A national reputation for diverse, high impact projects across the United States

Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group has enjoyed a national reputation for diverse, high impact projects across the United States since its founding in 2006. Clients and partners include grassroots community and civic organizations, government entities, foundations, small and large for-profit and non-profit ventures, healthcare systems, and major international corporations. We have collaborated with the Institute of Medicine of the Academy of the Sciences, the Urban Institute, Harvard, MIT, the National YMCA, and many other organizations.

Our philosophy is that quality data and information, along with highly seasoned expertise and integrity, is what results in a successful project. We don’t believe in research assembly lines, or shunting off key assignments to junior staff or vendors. We are a full-service firm that custom designs and executes each project to meet the unique needs and strategic questions of our clients. Strategy, precision, results – always our focus.

We are a neutral third party firm, and wholly-owned female business enterprise, that does not engage in political campaigns or lobbying. With our passion, strategic insights, perseverance, commitment, and practical know-how, we help our clients change their worlds for the better.

There’s no time like the present. Reach out so we can help you change your world today!

Contact: Mari Gallagher

312-339-0640
Email us
1929 West Patterson
Garden Level Suite One
Chicago, IL 60613-3523

Mari Gallagher’s Story

Many people ask: what was the motivation behind launching your own research and consulting firm? How did you develop an interest in improving local markets and quality of life?

Even when just a kid growing up in Chicago, I had an entrepreneurial spirit fed by practical math and the physics of everyday life. I wasn’t necessarily interested in money for its own sake, but I did wonder how the market worked. And I liked to take things apart to reassemble and improve them. Not sure about the extent of my Macgyver skills or if my parents fully appreciated these endeavors. But it was sure fun.

During the spring and summer of my ninth year, I had an egg route. Unusual, but true. Our close family friends lived about an hour away on a farm with a wide variety of animals and a few dozen chickens. The eggs they shared were so much better than the ones from the store. At some point I hatched the crazy idea that I could start my own egg delivery business. I went door-to-door throughout my neighborhood taking egg orders and, a week later, would personally deliver them. Fresh from the farm! Made enough money to invest in a red skateboard, which sped up delivery. My favorite pastimes, though, were climbing trees and building elaborate forts out of cardboard with friends. At twelve, I went to chess camp; the only girl. I entered a special “magnet” high school (before that was even a thing) with a science/engineering concentration that included machine shop, welding, and three years of drafting. What I missed, though, were languages and a deeper social science exploration. By college, that interest took me to Latin America for a few semesters, where I learned Spanish, and, in graduate school, I majored in planning and community development. My curiosity of how the market worked and how the world could improve never went away, it only grew.

My early career in community revitalization was colorful. One project concerned an old building in the heart of South Chicago. Though still beautiful, its stoop was a gathering place for public drinking, shooting-up, knife fights – and worse. The retail tenant was a liquor store that bustled with business day and night despite its run-down condition. The second and third floor apartments were vacant and uninhabitable. The top floor was once a glorious dance hall; all that remained was a broken piano.

Our vision was affordable housing and attractive retail to anchor the street. Scraping together the money for acquisition was challenging. Next, we tried to buy out the liquor store, but the owner had an airtight lease and wouldn’t budge. The cost of rehab was astronomical compared to our rent structure. I was working on construction financing when the news came: vandals set fire to the piano. I ran down the street. What I witnessed amazed me.

Firefighters. Tall flames. Enormous blasts of water. Yellow tape. Yet the liquor store never closed during the fire. Customers continued to enter and make purchases; a single can of beer or small bottle of whiskey to get through the morning. This is the essence of what we were up against: the liquor store and its many attractions weren’t pretty, but the economics sure did work. The MacGyver in me came alive. Surely, we could find a way to fix this.

Our problems were bigger than what this one project could address. Yet my years in the trenches taught me an important lesson: some battles we win, some battles we lose, but every project matters. What was missing was the data and information to navigate the best path forward. How much does one project matter vs. another project? Could we use this information to make more strategic decisions? I helped design and implement a variety of initiatives big and small throughout this stage of my professional life: feeding the homeless; community health programs; workforce and business development; building a 75-million-dollar shopping center at the second busiest transportation hub in the city that also included a full-service grocery store and an on-site community construction jobs program with a hard-to-get-into union that didn’t really want a community jobs program. At least not at first. The grocery store was a huge success; the community only had one other quality grocer but it had closed. But the whole project was so hard, and took so long, in large part because we lacked the data and information that demonstrated proof of concept. There were multiple agendas, yet very few facts.

My transition to research instilled in me the value of neutrality. Reliable, trusted, and timely data and information illuminate reality and options more clearly. A neutral analysis also offers a safe zone where actors with competing interests can band together for shared positive change as well as to advance their own agenda. Through this lens we can calculate how much each project matters and direct resources, market investments, and policy to locations with the highest measurable returns. We can create baselines and track progress.

This is why I left the trenches and went back to the fundamentals of what math and science can teach us. Not to embrace these disciplines exclusively from an ivory tower, but to blend them with ground-floor practicalities of how the world works and how it could work better. I became the managing director of a new two-year pilot initiative called Emerging Markets, where I developed below-the-radar analysis on buying power, leakage, and new commercial opportunities across undervalued markets. In that capacity, I worked with top leadership of major corporations, such as Home Depot, State Farm Insurance, Bank of America, Crate and Barrel, and Payless Shoes, as well as small, independent, nimble entrepreneurs, not only to gain qualitative insights about their particular market indicators and potential proxies, but to analyze their actual data individually and collectively to determine how markets could work better. One of the independent entrepreneurs owned a $30 million computer and technology company, but, as it turned out, he was beginning to experience the first signs of trouble. After I wrapped up my two-year pilot commitment, he hired me as his new turn-around CEO. My first order of business was to sell off the mobile phone rental line because mobile rental had no real future; times were changing. And that brought me back again to the need for reliable data, information, and strategies in a world that just keeps spinning faster. Why get hit by a storm if you can instead see it coming and move out of the way? So, with the turn-around complete, I headed up a community development, government, and banking research division of a consulting group for five years. Finally, I launched my own firm to ensure the freedom to explore and deliver each project with full integrity.

We don’t believe in research assembly lines, shunting off key assignments to junior staff or vendors, slippery consultant speak (slick words and jargon that sound impressive but say nothing), or spinning results.

We’re not afraid to tell you what we find or what we think you need to know.

We’re here to help you see your world the way it really is, and change it for the better.