Pedro Medina: Corporate Leader or Social Entrepreneur?

10 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by S. Venkataraman

S. Venkataraman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Elizabeth F. O'Halloran

University of Virginia - Darden Schoool of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper


Successful McDonald's executive Pedro Medina recounts his transformation from business leader to social entrepreneur. After bringing the McDonald's brand to his native Colombia, Medina develops and promotes Yo Creo en Colombia (I Believe in Colombia), a grassroots initiative that empowers Colombians to take pride in their country's achievements and resources and leverage its assets into building a just and competitive nation. As the impact of his vision grows and the volume of his speaking engagements increases, Medina must choose between his lucrative corporate career and his fledgling national-empowerment venture. His new role could both fulfill his life's passion and positively affect his country. But at what personal cost? The case prompts students to examine the role of entrepreneurship in creating value and solving social problems. It forces students to buck the stereotype that entrepreneurship is all about creating a for-profit venture. It also demonstrates that the processes of entrepreneurship are the same for both for-profits and social enterprises.




When I arrived for our dinner meeting in Miami, Jose Torres, McDonald's vice president for Latin America, was already sitting at the table. We connected well, inquiring about each other's families and trading travel stories. Torres was the “relationship partner” for the restaurant chain's international joint ventures. I was the joint venture partner and general manager of the McDonald's operation in Colombia. Having opened 10 restaurants in the chain's first year in Colombia, I had been instrumental in the company's most aggressive international expansion to date and had earned a favorable reputation among my peers. A few of my friends in Oak Brook, Illinois, where corporate headquarters was located, had told me that every McDonald's corporate employee dreamed of becoming a joint venture partner like me. Now, after seven years of hard work, I found myself facing a tough decision.

I had been pondering this choice the previous day during my flight from Bogotá. I was reading the book Half Time, in which Bob Buford writes about the transition from success to significance, from achieving prestige and financial success to performing work that is truly meaningful, both personally and socially. The book inspired me to pull out my yellow legal pad. On one side of the page I wrote “McDonald's,” and on the other, “Yo Creo en Colombia” (“I Believe in Colombia”), the name of a nonprofit national empowerment venture I had helped found. I then listed the arguments in favor of each one, hoping for an answer to emerge.

I knew that some sort of answer would need to take shape during the upcoming meeting with our McDonald's partner. I had been trained to make decisions, and now the decision was about me directly: Should I continue in my corporate position, building and growing the McDonald's brand and presence in Colombia, or should I follow my passion and dedicate myself to the Yo Creo en Colombia project, developing agency and empowerment among Colombians? “This is my dilemma,” I said to myself. “Do I have an impact only on myself, my family, and my community, or do I have an impact on my entire nation?”


. . .

Keywords: social entrepreneurship innovation nonprofits enterprise leadership decision-making strategy career management goal-setting

Suggested Citation

Venkataraman, S. and O'Halloran, Elizabeth F., Pedro Medina: Corporate Leader or Social Entrepreneur?. Darden Case No. UVA-ENT-0066, Available at SSRN: or

S. Venkataraman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Elizabeth F. O'Halloran

University of Virginia - Darden Schoool of Business ( email )

Box 6550
Batten Institute
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4806 (Phone)
434-924-7104 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics