Alli McKee

Alli McKee

M.S. in Commerce (Marketing & Management) 2010, University of Virginia

B.A. in American Studies and Studio Art 2009, University of Virginia

After: Bain & Company, Consultant (San Francisco, CA)

Now: Stick, CEO and Founder (Los Angeles, CA)

Leveraging liberal arts with business
Alli McKee painting

I use my critical thinking from American Studies and my creative thinking from Studio Art every single day as an entrepreneur. Much like art, starting a company is all about understanding what's come before you, learning from why it failed or succeeded, and creating something better in its place. To succeed, though, the most important thing you can do is to understand people—your employees, your partners, your customers. Those years in the College helped me to build that emotional intelligence so I could do that.

Most memorable class

I often think about Professor Peter Maillet walking into our pre-GIE boot camp class and saying, “You all are in the top 1% of educated people on this planet. Not even. The 1% of the 1%. So if you won't do something to change this world, who will?”

Preparation for a career in business

The M.S. in Commerce Program gave me the hard skills I needed to break into the business world. I was the only Studio Art and American Studies major in my start class at Bain (and was probably the only one in the whole office!). Without the M.S. in Commerce Program, I wasn't able to apply my liberal arts degree in a practical, marketable way.

Advice for those interested in entrepreneurship

Do it. It may seem overwhelming, but as one of my professors who I had while pursuing my M.B.A. at the Stanford Graduate School of Business says, “Risk goes down in chunks.” But make sure you're doing first, then talking about it. Not the other way around.

Importance of GIE experience

My GIE to Europe in 2010 was so powerful because it gave me the opportunity to both learn about global business and contribute to a company at the same time. As students, you often forget that you have some good ideas, too. Although I got so much out of the GIE personally and professionally, I gave a lot to our partner company through our project, too.

Most memorable GIE company visit

The BMW factory in Germany was like something out of a movie. I had somehow held on to the idea of a bunch of guys in overalls building cars one piece at a time. Instead, it was a series of demonic-looking robots whizzing and whirring with only centimeters to spare.

Alli McKee paintingLife after the M.S. Commerce Program

Life is full! I've lived in San Francisco working for Bain and Company for clients ranging from casino retail to pet food. I moved to South Africa for two years and taught entrepreneurial leadership and creative arts at African Leadership Academy to students from 44 different countries. I obtained my MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and started my business, Stick, that pivots every week. It has been full of learning and really wonderful people.

Favorite Charlottesville activity

Nothing beats a good Thursday at the Virginian.

Paintings by Allison McKee, M.S. in Commerce ’10 (universitypaintings.com)