By Ryan Velez
Don Thompson has had many different phases to his illustrious career. While he started out as an electric engineer, he is mainly known for his 25-year career at McDonald’s which began in 1990 and included a 3-year tenure as CEO of the company. Even after announcing his retirement, McDonald’s still wanted his advice and brought him on as a consultant for $3 million.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg for Don Thompson’s next phase of his career. Black Enterprise reports that he is now embracing venture capitalist as the next item on his resume. Thompson’s latest project he’s launching is Cleveland Avenue, an investment group and accelerator. Cleveland Avenue will have a particular focus on new food, beverage, and restaurant concepts.
Reportedly named after the Chicago street where Thomas grew up, Cleveland Avenue had a relatively quiet start, opening its office last fall in a three-story building. However, this doesn’t mean that the firm hasn’t stayed busy. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that it has already announced its first restaurant concept, a non-alcoholic beverage bar called Drink. Drink will serve a rotating list of 20 non-alcoholic beverages made by startups and entrepreneurs, with offerings like organic slushies and fresh fruit sodas on tap. This will be located inside the American Eagle Outfitters flagship store in Chicago’s Times Square.
Crain’s also mentioned that Cleveland Avenues invested in a Washington D.C. fast-casual restaurant called Half-Smoke, and several other undisclosed investments in the food and beverage industry have also been made.
Don Thompson’s corporate success is a major hallmark of the Black business community, and he has already begun to establish a legacy for himself in this area. Last year, he joined the Board of Directors of vegan company Beyond Meat and also serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago-based financial services provider Northern Trust. He is now the third Black Board Member to do so. His wife Liz also leads the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education. This foundation specializes in sponsoring efforts and making grants to organizations that offer career support, education, and mentoring to urban students and young professionals of color.
Perhaps Thompson’s contributions are best summed up by Black Enterprise’s Derek Dingle, who appeared on Roland Martin to talk about Thompson following his departure from McDonald’s:
“Thompson leaves a legacy of the value of diversity at the top in fueling innovation and inclusion. He has created a pipeline of African American and minority managers—50% of McDonald’s managers are minorities and women—that will ascend to the top of corporate America. That’s the primary reason McDonald’s has consistently made our 40 Best Companies for Diversity.”