2019 - 2020 Year in ReviewSeptember 2019 - August 2020

Navigating the new.


This year, we practiced what we teach at The Garage and pivoted quickly to move our operations online while supporting our community in new and creative ways. We continue to be proud of the resiliency of our students and alumni and the support they provide to one another. We’re looking forward to navigating the new normal together with our community of entrepreneurs that strive to make our world a better place.

We aim to teach students to dream bigger through the journey of entrepreneurship.

Amidst global challenge, we need flexible problem-solvers who thrive on making lemonade out of lemons. Students at The Garage stepped up in every way imaginable as we introduced The (Virtual) Garage, exemplifying our pillars of trusting yourself, doing the work, and forging your own path.

Rachel Cantor, School of Communication ’20, used her extra time at home to author a wildly popular email newsletter, which landed her a full-time job at Morning Brew after graduation.

Ibraheem Alinur, McCormick ’20, co-founder of City Health Tech, launches his IoT product to market at the right time, tackling global health with tracking and teaching good handwashing habits and techniques and has mentions on notable platforms, such as the Obama Foundation.

Matt Zients, SESP ’20, co-founder of Connect & Care, pivots his business model to offer remote volunteering opportunities to those interested in giving back, no matter where they are, through a unique and individualized matching program.

Drake Weissman, Weinberg ’20, co-founder of eo, used his fleet of dockless bike-sharing bikes to coordinate food delivery to local Evanston residents during the height of a pandemic.

Katie Hoffman, School of Communication ’21, honed her entrepreneurial skills and dropped a podcast miniseries about networking authentically and connecting with confidence through interviews and evidence-based research.


In October 2019, we sent a group of our Propel ambassadors on the second annual #GirlBoss trip to New York City, where we visited offices like Spotify and SheSpoke (founded by famed Northwestern alum Stephanie March, SoC ’96). We even chatted with Stacey Cunningham – the first female President of the NYSE in its 200+ year history.

Later in the year, we celebrated the talent and creativity of the second cohort of Propellers with a Virtual Propel Showcase. From sustainable fashion to at-home DNA testing, the achievements of the Propellers are nothing short of impressive. See it all at www.propelshowcase.com.

New Friends New Friends

In June, Sherrell Dorsey was selected as the first ever recipient of the Medill / The Garage Fellowship! Sherrell is the founder of The Plug, a digital news platform covering the Black innovation economy, investigating and reporting on Black tech trends, stories, and breaking news.

We’re also looking back on some other exciting meet and greets from the year. In February, we heard from award-winning author and entrepreneur Dave Eggers in a conversation with Medill Dean, Charles Whitaker at The Garage. We also took our annual experiential field trip with the second Little Joe Ventures cohort to Los Angeles and were thrilled to have lunch with Maye Musk – model, entrepreneur, dietician, and mother to Elon Musk – to hear her story and learn about the release of her book, A Woman Makes a Plan.


In January, The Garage launched X-Factor, a revolutionary leadership development program for student founders.

Developed in partnership with Jennifer Tackett, a Northwestern psychology professor, the program is focused on assessing and enhancing students’ capacity for transformational leadership (that’s the kind associated with being a disrupter). The pilot program was generously funded by a gift from Tom Verghese KSM ’04.

The inaugural cohort hopped on a plane to Austin – a booming entrepreneurial hub – and visited established leaders at Bumble, Silvercar, and Blink Identity. They also enjoyed a panel with four Austin-based alums.

Ben Preston, Kellogg ’21 + co-founder of Gearflow

VentureCat Raises the Bar for Pitch Competitions

The Garage added Jessa Fuller to the team as the VentureCat Senior Program Administrator, who successfully coordinated an incredible VentureCat event in a completely virtual format! Prize money was increased to more than $300,000 of non-dilutive capital thanks to the generosity of the Levy Institute and Lanny and Sharon Martin.
We were thrilled that the First Place Grand Prize winner was none other than Gearflow, co-founded by Ben Preston Kellogg ’21 – a founding student member of our downtown initiative, The Garage at The Sardine Bar!

The Best is Yet to Come​ The Best is Yet to Come​ The Best is Yet to Come​

Between launching unique programs and operating new spaces in downtown Chicago and San Francisco, we were thriving in our exciting and fast-paced growth. And then, the team had to pivot everything to move the magic of our student experience online in a matter of weeks in March. However, our community once again exemplified true resiliency and adapted quickly.

We really missed being able to say farewell to our graduating students, but we know that despite a cupcake-less send-off, they are entering their next chapters equipped with the entrepreneurial toolkit that will lead them to every success they can imagine. Hear the impact The Garage had on our most recent grads in their own words in our #GarageGrads video below.

We are approaching the new year with optimism, and as always, some exciting changes. Our former associate director, Hayes Ferguson, has taken on a new role as the director of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and we’re excited for all the ways we will continue to work with her. And we welcomed Mike Raab ’12, formerly director of The Garage SF, to Evanston to join us as our associate director.

The world surely looked different this year, and we know we’ll have to continue to adjust and adapt as more changes head our way, but with a thriving community that refuses to accept the status quo, I’m confident the best is yet to come.

— Melissa Kaufman + The Garage Team

“It’s a brave new world, and no one is better prepared than the entrepreneurial leaders we are creating at The Garage.”