New business-to-business speaker series to feature hospitality industry leader on Aug. 19

As part of its commitment to inclusion and supporting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses, the University of Chicago has launched a new speaker series consisting of intimate and engaging conversations with highly successful entrepreneurs and influential business leaders. NBA player-turned-CEO Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman will be the featured speaker on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Led by the University’s Office of Business Diversity, the Business-to-Business Entrepreneurial Speaker Series is open to any minority or female business owner who wants to learn from those who have found business success.

Chicago has long been a world-class and progressive city as it relates to minority-owned businesses,” said Nadia Quarles, assistant vice president of the Office of Business Diversity. “In addition to engaging great minority- and women-owned businesses in contract opportunities with the University, we also want to connect them to seasoned entrepreneurs who can share their business insight, expertise and resources. The speaker series is designed around that concept,” Quarles added.

Bridgeman, chief executive officer of Bridgeman Hospitality Group, will present “From the NBA’s Best Sixth Man to President & CEO,” the second session in the speaker series, which officially kicked off in June. This session will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 19 on the ninth floor of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Registration is currently open for those interested in attending.

Bridgeman enjoyed a standout career at the University of Louisville before beginning a 12-year NBA career as a guard/forward with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. After retiring at the age of 33 in 1987, he parlayed a passion for business—and a love of hamburgers—into five underperforming Milwaukee-area Wendy’s restaurants. That investment laid the groundwork for his company, Bridgeman Hospitality Group, which today counts more than 18,000 people on its staff, and is the second-largest owner of Wendy’s franchises in the country, operating 195 restaurants.

Bridgeman Hospitality, in total, operates more than 400 restaurants across 18 states, which includes more than 100 Chili’s restaurants and ownership in various retail franchises, such as Fazoli’s and Perkins restaurants. 

“The world is changing so much faster today,” said Bridgeman, who served as president of the NBA Players Association in his playing days, and was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. “You must be as knowledgeable about your business as possible and the many things that can affect you. I think it is great to be able to share insights and hopefully knowledge after 30 years in this business, which may help someone to avoid my mistakes.”

The event will be presented in conjunction with Aramark Corporation, the University’s official food service vendor, which has partnered with the University to provide mentorship services to local food service companies. Aramark is also a business partner with Bridgeman Hospitality.

“The Aramark and Bridgeman Hospitality Group partnership brings together two award-winning companies to deliver world-class hospitality experiences to the clients and communities we serve,” said Ash Hanson, Aramark’s vice president of diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “This was a natural fit as both companies share similar values based on integrity, innovation and service excellence.”