ITA Spotlight: CUBE Consulting
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Posted by: Gary Hotze
Few undergraduate students can say they spend their free time running and growing a business. But that's precisely what these University of Illinois students do. By leveraging the unique and diverse perspective of its members, these students tackle projects that genuinely impact clients' businesses.
Katherine Kiang, Director, Champaign Urbana Business and Engineering (CUBE Consulting)
In 25 words or less, what is CUBE Consulting all about?
Guided by our values of growth, impact, leadership, and diversity, we seek to spread our mission of working on meaningful projects for businesses.
What problem do you solve and how do you address it better than the competition?
We specialize in tackling the critical initiatives and questions companies have but don't necessarily have the background or time to address. As a student-run organization, we bring in a unique outside perspective. For example, many of our local clients come to us because they are unsure of how to best market to the University of Illinois student body. The synergy in combining the perspectives of students in top caliber engineering, business, and design programs not only allows us to view problems from a very holistic perspective but also gives us the capacity to work on a variety of projects across industries. In a recent project, a team was able to leverage their diverse backgrounds to not only help a startup improve the technical aspects of their prototype design, but also to help create financial models to aid the client in discussions with potential investors. This core competency allows us to create more detailed and implementable deliverable recommendations for our clients as compared to our competitors.
How did you get started?
CUBE Consulting started in 2012 as part of an educational initiative through the University of Illinois called iFoundry. The structure of our organization was inspired by an international movement of thousands of students across hundreds of universities known as Junior Enterprise. Junior Enterprises seek to impact businesses and provide students with real-world experiences through meaningful projects. Junior Enterprises are entirely student-run, and therefore students also get the benefit of running an organization. CUBE Consulting is the first Junior Enterprise in the United States. As of 2016, the Junior Enterprise USA movement has been expanding, and we recently had our inaugural conference.
How has your company culture evolved as CUBE Consulting has grown?
As we've grown, our culture has begun to transition from a startup culture to one of a more established organization. For example, roles have started to be more defined, and best practices have been established. However, the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that jump-started this organization is still active. This energy allows us to ensure we are leveraging our core competencies while also continuously striving to improve and take on new challenges.
What are your primary goals for CUBE Consulting?
Our primary goal is twofold. One, we want to provide valuable, data-driven insights to clients to help them improve their businesses. When we follow up with clients after an engagement, we look for the direct, quantitative impact of our work. Two, we want to provide an environment in which members learn from each other, push each other to be their best, and have opportunities for career exploration and career preparation. Our projects and leadership opportunities are the main avenues for this, but we also strive to bring in outside experts and mentors to provide additional opportunities. While our alumni have gone on to pursue a variety of careers, what they have in common as a result of their time in CUBE is the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, because they know that mentality is essential to improve a business.
Where do you see CUBE Consulting in two years? Five? Ten?
In two years, we see CUBE expanding its client base further to include Fortune 500 companies. We also see ourselves as a continuing leader in a growing Junior Enterprise USA movement as it develops from tens to hundreds of Junior Enterprises in the United States. Finally, we see our reputation on campus growing and us taking up more of the student consulting service market share.
In five years, we see CUBE growing to take on a more substantial number of projects, offering more professional development opportunities for students, and having stronger relationships with industry partners. This growth will ensure we are viewed as the premier consulting organization within the University of Illinois.
In ten years, we see the CUBE alumni base continue to grow and become a driving force for innovation in the corporate world and beyond. This foundation will, in turn, allow more opportunities, such as larger projects and more cash flow within the organization, for members.
What’s the No. 1 thing on your to-do list?
Short term: Getting projects for this next semester off to their best start yet. This includes implementing updated training as well as more formalized internal feedback for our members.
Long-term: Working to ensure the best practices in our organization are well suited for scaling and offer the right balance of flexibility and guidance to achieve our long-term goals.
In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of being an Illinois business?
Pro: The Midwestern cultures. People genuinely want to help each other out.
Con: Some of the more innovative and exciting business opportunities are somewhat centered in Chicago.
What are the most significant challenges you face as you scale your business?
Members graduating each semester is part of any student organization, so knowledge transfer and a consistent, unified vision as leadership turns over is an essential challenge to overcome.
Scaling towards larger and additional clients while maintaining our established project quality and the hands-on experiential learning for students can also be a fine line to balance.
This one is all you. Anything else you want to tell us?
We're always looking for partners! You can become involved as a client, mentor, or sponsor. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.