans on Monday, June 17th at Calexico for an intimate conversation with Andrew as he shares more about his journey as an entrepreneur in Detroit, as well as his passion for engaging with Michigan State University as an accomplished young alumnus.The evening will include appetizers from Calexico! Seating is limited to 25 people, so act fast and RSVP now for what promises to be an incredible evening. Click here to register now!
What motivated you attend MSU?
My entire childhood I was raised to be a Wolverine fan (unfortunately). Two of my uncles went there and my entire extended family always cheered for the University of Michigan. When it finally came time for me to choose a college, I found myself in a situation that I never thought I would be in. I had gotten accepted to both U of M and MSU and I was dead set on attending U of M. I had never wanted to go anywhere else. However, when I went to visit MSU’s campus, I had the opportunity to meet some of the faculty and sit in on some of the classes, something just clicked for me. I appreciated everything that I saw and how I was treated across the board. Every person I met went out of their way to ensure the objectives of my visit were accomplished. I was engaged by the professors and their unique styles. The personalities and the warmth of everyone I interacted with stood out. There was a clear focus on education and camaraderie, with no alternative motive or agenda. Ultimately, I made a choice I never thought I would, I chose to go to MSU over U of M and I believe it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
How did MSU shape you into the successful entrepreneur you are today?
One element of being a Spartan that I believe goes unnoticed is how the campus environment at MSU shapes our personalities. There is a common theme amongst Spartans. Whether you are an introvert or an extravert we develop a certain level of self-confidence, charisma and compassion as students throughout our coursework and general college experience at MSU. I believe that is a testament to how the institution is setup, the type of individuals who attend and the duty all students assume in maintaining and building on the legacy of those who graduated before them. As an entrepreneur today, I find myself in many different situations, ranging from engaging with other professionals, to potential clients to working collaboratively with my business partners and staff. The backbone and pillars of how I operate in a business setting and how I collaborate with others were molded by my experience at MSU. I truly believe I have a competitive advantage.
Who was your biggest mentor (faculty or staff) at MSU?
I am not sure I would necessarily call him my mentor, but I had a great math teacher named Eric Waggoner that had a large impact on me. Eric had a great way of connecting with each of the students and I learned how to craft my message in order to be more effective. He tailored his lesson plan and approach based on the skill level and personality of each student. He pushed us to meet others in the class that we didn’t know which ultimately led to me having to learn how to work with people that have different styles and motivations than myself. I have been able to take lessons from Eric’s class and apply them to many different aspects of business and in life. Sometimes a math class is not just a math class.
How did MSU lead you into your current career path?
Since I was 16 I wanted to pursue a career in Finance. Through the Lear Center, my professors, the Finance Association and numerous other resources I learned more about the different types of opportunities that were available to me. From setting up interviews, to connecting with prominent MSU alumni, to getting me direct access to decision makers at prominent companies, MSU gave me the opportunity to meet with numerous employers, including General Mills, which ultimately became my employer for nearly the first 10 years of my career. Without access to the senior leaders of General Mills who proactively targeted students at the Finance Association Career Fair, I never would have gained the foundation for my career as a partner at an Investment Bank (specializing in Food & Beverage), Restauranteur and Venture Capitalist.
Why have you picked the Detroit area as your focus for your full-time work and entrepreneurial pursuits?
The first 10 years of my career I was hyper focused on getting differentiated experiences within General Mills while taking on increased responsibility. That hyper focus led to a lot of relocations throughout my entire career. I moved approximately every 18 months throughout my entire tenure, but got the opportunity to work in numerous U.S. cities (Minneapolis, Quincy, Miami) and overseas (Buenos Aires and Johannesburg). Ultimately I always knew I wanted to pursue something more entrepreneurial. Once I made the decision to leave General Mills I knew that Detroit was where I wanted to be. In addition to my entire extended family being here, I was excited to play a role in the resurgence of the city following the financial crisis and bankruptcy. I had made some investments in the city and I wanted to build something great and make a meaningful impact in my hometown.
How is staying engaged with MSU as an alumnus valuable to you as a full-time professional and business owner?
Staying engaged with MSU has been extremely valuable for me in a variety of ways. First and foremost, the MSU alumni base globally has went on to do amazing things in a variety of professions. Staying engaged has allowed me to build a strong network both personally and professionally. I have connections all over the U.S. and abroad that have been instrumental in helping me build and find new opportunities. The bond between Spartans has allowed me to quickly gain the confidence of fellow alumni that I have met in business, philanthropic and personal endeavors. The benefits of the alumni network range to building new business relationships and gaining new clients to finding new high quality employees. The benefits have been extraordinary and I have tried my best to pay it forward as well.
Anything else that Detroit Spartans should know about you personally or professionally?
I am very excited to be back in my hometown of Detroit after being away for more than 10 years. I have went all-in on a number of business ventures in addition to finding more ways to be more involved in the surrounding communities since moving back in 2014. Whether it is new business opportunities, mentorship, or building a general relationship, I am always looking to connect with fellow Spartans. If there is anything I would want people to know about me it is that I am relentlessly focused and driven to make anything I take part in successful, including the people I do it with. Although I feel scattered at times across a variety of the ventures I am a part of, I always make a point to be present in whatever I am doing at that time. If I am meeting with you for an hour, you will have my attention and I will be sure to follow through to the best of my ability on what was discussed. If you are a client or customer of mine, I constantly think about what you are concerned about and how I can try to mitigate it as much as possible. If you are colleague of mine, you can always reach out to me for guidance and feel comfortable sharing things, even if it is not what I want to hear. If you are a company or a person that I have invested in or mentor, know that you are in my thoughts as I interact with my broader network and I am always thinking of ways to help, although I may not always be available for an immediate meeting or a call. Lastly, but most importantly, with regard to family, friends, and the community, I always strive to make a lasting impact. I want to be known as someone that can be relied upon and trusted.