The magazine for Western Washington University

Another socially minded entrepreneur is born

Alumni Conversations

By Deborah DeWees | Executive Director, Western Alumni Association

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Have you noticed that many of the world’s best inventions are created by people unafraid to stand outside the norm and be a bit different? Those with a unique lens looking to change or improve the status quo – seeking more than just to punch a clock and watch the world spin madly on – are host to great ideas and catalysts for change. Many of them are Viking alums, and many ideas were born at Western.

Just this spring, a group of Western students who live in a house behind the Alumni office used their resources to launch a grassroots fundraising effort to support the rescue and recovery of victims in the recent SR 530 Slide, the tragic mudslide that claimed more than 40 lives near the town of Oso. “Alley Food” serves delicious hamburgers hot off the grill for an affordable price to hungry passersby, and raffles off a week's worth of hamburgers with proceeds donated to the disaster effort. Without pomp or circumstance, this house of quirky kayakers and snowboarders used their skills and time to serve their community. “Alley Food” is the brainchild of Jordan Johnson (anticipated to graduate in ’15, pictured right with me), and partners Torque Niemi and Chad Spady. Spady is no stranger to flipping burgers, having worked for his grandfather, the founder of the famous Dick’s Drive-In. The success of “Alley Food” prompted Johnson to pursue the purchase of a food truck this summer to keep the business going. Another socially-minded entrepreneur is born.

And that’s just one story. It wasn’t long ago that alumnus Nick Marvik (’12) was sewing ski and snowboarding jackets in his college basement for friends. Now NWT3K is a thriving online custom outerwear company. Likewise, not much time passed after Kate Cox (’02) was running track for WWU and experimenting with recycled flip-flops to protect her cleats on non-track surfaces. Now she’s selling her invention, Spikease, online and they are soon to be merchandised in retail running and athletic stores.

Each of you, as alums and supporters, stand out in the world with your accomplishments, intellect and fervor, uniquely helping others and making an impact in your communities. As far as I can tell, you’re far from ordinary… and some might say downright quirky. Maybe embracing this is what Viking pride is all about. I’d love to hear your story, please be in touch!