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Jewish Federation Next-Gen leader profile

Danny Mayer has a two-part strategy that has helped him achieve his goals time and again. Part one of the strategy is networking. Part two is having an impact wherever he gets involved.
Networking was the reason Danny got involved in the Business and Professionals Series, the Jewish Federation’s initiative to connect Jewish professionals ages 21 to 45 to each other and the Kansas City business community. Having an impact is why he agreed to serve as this year’s chair of the series.

Networking has always come naturally to Mayer, who was president of his fraternity at the University of Michigan. It was also an important goal after leaving his management consulting job with Ernst & Young in Chicago to attend business school at Columbia University in New York City.

“I realized,” he said, “that if I could get into a good school with people smarter than me, I could learn from them and have contacts all over the world.”

It was through his Columbia network that he met Tina Maddigan, the original Sophie from “Mamma Mia” on Broadway, whom he married in 2005.

“A buddy from business school invited me to a party at a bar. She was there, we had a great conversation and a month later, I went to the show and there she was singing in front of a sold-out crowd of 1,500 people. I went backstage to say hello and we started dating.”

NYC to KC Networking

After grad school, Mayer joined Bloomberg and later Reuters, where he helped build and expand their electronic trading systems. In 2008, he joined a small tech company, where he was instrumental in launching a global product to create more transparency between institutions and their clients.

But he and Maddigan, whose son Riley was an infant, faced a decision.

“We lived in a one-bedroom shoebox in the middle of Manhattan,” he said. “If we got a two-bedroom in the city, I would have to make a lot more money. Or, we could move out to the suburbs like a lot of my colleagues, with a two-hour commute to work and no relationship with my family — which isn’t the point of having a family.

“The financial markets were blowing up when I told my boss I was moving to Kansas City and didn’t have a job. He looked at me like I had a third eye. My office was across the street from Lehman Brothers. Still, Tina and I felt there would never be a better time to make the switch. So I began networking like crazy.”

Mayer’s approach to networking in Kansas City focused less on landing a job than meeting influential leaders, finding out what makes the city tick and exploring how to get involved. In March 2009, he joined Cornerstone Financial Group as chief marketing officer and head of practice development.

Connecting business and professionals

Through the networking process, Mayer met Neal Schwartz, a vice president at Cerner who was also the chair of the Federation’s Business and Professionals Series. Schwartz invited him to a B&P program and to join the planning committee. The following year, Mayer spearheaded a “Meet the Mayors” program attended by more than 100 people at Sullivan’s Steak House in Leawood. This year, as chair of the series, he’s building on that momentum. In January, more than 100 people gathered at the offices of Lathrop & Gage to hear three area advertising executives discuss the industry and its future in Kansas City.

Mayer is looking forward to the same turnout at the next B&P event on March 22, “Attaining Your Aspirations” at Sunlight Day Spas in Overland Park. The group will learn from three exceptional Kansas City leaders and entrepreneurs who transformed their personal life experiences into meaningful and successful careers. Panelists include former Chiefs linebacker and Founder of ADA Charities, Anthony Davis; Mary Lucas, founder and president of MBL Consulting and author of “Lunchmeat & Life Lessons: Sharing a Butcher’s Wisdom,” and Connie Zack, co-owner and chief sales officer of Sunlighten, owner of Sunlight Day Spas.

Mayer offers several explanations for the series’ appeal. Last year’s high-touch guerilla marketing campaign reached out to a broad cross-section of Jewish young professionals. But also, he says, “People like the idea that they can come to these programs and meet movers and shakers, pick their brains about what’s happening in the community and perhaps grab a nugget of wisdom.”

Mayer isn’t sure how he might be involved with the Federation down the road.

“For now,” he says, “I just enjoy the focus on business and want to make B&P the best it can be.”

Beyond that, he’s enjoying the simple pleasures that enticed him and Maddigan to move here: an affordable home near good schools, a 10-minute commute to work, time to spend with his kids, including 3-month-old daughter Sadie, a vibrant business community — and plenty of people who share his zeal for networking, leadership and making a difference.

Danny Mayer

• Born in Kansas City, 1975
• Shawnee Mission East, 1993
• University of Michigan, Bachelor’s of Business Administration, 1997
• Columbia University, Master of Business Administration, Finance & General Management, 2002
• Chief Marketing Officer & Head of Practice Development, Cornerstone Financial Group
• Lives in Overland Park
• Married to Tina Maddigan
• Children: Riley 3, Sadie 3 months
• Recent Reading: “The Dip,” by Seth Godin
• Favorite Movie: “Princess Bride”
• Favorite Restaurant: Mr. Bigg’s in New York City
• Favorite Jewish Food: Matzah balls
• Trips to Israel: None
• Pets: Brie, the cat, and BD, a black lab retriever