10 Years Of Kellogg’s Zell Fellowship: ‘If Everyone Is Going Left, Look Right’

Jorge Alejandro “Andro” Rodriguez, MBA ‘19

Zell venture: Armour House Group

Armour House Group was a traditional search fund. Throughout my search I focused on technology and healthcare services. After searching for more than 2 years, I decided to sunset Armour House Group at the end of 2021.

Why did you choose Kellogg? Kellogg had everything I was looking for in an MBA – a world class entrepreneurship program with Zell Fellows, a top family business program, star professors in the fields I majored in, and an unbeatable culture. I always appreciated autonomy and building something that had purpose, so entrepreneurship had been an interest of mine since before Kellogg.

What prompted you to apply for the Zell Fellows? Describe your journey in the program. I wrote my application essays about pursuing entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA). Kellogg had the strongest and most developed ETA curriculum of the M7 schools and a big part of that was Zell Fellows’ ETA track. Joining Zell Fellows was part of my MBA plan from the beginning.

My journey in the program began in the last quarter of my first year with the idea of pursuing ETA as a venture of the family business after Kellogg. That idea quickly pivoted as I learned about the different models of ETA. I took advantage of opportunities Zell Fellows gave me to go deeper into the ETA world by speaking to searchers/Searcher CEOs about their experience, meeting with my ETA track mates weekly to learn search skills and strategy, work on leadership development, and mentorship from Zell Fellow program leaders.

Andro Rodriguez

What was most helpful about the program? What was the most unexpected? The coaching, mentoring, and camaraderie I received from my cohort mates and Zell Fellows leadership was what I found most helpful about the program. Most unexpected for me was to choose a traditional search post-Kellogg.

What challenges did you encounter with your venture that the fellowship helped you overcome? In the program, you spend a lot of time talking about the mental aspects of entrepreneurship. Search is riddled with high highs and a lot of low lows. Without the preparation I received throughout the fellowship about how to handle the mental aspects of the journey, I would not have been able to pivot quickly, refocus on new niches, and be relentless with my time.

How would you say the fellowship aided in the success or development of your venture, and your skills as a founder/leader? In my track’s weekly programming, we practiced evaluating niches as if we were already in the search. This practice gave me the tools to screen a niche quickly and understand when to dig in, go deep, or move on to the next idea. Zell Fellows helped me be nimbler in my search.

What’s next for you and/or your venture? Right now, I’m having a lot of fun working with my family, however, I know that building something of my own is important to me. I’ve always had a deep curiosity for franchises and real estate. With a couple of partners, I’ve begun to explore these two spaces.

There are an abundance of resources Fellows have access to from mentorship and community to opportunities to apply experience and knowledge in a real-world setting. What do you think was most impactful to you as a student entrepreneur?  The Zell Fellow program was a driving factor for why I chose to pursue an MBA at Kellogg. I spent several years wanting to strike out on my own after banking but lacked the tools and confidence to do so. In the program, I found a community of like minded people determined to build big things and not afraid to fail.

I chose to pursue the ETA track because at the time I wasn’t comfortable with entrepreneurship via a startup. Instead, I was more familiar with the buy and build approach that is more commonly seen in LATAM. As a student entrepreneur, I took advantage of nearly all the resources available to me – mentorship, community, funding, coaching, and various opportunities to apply what we learned in a real-world setting. However, the most impactful to me was the combination of coaching and mentorship.

Through our coaching resource we were able to take a Hogan assessment. The report gave me a better grasp of my work style and how I could become a better leader. Mentorship from Matt Littell, Alex Schneider, and my track mates complimented the assessment by reinforcing how I could put these insights to work during my time in the program. Ultimately, the combination of coaching and mentorship better equipped me for the search I launched post-graduation.

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