A Student Voice: I’m Taking The Northwood Idea with Me into the World
NOTE: A version of this essay was published in the May 2021 edition of When Free To Choose.
During the four years I have studied at Northwood University, the core principles of free enterprise, personal responsibility, free markets, limited government, rule of law, and personal freedom have been presented to me in countless ways. When put into practice, these core values, commonly referred to by students and faculty as The Northwood Idea, are a recipe for fostering ethical leaders and entrepreneurs. The million-dollar question that many outsiders might pose is whether these principles are actually put into practice or if they are merely an element of branding used by the university. As a senior preparing to graduate this month, I can say with certainty that I consistently see these ideas and principles put into practice on almost a daily basis.
I can best describe my experience at Northwood as existing in a bubble of high achievers and leaders, which is much different from what one would find at other universities. From day one, I was constantly presented with opportunities to grow my leadership abilities and network. These opportunities range anywhere from executive positions in the Northwood University International Auto Show to attending events such as Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week, the Specialty Equipment Market Association annual show, in conjunction with the Automotive Aftermarket Parts Expo. My peers and I took full advantage of these opportunities throughout our college careers, which often led to an underlying pressure on each other to continue to advance in our respective roles and push each other to advance to the next step. Consequently, I have witnessed many of these same people swiftly advance through roles in various internships and jobs, ultimately leading to an undeniable competitive advantage when entering full-time careers after graduation.
Not everyone who attends Northwood has a path toward employment, however. The robust academic program, in combination with the leadership skills developed through the numerous extracurricular activities offered on and off campus, has instead positioned many people to start their own business ventures. The entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive at Northwood. I have personally felt that spirit from a very young age, and attending Northwood further fueled this fire within me. I followed in the footsteps of some inspiring colleagues, pursuing leadership opportunities on and off campus, as well as building my resume through summer internships. Working for a quality organization has great appeal, but I’ve always had a burning desire to venture off on my own. While I have dabbled in many different entrepreneurial ideas over the years, I never saw any significant opportunity for a sustainable income stream. But that all changed at Northwood.
Early in 2020, I realized my part-time job wouldn’t be enough to sustain me through the remainder of the school year. I looked for a solution. I’ve always had a passion for cars, particularly BMWs, and had made numerous connections through my involvement in the community. I contacted a bulk parts recycler I had gotten to know over the years, and he agreed to sell me a large supply of specialized BMW parts at a discounted rate. By marketing these parts through eBay and other platforms, I created a business that quickly began to take off. I expanded my sources of inventory. I learned how to tap into international sales. I found the most efficient ways to ship merchandise. I dedicated myself to meeting and exceeding customer service metrics, which helped me to attain the highly sought-after Top Rated Seller designation on eBay. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, sales steadily increased. When Northwood temporarily shifted from in-person learning to fully online instruction, it provided flexibility that allowed me to grow.
As graduation approached, I had an option that most new college graduates don’t: operating my own business. Eventually, I decided to take a full-time sales position. I am still continuing my business operations but have not been sourcing new inventory as I prepare to move out of state after graduation. I plan on continuing my parts business on the side.
Going into business has allowed me to develop countless tangible skills. At the same time, Northwood has provided me the framework and taught the underlying principles involved in running a business that operates in both a profitable and ethical manner. Wherever my career takes me after graduation, I am confident that the fundamentals of The Northwood Idea will go with me.