Alumni Success Story: The UIC Business Entrepreneurial Spirit

Chris Kearney, BS Marketing '09
Entrepreneur and owner of College Rising

Chris Kearney

Photo Credit: Erica Minix

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the west burbs of Chicago in Burr Ridge and Willow Springs.

What prompted you to choose UIC? Did you enroll knowing you'd major in business?

I came to UIC as a transfer student from the College of DuPage and Joliet Junior College.  My two school options were UIC and UIUC. I had a few close friends at each school, but thought UIC was a great value compared to other four year institutions.

Prior to moving into my neighborhood in UIC's backyard, Little Italy, I managed a T-Mobile store while attending community college and realized I was good at sales and building relationships.  Together, these experiences gave me a clear picture that I wanted to major in business.

Is there a stand out moment, class, or professor you still remember often?

David Koehler is one of two professors who stand out most. He taught marketing, advertising, business planning and personal selling. This was the only teacher I have seen where there were a flock of students working on projects regularly at night and on weekends near his office. These classes allowed students to work as groups and enter into competitions to complete marketing campaigns on campus for organizations like the FBI, CIA, Nissan and Target. There were also projects where we could work with alumni business owners and experience the real world first hand. His style of teaching was far from the norm. He would make jokes when things were easy with a client, but set us straight when we were not meeting our deadlines for projects. His teaching brought the classmates together to make friends and learn from each other rather than just from the teacher.

I also remember taking market research with Professor Eugene Fregetto, which was no easy task. We had difficult tests and a large workload project.  We worked on identifying a problem, taking surveys to better inform us about the problem, and completing a research paper for our client. When I started my business, the first step for me was research.  I went back to speak to Professor Freggetto and he was there with a helping hand.  Even today, I meet with him regularly to discuss my business activities. It always pays to get to know your professors!

Where did the idea behind College Rising come from?

When I began school at UIC,  I took a risk and found a two bedroom apartment even though I knew I could not afford it on my own. It all worked out because I found a roomate, but many students do not want to task this risk or simply can't afford to.  By the time I secured my second lease a year later, it became clear to me that many students were having the same problems securing places to live.  As graduation neared, I had enough background working through internships, a sales background because of my work at T-Mobile and Verizon, and enough support and feedback from professors, friends, and family, that I was encouraged to launch College Rising.

How was being a business major helpful to starting your own business?

Being a business major gave me the basic skill set needed to smartly launch a business. I was able to learn a lot from my peers and through internships, 3/5 of which I secured through UIC Business.

What advice would you give to students and alumni looking to start a new business?

You can start today, especially as a UIC student! There are so many opportunities available, and there are people who can give you advice, feedback and resources. I had a lot of questions when I launched my business, and I was able to get help from professors and classmates.

Visit College Rising's website to learn more.