Kardatzke finds purpose in business innovation, giving back to community

Dan Kardatzke isn’t afraid to take chances. Since graduating from Gies College of Business, Kardatzke (FIN ’96) has followed his passion into the corporate finance and entrepreneurial fields. He is now the President and CFO at Solstice, a high-growth, Chicago-based digital innovation firm. Kardatzke has done it all. He’s started a business from scratch and also joined a high-level business that helps Fortune 500 companies succeed. Kardatzke credits his Gies College of Business education for preparing him to navigate life’s challenges.

Dan KardatzkeQ. What are your main responsibilities as President and CFO at Solstice?
A. As President & CFO I’m responsible for the Office, IT and Finance operations of the business along with driving our new business areas such as our Partnerships and Emerging Tech Capabilities.

Q. What successes have you seen during your 5+ years at Solstice?
A. We’ve seen triple digit growth over the last five years. We’ve grown the company from a firm with fewer than 100 employees to one that is now global. Solstice’s 400+ employees serve some of the largest companies in the world with their digital transformation efforts. I’ve also been a part of a successful sale of the company to a global firm based out of London.

Q. You’ve written about taking chances in your career, and jumping at opportunities without knowing where they’d lead. What’s the biggest chance you’ve taken in your career, and how did it pay off?
A. The biggest chance I took in my career was when I co-founded a start-up called SageTV with my brother in 2002. We borrowed money from our dad, and fellow Illini, to get the company off the ground. I essentially learned everything about a business and how to grow it from scratch. I call my entrepreneurial years my MBA years, since I had to learn a lot within a compressed amount of time to be successful. We had a great run that culminated with a sale to Google in 2011. My brother still works there today.

Q. Philanthropy is something that’s very important to you. How have you been able to get involved? And where did your interest in philanthropy come from?
A. My interest in philanthropy started with my service in my church youth group while in high school. I continued to get involved at the University of Illinois with the local Boys & Girls club, and I currently serve as board chair with Volunteers of America of Illinois. I also spend time through Solstice raising money for Lurie’s Children Hospital through our efforts with their annual Dance Marathon.

Q. How did your education at Gies Business prepare you for the challenges of the business world?
A. My finance degree from Gies Business gave me the foundation to understand what makes a company successful and how to analyze where things might be going wrong to improve for the future. This foundation led me to an early career in corporate finance. I then shifted to being an entrepreneur, which then led me back to finance for my last two CFO roles. It’s been a long and winding road, and my education gave me the confidence I needed to tackle just about anything that came my way in the future.

Q. What stands out to you most when you look back on your time at Illinois?
A. Beyond the extraordinary education, what stands out the most are the relationships I made while at Illinois. I’m still very good friends with a lot of my fraternity brothers and some of those friendships have also led to successful business endeavors along the way. The bonds you build while in college at a time when you are growing up quickly are the bonds that last forever.