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Thriving with Babson

Free Range, a purpose-driven design and innovation consultancy, has leveraged Babson talent via student consulting projects and internships.

When Akeem Allen ’17 applied to spend a semester in San Francisco, he knew what he wanted to gain from the experience. “My hope was to engage with the entrepreneurial spirit of the Bay Area through hands-on experience.”  

With the help of Babson alumni, he and four classmates—Kojo Osei '17, David Trahan '17, Connor D’Amelia ’17 and Saad El Yamani ‘16—did just that.

Through a Consulting in Technology Entrepreneurship (CiTE) course, Allen and his classmates served as student consultants for Free Range, a design and innovation consultancy with offices in Oakland and Washington DC. Babson Adjunct Lecturer Randall Ussery MBA'16, CEO of Free Range, learned of the opportunity while finishing his MBA at Babson’s San Francisco campus. 

The Project

Free Range helps SMBs and NGOs innovate, grow, and navigate change. The CiTE team was brought on to assist with the company’s educational service, Free Range Labs. “We teach workshops focused on how to use storytelling to bring a brand to life and how to think about strategy in a complex age,” said Austin Dannhaus, director of strategy at Free Range. Babson’s student consultants came on to help evolve that offering.

“We hit the jackpot with our consulting team,” said Dannhaus. “They were incredibly bright, hardworking, eager, and ready to learn.”

The CiTE team spent 14 weeks working closely with Dannhaus to understand Free Range’s methodology, the learning management system industry, and what opportunities existed. “We brainstormed new ideas, researched competitors, and built out the content structure of the platform,” said Allen. “My classmates and I felt our opinions and ideas were valued, and that we were an essential part of building Labs. It was an empowering experience.”

The students’ work helped Free Range consider how best to deliver digital content that resonated with clients. “Their work has been instrumental in how we think about learning and how we advise clients,” said Dannhaus. 

The Internship

Though the CiTE team’s consultancy concluded after 14 weeks, Free Range was interested in continuing the work they began, and brought on Allen and Osei as the company’s inaugural intern class. “Our confidence in their abilities was a big factor in why we chose them,” said Dannhaus. “We knew they would show up on day one and provide value.”

Tara Barnes MBA’16, Free Range’s head of people and culture, said the internships were structured so the students could gain experience relevant to their career aspirations.

“Akeem had an interest in user experience, Kojo in strategy. So, we paired them with members of our team in those areas,” said Barnes. “They got to be immersed in our project process and everything we do to make end products for our clients.”

For Allen, the internship taught him the importance of finding focus and vision. “Change cannot happen in a project—or in the world—if there is no vision of what could be,” he said. “A clear vision will push you to challenge your assumptions and reach your goals.”

Continuing to THRIVE

Though student consultants and interns are no longer working in the Free Range office, the company remains connected to Babson. Ussery and Barnes are hard at work producing THRIVE, a series of conversations with founders, leaders, and change makers offered in partnership with Babson at the San Francisco campus.

“Our speakers will share insights on how they innovate, grow, and navigate change,” said Barnes. “It’s going to be incredibly valuable, especially for leaders involved in startups and running companies.”

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