Sterling Partners’ Shawn Domanic focuses on the Chicago firm’s Education Opportunity Fund, or EOF. Domanic describes himself as a builder and an optimizer: two personas that have served him well as a private equity dealmaker. “Since my childhood years, I’ve had a knack for trying to find a better way to do something. Those interests in my early days have translated and carried over to where I am today, and have carried over into my love of working with teams to solve problems, advance the ball and ultimately grow better organizations that we invest in.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree at Boston College, Domanic worked in investment banking at Robert W. Baird & Co. and realized he’d rather be in private equity. “I admired the strategic process of researching an industry vertical, identifying interesting companies that are in that space and crafting the investment thesis, versus sitting on the other side of the fence and just preparing materials,” he says. Prior to Sterling, he worked at CHS Capital and its affiliates evaluating and managing PE investments. Domanic joined Sterling Partners in 2016, shortly after the launch of the $250 million EOF. He was promoted to vice president of the fund in 2018.
In October 2018, EOF invested in Big Blue Marble Academy, a 21-center preschool business in the Southeast, a transaction that Domanic had been working on since he joined Sterling.
Domanic’s role included geographic markets scoring, boots-on-the-ground sourcing of targets, performing due diligence on states and their regulations, and assisting after the deal closed with systems integration, financial reporting and due diligence for six add-on transactions. ”This transaction allowed me to participate in all aspects of the dealmaking process, from the early incubation and conception of the idea, all the way through to the add-on acquisitions that we’ve been completing post-closing,” he says.
Domanic has opportunities at EOF that his peers at other PE firms don’t have, including running point on deals, he says. “I have plenty of friends in private equity, and a lot of folks at the associate, senior associate and VP level tend to have a pretty dedicated role or set of responsibilities. Having a lean team and a level of trust throughout our organization has allowed me to take on responsibility as I see fit, and overall our culture embodies that. No task is too big or small for anyone on the team.”
Domanic has worked on improving back-office, financial and operational functions of EOF’s initial investments, including the National Research Center for College & University Admissions, an educational resource organization; Panopto, an education video provider; and EOF’s constructed startup Amerigo, which supports international students in the U.S.
He also works with portfolio founders to develop strategic business plans; oversees industry research; and works with portfolio company boards. His research typically identifies a subsector, market trends, players, size and potential executives.